Kovacevic's Inclusion Of Neil Walker, Jose Tabata Enriched Discussion

UPDATE by Charlie: New SB Nation Pittsburgh writer Dan Hopper finished a really good article on this issue just as I was writing mine.

Just an addendum, in case my position weren't clear, regarding the uproar over Dejan Kovacevic putting Neil Walker and Jose Tabata second and third on his Rookie Of The Year ballot. I don't agree with his picks, and frankly I don't think there's a serious case to be made that either of them were actually better than Jason Heyward. I don't even buy his argument that his position as a Pittsburgh writer enabled him to see things other people didn't - after all, what about the possibility that he might have seen things about Heyward that he otherwise missed if he had been watching Braves games all year? But a couple of things here:

1. Kovacevic's opinion that the voting should reflect a broad variety of perspectives is a very healthy one. Voters are asked to select the best three candidates. Walker clearly wasn't as good as Heyward or Buster Posey, but if we're going to talk about the best rookies in the National League this year, Walker needs to be in that discussion. If everyone votes Posey, then Heyward, then Jaime Garcia, then that's boring, and it leaves out players like Walker and Tabata who deserve some time in the sun. If everyone voted for Walker and Tabata, then that would certainly be something to fuss over, but one person doing so enriches the discussion rather than skewing it.

2. I'm not sure when the practice of witch-hunting bad ballots started, and I regret if in six years of blogging I have ever participated in one of these witch-hunts. The practice only even really makes sense if the person writing the ballot is an idiot or clearly isn't paying attention. If you want to call out someone who voted for Rafael Palmeiro as the Gold Glover at first base when Palmeiro only played a handful of games there, then I guess that's fair game. But Kovacevic isn't an idiot, and he does pay attention.

3. No, you know what, the witch-hunting thing is just weird. A lot of the discussion surrounding Kovacevic's vote has been pretty reasonable, actually, which speaks well of a lot of higher-profile folks. Some of the more subterranean responses have been pretty nasty, though. (No links, but search for Kovacevic's name over the past 24 hours, and they're easy enough to find.) For some reason there's this thing we do when one person has a ballot we don't agree with where we have to figure out who they are and point fingers at them. Kovacevic's ballot had no impact on the ultimate results, as Posey and Heyward would have finished first and second regardless of his vote. All it did was call attention to Walker and Tabata, who deserve the footnotes they've gotten as a result.

Digression: A few years ago I wrote a review of a Radiohead album that I didn't think was very good. I was among the first people to review it, and therefore didn't read other reviews before mine was published. Well, it turned out that I was just about the only person who didn't like it, and my review played at least some role in keeping the record from being the top-rated album that year at this website called Metacritic that compiles reviews by various publications and boils them down into numerical scores.

If you pay attention to Radiohead at all, you know that their music often depicts Orwellian/Huxleyan dystopias that are clearly supposed to be negative. Many of their fans, however, seem to have a pretty serious problem with people who think for themselves. The message I got, online and particularly via email, from their fans was that it was not okay for one person on the entire planet to say their album was bad. This is despite the fact that the value of a piece of music is purely subjective, and the demand that every single person love Radiohead is Orwellian as all get out.

I guess what I'm getting at is that while some people may have good reasons to wring their hands over one wayward Rookie Of The Year ballot, a lot of what these ballot witch-hunts are about is about trying to force everyone to conform. Like I said, I can kind of understand them when the writer clearly doesn't know what he or she is talking about, since then there's a flaw in the system that needs to be fixed, but that's not what happened here. I can also understand them when weird voting creates an absurd result, but again, that's not what happened here. All Kovacevic did was add Walker and Tabata to the discussion. That's a good thing.

For the record, I would advocate expanding the ballot to include seven players, or maybe ten. That way we can have a discussion about players like Walker without some writer sticking his or her neck into the internet guillotine like this.

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