I Applaud Dan LeBatard
By Dan Haefeli
UPDATE from Danny Abriano, 1/9:
LeBatard stripped of HOF vote for life –
As a penalty for giving his vote to Deadspin, the BBWAA has stripped Dan LeBatard of his Hall of Fame vote for life, and has banned him from attending a baseball game as a credentialed member of the media for one year.
This doesn’t come as a surprise, but the BBWAA will look like a group of horses asses if the LeBatard punishment isn’t the first domino to fall. Clearly, what LeBatard did was out of bounds (even though I agree with it), but some of the other voters filled out ballots that were more egregious than LeBatard’s stand.
Additionally, there are lots of voters who haven’t covered baseball for years who still have votes. That needs to be changed. What also needs to be changed is the 10 vote limit. It’s archaic and pointless.
What Dan LeBatard did arguably wasn’t right. His Hall of Fame vote, one of 571, is given to him in the understanding that he would fill it out himself. Writers selling or allowing outside influence in their votes presents a potential conflict of interest.
But that doesn’t mean he didn’t do the right thing.
With the Baseball Writers Association of America revealing its Hall of Fame voting results today, we now have three new Hall of Famers: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas. Craig Biggio narrowly missed (0.22%, or 1.1 votes shy of enshrinement).
The vote, in recent years, has been subject to a steadying increase of criticism, especially in the face of the “Steroid Era”. Much of the 1990’s and early 2000’s have been “tainted” by the use of illegal performance enhancing* substances, made public in part by George Mitchell (D-Maine)’s independent investigation on steroid use in Major League Baseball.
Sep 29, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets former catcher Mike Piazza acknowledges the fans during his induction into the Mets Hall of Fame prior to the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
With many of these players (a list headlined by Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds) currently up for consideration, many writers have taken it as an opportunity to decry those who used – or allegedly used – performance enhancing substances. This has resulted in a combination of witch hunts, indignant grandstanding, and a perfidious misuse of the ballot by the few (571 in this year’s election) who possess them.
Dan LeBatard “gave” his ballot to the sports website Deadspin. His reasoning was to bring awareness to the ridiculousness that has become the voting process.
"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.– Dan LeBatard, for Deadspin (linked above)"
Many voters no longer cover the game, and plenty of those who do use their ballot to bring attention to themselves and unfairly begrudge players (for various reasons):
Ken Gurnick voted for *only* pitcher Jack Morris. His words: “As for those who played during the period of PED use, I won’t vote for any of them.” This ignores the fact that Morris’ career overlaps with the “Steroid Era”, as well as the fact that players as far back as the 1970’s openly took amphetamines (commonly referred to as “greenies”) to help withstand the physical toil of a 162-game season. They took them, specifically, to enhance their performance.
Murray Chass, among other things, has single-handedly led the charge against former Mets catcher Mike Piazza, claiming with complete certainty that he took steroids over the majority of his career. His evidence? Disappearing “bacne” and the testimonial of a first baseman who never played with Piazza. Dan Shaughnessy refuses to vote for Piazza because “he doesn’t look right.” Brian Kenny (who doesn’t have a vote) supports his claim that Piazza took steroids with the evidence that Piazza didn’t refute the claim strongly enough.
Marty Noble voted for only three players because “the ceremony is too long.”
Someone voted for Armando Benitez.
This isn’t a “look at me” act, as many have claimed. This is a “look at this process” act. LeBatard’s actions made two loud statements today: that the BBWAA is severely out of touch with modern baseball fans, and that the Hall of Fame voting process is outdated and often corrupt.
Gurnick’s ballot was a “look at me” act. Chass recently flaunted his ballot (and his plan to continue voting) as a middle finger to those who would disagree with him.
I understand that there are implications of LeBatard’s actions, and that they could open the door to future issues. It seems he does as well. Of course, that’s one of the reasons why he did what he did. The process needs to be changed, because the process is broken.
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