Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand
Monday, December 31, 2012
It’s not con gusano? Dennis Rodman did get in, y’know…
Incessant arguing about who is better is a fact of every baseball fan’s life. I’ve found myself yelling across a bar to strangers about Todd Worrell’s effectiveness more times than I care to remember. But arguing about who is better is different from arguing about who is X level of arbitrary, undefined Great. There is no official statistical barrier for entry into the Hall of Fame. A player need only be sufficiently perceived as worthy. And yet this time every year we turn ostensibly fun conversations into frustrating arguments about what a bunch of writers whose opinions aren’t any more valid than our own should or should not perceive.
So what if Edgar Martínez has a higher career WAR than Andre Dawson? What’s interesting about that conversation? What gets lost under all the ritual groaning about milestones and performance enhancing drugs are the interesting points. Edgar Martínez is more than a bundle of offensive productivity and more than the evidence or answer in an argument. He is the possessor of the most uniquely beautiful swing any right-handed batter has ever displayed in a professional baseball game. He is responsible for a double to beat the Yankees in the 1995 ALDS that stands as the single most important moment in Mariners history. Mariano Rivera supposedly called him the toughest batter he ever faced. And hell, he has his own line of mezcal.
Consider Tim Raines. He is the poster-child for Hall of Fame advocacy in the age of the internet… Leading Expos nostalgist and 21st century baseball maven Jonah Keri has made a million compelling arguments in favor of Raines’ nomination and even helped create a website dedicated to his Hall candidacy. As if anybody outside of a Port St. Lucie hotel bar in March ever had a kind thought about the Baseball Writers Association of America, Keri has called Raines’ stalled candidacy a “damning statement on the cognitive abilities and biases” of the voters.
What’s obvious in all this is that it should not require high-level statistical analysis to appreciate Tim Raines as a special ballplayer. Nor should Raines’ legacy require the paternalistic approval of a bunch of writers who after a long season spent spinning melodrama from banality make it their business in the winter to draw sacred lines at some arbitrary point between goodness and greatness. Like all of the awards in baseball, induction into the Hall of Fame is purely subjective. The wall that Keri and company are banging their heads against on behalf of Tim Raines is invisible. And the best outcome of all that banging exists entirely apart from the Hall of Fame. The best outcome is that baseball fans are reminded—or even informed for the first time—about the dynamo that was Tim Raines.
It’s not lost on me that if the Hall of Fame stakes weren’t there, the Tim Raines appreciation society might not get the same amount of public attention. But that’s exactly the problem. Instead of appreciating baseball for all it offers and enjoying its stars for all they give us—which really is so much—we chose to give ourselves ulcers over the injustices committed by the BBWA.
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