The Most Valuable Player vote allows for the expression of degrees of opinion. The Hall of Fame vote asks only one question: Is this guy in or out?
This forces the votaries of the lesser gods to defend and in the process exaggerate the qualifications of their favorites. It’s reached the point that to say a player “belongs in the Hall of Fame” is simply the language that we use to say he was a great player."
Bill James, The Historical Baseball Abstract
This is what is great about Bill James, and what’s great about the best sportswriting: This is nothing more than two paragraphs from an article on a subject he’d tackle in more depth later, in a book he’d basically rewrite in 15 years. It is a random page I picked out to read while I was eating Honey Nut Cheerios, because the internet is not working in my apartment.
A few weeks ago I wrote a little blog post about why most baseball music is so terrible, and one of the problems I mentioned was how frequently baseball is reduced to its blandest, most obvious metaphorical relationship with people who have realized they are getting kind of old.
When you reduce something to metaphor or symbol you destroy it; to get a metaphor, to allow something like baseball to speak for something more important, you have to address it directly, with the same generosity and clarity of thought you’d apply to your actual material.
All the frivolous things we write about are the playgrounds of human beings no different from the ones who start wars and come of age and have sex with graduate students and are thus eligible to appear in literary novels. In the hands of Bill James the difference between MVP balloting and Hall of Fame balloting can’t help but become metaphor.