Hi, my name is Kenyon Colloran. I’ve decided that I wanted to write a column to fill a void in the magic world, that of professional analysis. I know I’m not alone in being a fan of professional magic aside from what benefit I can get of it for my own purpose. Most magic authors write about how to improve your playing of the game, not analysis of the pros like ESPN does for other sports. The only authors who write about the Pro Tour as a whole are BDM and Rich Hagon and they only do so sporadically. I’m going to try to fill a void for fans of the Pro Tour. My main focus will be watching the Player of the Year race and the Hall of Fame ballot with recaps of major events. My goal is to try to be the Bill Simmons of the magic world.
Seeing as how we’re in the prerelease season this week I thought I’d give an overview of how I’d vote on the Hall of Fame if the vote was up now. But I won’t just be saying how I’d vote, but breaking down pretty much the whole group of eligible candidates. All of the newly eligible candidates and anyone who earned at least 1.5% of the vote. If you didn’t get 1.5% you’re probably not worth discussing for the hall of fame.
Here’s that list:
|Steven O’Mahoney Schwarz|
|Antonio De Rosa|
|Daniel O’Mahoney Schwarz|
The one and dones
The first step of the process is eliminating any players who haven’t made at least two pro tour top 8s. Repeated success on the biggest stage is a base barrier of entry in my eyes, barring exceptional circumstances.
This group is:
|Antonio De Rosa|
The names of note in this group to me are De Rosa, Morita, Wafo-Tapa, Yasooka, and Shvartsman.
De Rosa was the second highest vote getter of people who didn’t make it last year. His GP results are solid, with 10 top 8s and 3 wins, but many other people in this group are far more impressive. He also has strong results at US nationals and is a very popular player. I admit I might be underrating him because a lot of his best play occurred before I became a big fan of the game, but his numbers just aren’t there.
Morita is an most interesting case. He’s the only player in this whole list who has never made a Pro Tour Sunday. But no player on the ballot has more GP wins than his 4 and only two have more GP top 8s than him. If you were going to try to argue for a Sunday-less player he’d be your man, but that’s just a hard vote to sell.
Wafo-Tapa is a recent big name, but his numbers just aren’t there. Only 6 GP top 8s with no wins. He might get votes, but he really won’t deserve them. He’s a great player, but not hall of fame great.
Yasooka feels like he should be a legitimate candidate, but to me he isn’t, and I say that as a Japanophile who’s lived in Japan for 6 years and roots like mad for the Japanese players. While he does have a PT win as a team, he has no individual wins at either the Pro Tour or GP level. He hasn’t made that many GP top 8s, he has a relatively small number of pro points. One Player of the Year title and a good reputation can’t cover for that.
Shvartsman is the original king of GPs. 21 GP top 8s and 3 wins is pretty impressive. That alone makes him a figure worth knowing in magic history. If the Hall of Fame was more museum like in criteria I think he’d have a shot but I just can’t get past that 1 pro tour Sunday.
Next up is the players with multiple top 8s who I feel don’t have the numbers for legitimate consideration.
If you look at the numbers, these guys just don’t have the overall profiles. Ogura and Remie and Okamoto have the most statistically impressive accomplishments, but none of them are successful enough in terms of fame or numbers to be Hall of Famers. The other players of note here are Chris Pikula and Patrick Chapin. Pikula’s numbers lean strongly towards no, but he finished 6th in last years voting. He predates me, but he is apparently both one of the true good guys of the game and a key figure in the early days of magic. I don’t know enough about him to grant him a vote on that alone, but his statistics aren’t so appalling as to disqualify him if you really believe his other contributions are worth it. The sympathy vote might also be in effect for the way Wizards boned him with Meddling Mage. Chapin is in a similar boat with slightly worse numbers but a very high profile amongst current players and fans. However a stunning single GP top 8 really does him in.
A cut above
Next are the two automatic locks:
Gabriel Nassif and Tomoharu Saito. I don’t think much needs to be said about these two. They are two of the most well known most successful players going. In every sense of the word they are Hall of Famers.
The real meat of the discussion to me is the other three spots, for which I looked at this group of players:
Akira Asahara is the easiest cut from this group. He has only two PT top 8s and while 9 GP top 8s with 2 wins isn’t terrible, it isn’t amazing. Failing to hit 200 also hurts his case. Verdict: No.
Next up is Anton Jonsson. I feel like he should get in at some point and I do think that 5 PT top 8s shows a skill worthy of hall of fame. Unfortunately he doesn’t have any wins on the highest level and 8 GP top 8s with 1 win is ok, but not great. I think he should get in eventually, but I don’t think this year has the leeway for him to make it. Verdict: No, but an entirely defensible yes vote.
Bram Snepvangers crossed the 300 point lifetime barrier making him one of 12 players to ever do so. 9 of the 12 are in the hall of fame. Two others are going to go in this year in Nassif and Saito and the other is Shuuhei Nakamura who will surely make it as soon as he’s eligible. So that’s one big arrow in his quiver. Bram also made four PT top 8s spanning a long career. Those numbers should be enough to get him in, but factor in his reputation as a key figure in Dutch Magic and he absolutely deserves to get in. I fear an American-bias amongst some voters might keep him out, but he is absolutely a deserving candidate. Verdict: Yes.
Scott Johns is the other person on the ballot with five pro tour top 8s. His other numbers look rather paltry with just 164 pro points and only two GP top 8s. But those numbers both seem lower because of when he played and his taking a job with Wizards. I feel that like Jonsson he deserves to be in, but like Jonsson I also feel this isn’t his year. Verdict: No, but not a terrible vote.
Justin Gary is a player I can’t really evaluate. The statistics Wizards supplies easily on their web page don’t look good. 3 top 8s at both the Pro Tour and GP level with one win on each level isn’t that impressive. His 251 pro points and Randy Beuhler’s article about him make him seem like a better player than those numbers indicate. Randy makes it seem like there might be a case to make for him with more complete statistics. If anyone can get those to me, I’ll have to take a look but for now, the numbers say no. Verdict: No, unless better statistics come to light.
William Jensen is the most suprising player to me. His reputation hasn’t held up over the years like it has for every other player on the list. I wasn’t around for the careers of Justin Gary or Anton Jonsson or Steve O’Mahoney Schwarz, but am well aware of their exploits. William Jensen on the other hand somehow fell through the cracks. But his numbers shake out quite impressively. He cracks 200 points he has four pro tour top 8s with a win and 2 wins in 8 GP top 8s. Those are quite solid numbers. I don’t think they match up with the people who I would actually vote for. And I’ll admit I have a modern bias against him because I’m not familiar with him, but he doesn’t have enough going for him to crack my top 5. Verdict: No, but with admitted modern bias.
Steven O’Mahoney-Schwartz has both the numbers and the reputation to have earned my support despite my lack of familiarity with him. 3 PT top 8s with a win and 4 GP wins are both quite impressive. 237 points is a pretty good haul. But what really puts him over for me is the way old school American reporters like BDM talk about him. He’s got the numbers and he’s got the fame. He’s been close a number of times, including being the top vote getter not to make it in 2009. I think this is the year he should make it in. Verdict: Yes
Mark Justice has 4 PT top 8s though no wins. He has no GP top 8s, but I feel that must be at least somewhat due to when he was playing. He’s often regarded as the first “best player in the game”. I think he might deserve to get in based just off of that. Like Alex Shvartsman if it was more of a museum he’d have to go in, but as that’s not exactly the purpose of the Magic Hall of Fame, I just can’t reconcile voting for him. Verdict: No. Modern bias strikes again.
Brian Kibler is the one player I actively hope doesn’t make the Hall of Fame. I have nothing against him as a person. He seems like a nice guy. But I feel he’s really riding his nice guy image for more than it’s worth and will ride his recent hot streak to get in over a more deserving person. 3 PT top 8s with a win and 9 GP top 8s with 2 wins is good, but that’s not as good as what Snepvangers or O’Mahoney Schwarz has done. I don’t think it measures up with what Jonsson or Johns have done either, and players like Kuroda or Justice have lesser records, but much more historical significance. I want to reiterate that I have nothing against Brian Kibler. I’d be perfectly happy if he could enhance his resume and turn himself into a slam dunk pick. I just don’t think he is at this point. Verdict: No, but I fear he will actually get in.
Masahiro Kuroda is another player whose historical significance is more impressive than his statistical accomplishments. As the first Japanese player to ever win a pro tour he definitely deserves historical recognition, and his numbers aren’t terrible. Kibler has one more pro tour top 8 and one more GP top 8. Even factoring in Kibler’s extra pro points I think Kuroda is more deserving because of his historical significance. But his numbers don’t quite match up to the high level of candidates in this class. Verdict: No, even though I’d like to say yes.
Mike Long has numbers that put him in the discussion, but not numbers that put him at the forefront. 4 top 8s and a win at each level is good, but not outstanding. Factor in all of the cheating controversy and it seems as if he isn’t worth the trouble that putting him into the hall would cause. To me he’s one of the easiest no votes in this group. Verdict: No.
Eugene Harvey has a statistical profile quite similar to Mike Long’s, but without the well publicized cheating controversy. Still he has neither the numbers nor the historical significance to get in. I think he’ll remain a fringe contender worthy of discussion, but barring some more accomplishments I can’t see him ever cracking through. Verdict: No.
Marco Blume has one very big thing working in his favor, multiple pro tour wins. If you’re willing to concede Nassif as a given then every other player who has multiple titles is in the hall of fame. But there are a lot of things working against him. First he has no individual top 8s. While being good enough to play with Kai and Dirk is a statement in his favor, not having any individual pro tour success is still a big strike against him. He’s only played in one GP top 8, though he did win it. And he only has 127 total pro points. The two wins jump out, but he has to remain just a very good player who had the fortune to be a member of a great team. Verdict: No.
Tsuyoshi Ikeda has a profile roughly on level with Brian Kibler. If he had come out victorious in the Pro Tour Austin finals, he might be the player gathering public support for hall of fame. He has four pro tour top 8s, and is almost at the 300 point barrier, just four short right now. So he’ll cross that threshold by the end of the year just by showing up to events. As I root for the Japanese I’d really like him to make it, but his limited grand prix success works against him as does his reputation, which while good isn’t on the level of a lot of the others on the list. He is very deserving and should get in eventually, but I just find the last remaining player on the list to be more deserving.
Katsuhiro Mori has both the reputation and the numbers to earn his way into the hall of fame. In Japan he has a Finkel-esque reputation of not even needing practice to be able to win. This can be seen in the fact that he earned a 6th month suspension for repeated warnings for sloppy play, and immediately after it ended top 8ing worlds. His streak of top 8ing three consecutive worlds showcases his incredible flexibility with an ability to handle multiple formats. He’s also been the leader of the Japanese national team and his recent victory at Grand Prix Yokohama shows that he’s still an elite player, despite a lack of devotion in recent years. Despite all of the incredible Japanese players there are few to no players with his raw skills and that deserves recognition with a place in the hall of fame.
In my mind there are many more candidates worthy of induction than will get in this year. Next year looks like a good chance as the list of candidates isn’t overwhelming, but 2012 will be quite rough as the first year group is absolutely stacked.
While these opinions are long considered and statistically researched, I will admit to my biases. First I have a Japanese bias, though I think I fought that pretty well with these picks. I also have a modern bias. I’d love for people who were around for the early days to inform my picks. And I have a statistical bias towards the statistics easy to gather. If people have access to other statistical measures of player greatness I’d love to see those as well. Please respond in the comments or forums here or contact me at colloran (at) stanfordalumni.org
Link to the data excel spreadsheet.