The news in November that Deadspin.com had successfully purchased a BBWAA members HOF ballot created a swirl of rumors, which yesterday were put to rest, as Dan Le Batard of ESPN2 was revealed as the culprit. Deadspin allowed the fans to vote, despite some discrepancies, it falls in line compared to the actual overall BBWAA voted.
Notable exceptions to that? Jack Morris received 19.8 percentage points less from the Deadspin voters, also the only selection that was lower than what the BBWAA selected. The largest discrepancies were Mark McGwire, Edgar Martinez and Don Mattingly, all with 43+ percentage points different. Meanwhile, Tom Glavine was nearly spot on, .2 percentage points. Greg Maddux, Lee Smith and Craig Biggio all were very close too. Biggio would have been inducted, as well as Mike Piazza, had Deadspin had the final say.
As expected, yesterday the BBWAA stripped Le Batard of his voting privilege and suspended him for one year, which is allowed under their constitution. So why would he do this? He doesn’t need the money and is actually giving it to as an unnamed (as of now) charity. Let’s allow him to explain why:
I feel like my vote has gotten pretty worthless in the avalanche of sanctimony that has swallowed it.
I have no earthly idea if Jeff Bagwell or Frank Thomas did or didn’t use steroids.
I think I understand why the steroid guys were the steroid guys in this competition-aholic culture.
I hate all the moralizing we do in sports in general, but I especially hate the hypocrisy in this: Many of the gatekeeper voters denying Barry Bonds Hall Of Fame entry would have they themselves taken a magical, healing, not-tested-for-in-their-workplace elixir if it made them better at their jobs, especially if lesser talents were getting the glory and money. Lord knows I’d take the elixir for our ESPN2 TV show if I could.
I don’t think I’m any more qualified to determine who is Hall of Fame-worthy than a fan who cares about and really knows baseball. In fact, many people analyzing baseball with advanced metrics outside of mainstream media are doing a better job than mainstream media, and have taught us some things in recent years when we were behind. In other words, just because we went to journalism school and covered a few games, just because accepted outlets gave us their platform and power, I don’t think we should have the pulpit to ourselves in 2014 that way we did in 1936.
Baseball is always reticent to change, but our flawed voting process needs remodeling in a new media world. Besides, every year the power is abused the way I’m going to be alleged to abuse it here. There’s never been a unanimous first-ballot guy? Seriously? If Ruth and Mays and Schmidt aren’t that, then what is? This year, someone is going to leave one of the five best pitchers ever off the ballot. Suck it, Greg Maddux.
I’ve become a more and more lenient voter over the years, often allowing the max 10 guys in a year, and I wanted to put in more this year. I happen to agree with most of the reader selections. I was afraid you guys were going to have me voting for Jacque Jones and no one else. I was kind of surprised this particular snark-land respected the process. I found it impossible to limit it this year to 10, but 10 was all that was allowed, so thanks for the help. But why limit it to 10 in a year that has more than 10 worthy candidates, by the way? How dumb is that?
And my final reason: I always like a little anarchy inside the cathedral we’ve made of sports.
I’m not sure what kind of trouble this is going to bring me. I imagine I’ll probably have my vote stripped. But I don’t want to be a part of the present climate without reform anyway. Given that climate, doing THIS has more impact than my next 20 years of votes as sanctimony bars the HOF door on the steroid guys. Because, in a climate without reform, my next 20 years of votes will be counted but not actually heard. At least this gets it heard, for better or for worse.
So, he feels his vote was dead. He feels he’s not anymore qualified than his contemporaries. He feels the system is stuck and unwilling to grow or change.
He has a high profile platform with ESPN2, why didn’t he just take to the air with it? Well, he very well may have been stripped of his vote there too, just threatened/hushed and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. This is his civil disobedience, it gave him his chance to take it to another level. Even he says in his response:
I was kind of surprised this particular snark-land respected the process.
So even he expected some ridiculous vote to draw attention to this, but it wasn’t all that ridiculous (depending on where you stand on the PED users) So he is hoping that the system can change, he’s drawn awareness to it, but will anything change? Will this get swept under the rug? Can a legitimate ballot cast by the fans win over more members of the BBWAA, or are too many of the old guard in place to protect the “sanctimony” as Le Batard calls it? He certainly did what he could, but it is going to take more members to stand up with him. This idea doesn’t seem so far fetched however, as reports have it that Le Batard was not Deadspin’s first pick to buy a vote, another member had to back out just before sealing the deal. Deadspin claims they are planning to revisit the stunt next year, will the BBWAA change the language of their constitution to ramp up the consquences? He isn’t alone, but are there too few to bring about a system that doesn’t limit how many to vote for? That doesn’t play moral police?
The moral police question is not one that carries an easy answer. A polarizing or flip-flopping idea for pretty much anyone you speak to. Speaking with fellow thegameofbases contributor Brian Kelly, he opines that we take the morality out of it, merely comparing players to the context of their era, which is an intriguing idea. I will clarify, you may have noticed from Brian’s ballot, that he is not interested in honoring any of the cheats, however he is willing to share their story without them getting plaques which I respect.
The limits on who to vote for are unnecessary in my opinion. Just because the voters have extra votes doesn’t necessarily mean they will vote for every player on the ballot at any given time. I don’t think any of the voters are stupid, they are all smart people, whether I agree with their opinions or not. Some years we will have 10+ worthy candidates and I find that a good problem. Some years will have 1 or less good candidates and that is a good problem too. It may not be good for downtown Cooperstown on induction weekend, but if we don’t have a worthy candidate to induct, then we’ll revisit the next year. Limiting the voters options is only going to continue to ignite fire under some of their base, like it is now.
Who to allow to vote? Changing restrictions to allow? Limiting terms? Currently the eligible voters are selected by:
Only active and honorary members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, who have been active baseball writers for at least ten (10) years, shall be eligible to vote. They must have been active as baseball writers and members of the Association for a period beginning at least ten (10) years prior to the date of election in which they are voting.
I’m open to tweaking this, we have a great deal of fantastic minds analyzing the game now that are not part of the “traditional” journalistic world, who would use more logic than many do now. Take for instance Ken Gurnick’s choice to only vote for Jack Morris, is quoted as saying:
“As for those who played during the period of PED use, I won’t vote for any of them,”
“It’s not a personal thing,”
“It’s an indictment of an era.”
Logic being based in reason and I’d love to see the merit, statistics and rational that says Greg Maddux didn’t deserve a vote. Throwing a blanket statement for every player in this era (he says starts in 1992-93, which INCLUDES Jack Morris who played through 1994) with no proof, no tests, not even any casual accusations or perceptions is not logic, it is a cop out. I don’t want to have to think about it, so we had some bad apples, well I don’t want to put a cheater in, so instead of using what I know, I’ll just abstain. Now, I’m not saying that anyone who starts a blog should be given a vote (though Brian, Damian and I would be honored to take part in the process). Allowing the general public to vote? I actually would support this, but if we gave them one cumulative vote to be put into the pool, like what Deadspin did. The vast number would then weed out the “homer” votes for JT Snow that would happen, instead of getting some of the All Star debacles of the grass roots campaigns that have popped up in recent years across different sports.
Updating the method of voting is something I can be swayed on. The knock against it for me? They are given photocopies of ballots and have to fax them back… really? Are they done on typewriters too? If you wanted to keep paper ballots for some sense of history, I’m okay with it. Let’s give it some honor then, use a nice card stock with the BBWAA and HOF logo on it maybe? Better yet, make the ballots part of the induction weekend exhibit! Frame them, it could be a really cool thing to see 500+ votes in a room, a work of art, or even bind them in a book for each year! If not and you insist on handing out these copy machine marked up pieces of printer paper, why not do an online ballot? Or email it? These guys are supposed to be professionals covering baseball, they all have computers with access to the internet everywhere, no excuse not to get with the times.
I’d like to see transparency too. Now, some of the lack of transparency is that they would have to take the extra step of putting it out there, but I’m sure there are folks that don’t want to defend their choices. I reject that though, if you are making a historic decision, you should be able to defend it and should not be scared to.
I hope that Le Batards decision wasn’t done in vain and that we get the furor that has been building over the HOF voting process in the general public to infiltrate more of the inner circle so that an honest conversation can happen. Time will tell, but I bet the old guard is ready to batten down the hatches. Change can be scary, but it doesn’t mean it is a bad thing.
Le Batard’s Ballot