Jim Alexander of the OC Register voted for Troy Percival for the Hall of Fame. This despite the fact that he filled out his ballot with ten votes. Among those he left off to give the local guy his vote: Mike Piazza and John Smoltz.
Alexander got a lot of crap for this last week, and today he answers his critics. His argument, in a nutshell:
- Percival was, until a certain point in time, just as good as Mariano Rivera; and
- East Coast Bias is why Rivera, even until that certain point, got more pub than Percival ever got.
That “certain point in time” was 2003, and the comp was based on saves, blown saves, ERA and hits/innings ratio. In those categories Percival and Rivera were pretty darn similar through 2003! Of course, Alexander leaves out the fact that by 2003 Rivera had multiple World Series rings in part due to his extraordinary postseason pitching. And that, after 2003, Rivera spent another decade as the game’s most dominant closer while Percival notched just one more season as a top closer.
But the apples and oranges comp is less bothersome to me than Alexander’s comments about why he feels perfectly justified in throwing a vote Percival’s way. I’ll use his words:
Some of the chattering class even suggested that my voting privileges be revoked. Gee, do I say you should be disenfranchised if I don’t agree with your vote for president?
No, my vote wasn’t an attention-getting ploy, nor a protest over the 10-man ballot. It was simply a sincere expression that a guy who finished his career with 358 saves and a World Series ring and was a lockdown closer in his prime with the Angels deserved to at least remain in the conversation.
As to the first point, voting for president is a right people have as citizens. Voting for the hall of fame is a privilege bestowed on baseball writers due to their presumed expertise and insight in the analysis of baseball careers. There is obviously room for a difference of opinion between credible Hall of Fame candidates. But when one votes for whom there is no credible Hall of Fame case — and when that player himself readily admits that — he’s showing that he has no special expertise or insight in the analysis of baseball careers. In that case criticism is quite warranted. Both of the voter (who is clearly letting homerism and his relationship to the player influence him) and the body which gives him the imprimatur of an expert (which does not seem to care that things like homerism and a voter’s relationship to a player influences him).
As for the second point, nowhere in the column does Alexander say that Troy Percival is a Hall of Famer, despite the fact that the reason he is given a balllot is to, you know, select Hall of Famers. Twice, however, Alexander says that he just wants to “keep him in the conversation.” A conversation that only Alexander himself seems interested in having.
And you know what one decent definition of “attention-seeking” is? An attempt at changing the subject to one which no one else but the speaker wishes to discuss.