It was a foregone conclusion that Angels greats Darin Erstad and Troy Percival would not get elected to the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. It was also apparent that neither player would garner the five percent of the vote required to stay on the ballot for a second year.
And so the only victory that fans of the World Champion 2002 Anaheim Angels in particular and the California Angels / Anaheim Angels franchise in general could root for in this vote was a sliver of hope: that there would be some acknowledgement somewhere, some how, in the form of a vote or two for either man.
The Hall of Fame Ballot is inherently a controversy. Take out the whole debate about steroids and we are still left with voters who insist on a cold statistical calculus as the one true holy apostolic methodology for determining which players rise from the ranks of greatness to that of Cooperstown immortality. Other writers game the system - knowing that Pedro Martinez is a shoe-in they avoid voting for him and vote for Tim Raines and Alan Trammel - deserving players who did not have the luxury of playing for ESPN's favorite team. That Pedro ended up with "only" 91% of the vote upsets some purists greatly - but is the exclusion of Raines and Trammel... and even Larry Walker not a greater folly?
These great unanswerable questions only underscore the diverse appeal of our great game. And so it is legitimate for a voter to vote for the shoe-ins and then consider those who deserve a nod, if ever so fleeting. If the man is on the ballot he deserves consideration and if he epitomized greatness to the voter then why should the vote not be cast?When pitcher Jack Morris was creeping up in the vote totals I was aghast. I was as anti-Jack Morris as it gets in knowing quite well that Chuck Finley was, statistically, the equal or superior of Morris on the mound.
And many argued against Morris - successfully in the end, but the tide of sentimentality is real. It must be acknowledged, perhaps as Carl Jung advocated embracing the existence of the shadow side of us all in order to not be overtaken by it. For every triumph of logic over emotion in Bert Blyleven finally making it in and Jack Morris not getting through there is a Jim Rice in Cooperstown and a Lou Whitaker not there to make us endlessly debate. And debate is the crack in the wall. And like Leonard Cohen sang - there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.
If there were no debates of who should get into Cooperstown and who should not it would be like Canton, Ohio - the home of Football's Hall of Fame. Are there endless debates about the voting process for Canton? No. America likes football, but it loves baseball. And that is why every rule change, scandal, close play, controversy, highlight reel, blooper and vote for its shrine of the eternals are all steeped in debate and controversy. Football is the kid down the street. Baseball is our son, our father, our uncle, our grandfather. We complain and argue because we care too deeply to accept anything other than what we feel is right when it comes to baseball.
No harm came of the one vote cast for Darin Erstad or the four cast for Troy Percival in this election. They are off the ballot. But they finished ahead of the eligible players who got no votes: In Erstad's case he is ahead of Rich Aurillia, Tony Clark, Jermaine Dye, Cliff Floyd, Brian Giles, Eddie Guardado and Jason Schmidt. Percival finishes ahead of his teammate Erstad, all of these players plus Aaron Boone and Tom Gordon who each got two votes.
If the men who voted for Ersty and Percy are to be mocked for an intellectually-indefensible choice, they are to be commended for bravely standing up to that criticism and belting out in song "Let's go on a sentimental journey..." with all the heart that cheering for a diving catch or a bases-loaded strikeout for the Save would muster in any fan.