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Hey BBWAA… What Are We Doing Here?

Cooperstown, NY by Dan Gaken is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Hey BBWAA… What Are We Doing Here?


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Estimated Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Today the BBWAA makes their official announcement introducing the Class of 2019 inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The ballot is filled with new names like Mariano Rivera and the late Roy Halladay and features some faces from past years like Mike Mussina, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Edgar Martinez.

The BBWAA votes every year by ballot, but lately there has been a lot of grandstanding with the BBWAA about the hall of fame. There have been writers boasting about leaving a player off their ballot for a moral belief about the way their position is utilized.

That’s right, Bill Ballou of the Worcester Telegram and Gazette is not turning in a ballot this year, snubbing Mariano Rivera of becoming the first unanimous inductee. Why? Because Ballou believes the closer is an overrated role.

GET.

OUT.

OF.

TOWN.

Bill Ballou, by standing up for his “morals” and “beliefs” isn’t snubbing Mariano Rivera. No, he’s snubbing guys like Larry Walker, now on the ballot for his 9th year. He’s snubbing Mike Mussina, one of the most dominant pitchers of the late 90s‌ and early 2000s, who’s in his 6th year. He’s handing Edgar Martinez, the player who revolutionized the position of designated hitter, a shovel to bury his career with. That’s not right.

All of this because Mariano Rivera’s job was to get the “three easiest outs of the game.”

Since his vote became known, Ballou has since recanted his disdain for Rivera. Stating he changed his mind due to backlash and feedback, Ballou has thrown his support behind Rivera.

Excuse me while I don’t applaud Bill Ballou for doing the right thing after the fact. Get bent.

The recent trend of BBWAA voters making the voting process about them is a problem, and one that doesn’t seem to have an end. I mean, when your organization is only relevant for a few weeks every year, you’re happy to steal as much spotlight as possible.

But what happens when one of your own steals the spotlight and turns it against you?

In 2014 an anonymous Hall of Fame voter turned his ballot over to Deadspin. That voter eventually turned out to be Dan Le Batard, ESPN Analyst. In an explanation of his reason Dan had this to say:

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.

Dan Le Batard, ESPN

Le Batard brings up the good point of always voting for the maximum number of guys he’s allowed to vote for every year.

Even if you don’t fully believe in Fred McGriff as a Hall of Famer, but want to keep him around, you could use your 10th vote on him, in the hopes that he stays on the ballot. I mean, there have been years where no one has gotten enough votes to get in. It’s best to have more votes to cast than to have fewer voting options and a more difficult path to Cooperstown.

Imagine agonizing over whether or not to save a guy with your final vote, you’re 10th spot, and another voter just throws his away.

And that’s where Dan Shaughnessy steps into the light.

I grew up reading Shaughnessy’s columns when I was a kid. There was a plain speak to his effortless ability to weave complex statistics into the large vernacular that spoke to every piece of the New England spectrum. Anyone could read and understand and relate to his work, regardless of where they were in their social status or fandom. He connected New England through his sports analysis and commentary.

I also blame Dan for my ability to look at the more realistic side of New England sports, the one where the Patriots look like the early 2000s Yankees. If anything, it’s that perspective that drove me to the New York Mets after moving to New York City.

Anyway, back to Carl Everett’s Curly Haired Boyfriend.

So Shaughnessy’s Hall of Fame Ballot comes out… and it’s revealed that he’s voted for only one player, Mariano Rivera.

What are we doing here? What is this voting process about? Why are we giving the power and prestige to the voters and not the players who played the game at such a level that they’re considered to be the greatest to grace the diamond?

I’m suggesting we let the players vote themselves, or the fans (because that would be a mess), but I agree with Le Batard that the system is broken. It was broken back in 2014 and it’s broken now. Dan Shaughnessy’s single player ballot hurts the hall more than a ballot full of low percentage players who never had a shot.

With voters posturing for clicks and recognition, we’re losing sight of the players who helped keep the game evolving.

What are we doing here?

Something has to change, because the Baseball Hall of Fame is spiraling out of control, and the voters are the ones to blame.

To close, I’ll leave you with Dan Le Batard’s thesis.

“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.”

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