Today’s column was one of those rare sports writing achievements – a piece that almost nobody agreed with. Even people who violently disagree with each other were united in their reaction to the column, even if it was for opposite reasons and even if they had no way of knowing it.
That’s the point of this blog post. Sort of. Sometimes you can anticipate how a column will be received. Heck, you even try to pre-empt the expected counterarguments by addressing them within the column. Every now and then, though, you set one loose into the world and are caught off-guard by the response.
This was one of those columns. That doesn’t mean I regret writing it or think I was wrong, exactly. But it’s important to listen and learn, too, and that’s what I’ve been doing all morning.
The first thing to clear up is that I understand completely how the all-star voting works. I wouldn’t have used the Ryan Howard and Chase Utley numbers to illustrate my point if they came out of the blue. My sense that fans underappreciate Howard has been a long time forming and it’s based on everything – emails, conversations with family and friends and co-workers, comments online and on talk radio. Probably it started a couple years ago, when it was common for people to say things like, “Howard and Rollins have MVP awards, but Chase Utley is really the Phillies’ best player.” Over time, when Howard slumped, it was because he was fatally flawed or washed up; when Utley struggled, it was because he must be injured and not telling anyone.