Yesterday, Red Sox fan, BBWAA writer, and anthropomorphized turtle Bill Ballou published an article in the entirely reputable-sounding Telegram of Worcester, MA entitled “Bill Ballou: It’s not easy to get this guy’s Hall of Fame vote.” After the red flags had finished exploding from my computer, I went on to read the article, because it’s Sunday, and it’s Edgar article review day, and I’d rather write about the Diamondbacks manager saying Edgar belongs in the Hall of Fame for being the greatest right-handed hitter he ever played with, but Ballou’s position is so incredibly stupid I just had to break it down here for you guys. We have heard a lot of stupid arguments against Edgar in the Hall, which Pierre Labossiere of the Peninsula Daily News breaks down as “fogeyism,” but this takes things to a whole new level:
Edgar doesn’t belong in the Hall, Ballou says, because he was—you know what, screw this, I can’t even type it, I’m just going to screenshot instead:
That’s right, Edgar doesn’t belong in the Hall because people didn’t buy tickets specifically to see him.
Ballou is a Small Hall guy, he says proudly, and there’s more than a whiff of classism in his article where he declares the Baseball Hall to be the grandaddy of all other halls, the only one that doesn’t need a qualifier. Oh, and if you noticed a whiff of paternalism, that’s there too:
A player has to be so good that fathers would buy tickets to take their sons and daughters to the ballpark just so they could say they saw him play.
Blechhhhh. I bet he really patted himself on the shoulder for thinking to add that “and daughters” to that line. But soft sexism aside, let’s press that idea of “Hall of Fame caliber = people would buy tickets to see that player.” Michael Nelson Trout has played for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim since 2011, during which time attendance has steadily ticked downward, aside from a brief uptick in 2014. Mike Trout is a no-doubt, first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, but he alone can’t get fans in the seats to watch an otherwise mostly terrible Angels team. Similarly, Edgar toiled on early 90s Mariner teams that were dreadful, alongside teammate Ken Griffey Jr., also a no-doubt first-balloter (hmm I wonder if we just found one of the BBWAA members who didn’t vote for Griffey). Does Ballou mean then that he’s not measuring in actual ticket sales, but some sort of subjective sense of “can’t-miss” players? That’s fine, but given that most of the players on the ballot played in an age before widespread cable and satellite TV and the ability to have any game, anywhere beamed into our living rooms, it seems like maybe a Boston-based sports writer isn’t a great judge of what players were doing in the rest of the country. Had he been in Seattle for any of Edgar’s at-bats in the 1995 season, he would have had a hard time not labeling him a “can’t-miss” player. If Ballou wants to project himself as a guardian of the Hall, doing so with entirely subjective criteria doesn’t seem to me to be the best way to protect the sanctity of the Hall.
Ballou includes his e-mail and a link to his Twitter account at the bottom of his article. I encourage you to contact him and press him on his criteria, which is absolutely the worst kind of gate-keeping, based entirely on perception and not facts. Or maybe, if perception is what matters so much to Ballou and his ilk, he should consider the perception of the only people whose perception matters—the players Edgar played with and against, who would vote him into the Hall immediately, if those who actually played the game were ever given a vote.