Deadspin, Le Batard, and the Hall of Fame

I’m sure by now most know the story. A couple months ago, the website Deadspin set out to make a point about the voting process of baseball’s Hall of Fame. They put out a story in which they offered to buy a vote from someone and they would then poll their readership to produce the ballot. They reportedly came close to sealing the deal with a donation to charity, but that fell through. Then came Plan B, ESPN’s Dan Le Batard had offered to volunteer his ballot, free of charge.

The Deadspin readership voted and produced ten candidates for the Hall of Fame and the ballot was cast. Wednesday after the Hall of Fame announcement was made, Deadspin and Le Batard revealed themselves. Le Batard said he wanted to draw attention to the farce of a voting system. And in an unsurprising move, the Baseball Writers Association of America have taken efforts to protect the sanctity of their system and have taken away Le Batard’s voting rights and suspended his membership for a year.

There have been many complaints levied at Le Batard.

First is that he was only out for attention. Well, when you want something to be noticed, bringing attention to it seems to be the best way to get it noticed. I think it is laughable that the BBWAA is up in arms about this because it seems most writers publicly agree with Le Batard.

In most articles that I’ve read, the writer inevitably agrees that the voting system is flawed, but what Le Batard did wasn’t the right thing to do. So I have a question.

If so many writers consider the voting system flawed, why hasn’t it been changed? Why hasn’t anyone written about their attempts to work inside the BBWAA system to change it? It’s been simply admission without action. They’re simply paying lip service to the fans as they shrug it off by saying, “Hey we agree with you, but what can we do? *wink*”

They’ve changed the narrative from how to fix the problem to how awful Le Batard is. Because of that, it is safe to say that altering the voting system for the Hall of Fame has zero traction inside the BBWAA.

So while they sat still, Le Batard attempted to get it noticed and to bring attention to the issue to push it along. But, as most organizations unwilling to give up their power do, they punished the noisemaker rather than deal with the issue at hand.

Many have accused Le Batard of betraying his fellow writers. Is that like those same writers betraying the trust placed in them by players and fans alike to vote logically and honestly?

Guys like Murray Chase don’t vote for particular players out of spite. Guys like Ken Gurnick decide they won’t vote for anyone from the steroid era, ignoring the best pitcher of the last 30 years, and voted only for Jack Morris. Oh, and by the way on Morris, half of his career overlaps with Maddux’s career and he is disqualified because he played during the steroid era. How does that work?

That kind of thing is totally acceptable. But Le Batard submitting a well reasoned, publicly sourced ballot isn’t.

It further emphasizes the thought that baseball people like to promote that they possess some mystical knowledge about the game of baseball that nobody else has. Nobody else could ever understand the game like they do. Nobody else could ever see the things they see. That performance is more than just the numbers.

In doing all of this, the writers not only attacked Le Batard, but also the fans.

Bob Costas has said that fans shouldn’t get a vote for the Hall of Fame because they are swayed by their favorites. I’d love to ask him if that is any worse than writers failing to vote for someone simply out of spite? Or because some other players in the league at the same time did something illegal?

I agree with Costas in that some fans may vote for a player because they are that person’s favorite player. However, it’s unlikely that that player would ever get to the critical 75% level to get them in. Meanwhile if someone is a favorite player of 3 out of 4 baseball fans, I’m confident enough to say that he will be worth putting into the Hall of Fame. And to further that point, the fans aren’t the ones who legitimately posted votes for Armando Benitez, Jacque Jones, and J.T. Snow. I mean, seriously.

I also have a problem with how many writers decide how they should vote too. There are some writers who refuse to vote for a guy because nobody should be unanimous, like Greg Maddux. There are some writers who refuse to vote for a guy because he wasn’t quite good enough to be a “first ballot Hall of Famer,” like Craig Biggio.

To me that’s absurd. Either the guy is a Hall of Famer or he’s not. If he is, vote for him! If he’s not, then don’t. Ever. None of this, “I won’t vote for him this year, but I will next year.” What changed? Why is he now a Hall of Famer a year later?

I also find it extremely disingenuous too. These are all the same writers who willfully voted for Barry Bonds as an MVP, despite all the same concerns that they have today. But now those concerns take away Hall of Fame votes. So the writers believe that steroid users should be eligible for MVPs, but not for the Hall of Fame. No, that’s not hypocritical at all.

In conclusion (if you’ve hung around this long), Baseball writers and sports columnists around the country have now very successfully turned this situation away from being a public referendum on Hall of Fame voting, like it should have been, and have taken to publicly excoriating Le Batard instead. To the point that Le Batard said on the Dan Patrick Show this morning that he wouldn’t do it again if he had a mulligan.

Why? Because assassinating Le Batard’s character is easier than looking in the mirror and asking what they’ve done to try to fix the problem. If they can keep us busy talking about whether what Le Batard did was right and not about how we can fix the Hall of Fame voting system, they buy themselves another year of power.

Le Batard isn’t and shouldn’t be the story here. The Hall of Fame voting should be. Congratulations sports media for missing it. Though I’m sure you all know you have.

I’ve never been a Dan Le Batard fan. I actually can’t stand anything he does. But he has gained a supporter from this.

Comments on this entry are closed.