"I imagine I'll probably have my vote stripped."
January 8, 2014 7:23 PM   Subscribe

Dan LeBatard of ESPN gave away his baseball Hall of Fame vote to Deadspin, and talking heads had a lot to say about it.
posted by reenum (39 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Hall of Fame voting process seems more and more irreparably broken with every year that passes. At this point it's going to take a special committee or something, decades down the road, to undo the damage caused by the "steroid era" moralists and rumormongers, and by then the Hall may basically be a sideshow rather than the museum of the history of the sport that it's meant to be. Good on Le Batard for creating one more opportunity to show the moralists up for the hypocrites they are.
posted by RogerB at 7:38 PM on January 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

He gave away his vote to ESPN sources?!?!
posted by acidic at 7:44 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Honestly I'd be a lot more accepting of the sanctimony if these weren't the same guys that were either ungodly ignorant or willfully blind during the whole steroid era. If they'd fought the good fight, I could see it. Or if they were consistent and went after the guys in the 70s and 80s that gobbled greenies like candy or the racists, drunks, and wifebeaters that came before. A lot of this just feels like sour grapes because they were cheerleaders and, oops, they got burned, to say nothing of the "rally 'round Jack Morris because fuck nerds" thing.

But this is what it's going to come down to: A hall of fame for the sport without several major record holders and several of the most important players of the modern era. Like the 90s will just be NOTHING AT ALL SIGNIFICANT HAPPENED.

Maddux and Glavine deserve to get in because of Chicks Dig The Long Ball, if nothing else.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:59 PM on January 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

This is a bit of unfortunate grandstanding that might be warranted. LeBatard has a point in that the curmudgeonly HOF voters are convicting a generation of players without evidence.

Good to see Maddux and Glavin get in though - they took advantage of the four foot wide strike zone the umpires gave them [Not mad, not mad at all. Why would I be mad?] and they both fielded and hit well.
posted by vapidave at 7:59 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

The physical Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown can always make a little Asterisk Room. Barry Bonds doesn't need to be inducted to the Hall of Fame for them to document his illegitimate "records."
posted by explosion at 8:02 PM on January 8, 2014

I won't go until they call it what is: The Baseball Building of Fame.
posted by srboisvert at 8:12 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Having to like something Dan LeBatard has done makes me dislike the whole affair even more.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:14 PM on January 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

I like this from Le Batard:

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.

I'm curious how folks think the voting *should* work. I'm not talking about tweaks like getting rid of the 10-player limit, but about opening up the voting to folks outside these fine people.

Have there been serious suggestions for Baseball Hall of Fame voting that isn't limited to the BBWAA?
posted by mediareport at 8:17 PM on January 8, 2014

I think Dan LeBatard's show on ESPN is entertaining. Love his dad.

THe HOF voting is broken. I don't know how to fix it, but it needs help.

I am torn about the steroid guys. I have no idea who was or was not on them, and even if I did, I am not sure they should be kept out. I have a hard time voting in Tony LaRussa as a manager when he benefited from guys who admitted use such as Jose Conseco or Mark McGuire and then talk holier than thou about letting in the players that got them there.

Should the voters have not voted in guys who did greenies during the 60s, 70s and 80s?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:21 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

The game actively excluded African American players for fucking decades, and yet the HOF members that played in the diluted major leagues before it was integrated don't have asterisks hanging besides their names.

Ty Cobb was a sour, bitter, violent, vindictive, racist prick, yet his plaque hangs proudly in the hall, to cite but one of many such instances.

I was there last summer with my son. Barry Bonds is well represented in the Records Room: balls, bats, bases, etc. Same with Pete Rose, and a host of other "tarnished" players. If the bats, balls, and bases they touched are good enough to be exhibited to the paying public, the players that used that gear should be admitted as well. Fuck the character clause, and the hypocritical sanctimony it stands for.
posted by mosk at 8:24 PM on January 8, 2014 [14 favorites]

Talking heads hate deadspin because deadspin:

Scoops them
Calls them on their bullshit
Provides a source for many of their stories

It's the one in the middle that really gets to them. Espn is basically a monopoly and their competition, Fox Sports 1, has apparently decided that that way to beat espn is to be even dimmer. Cheers to Le Betard for doing something to shake things up with the hall, and put some shine on one of the only rational and intelligent US sports outlets.

With regard to the steroid era, in my opinion you can asterisk the records, but HOF should recognize the best players of the era. As much as I hate Barry bonds, you could never convince me he wasn't one of the best players of his time.
posted by chaz at 9:07 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

At what point do we all step back and just acknowledge that we're being played?

In the thread about Reddit AMAs, someone pointed out that the marketing arms of studios had figured out the AMA formula.

Deadspin has clearly figured out the 2014 formula. Between this and the self-made Chris Kluwe 'story', they know the exact buttons to push.

Nerds vs Establishment. Foment anger on both sides and get clicks!

But seriously, LeBetard? MORE LIKE LERETARD!!!! Hall of Fame? More like HALL OF SHAME!

Let us all disagree about thus manufactured controversy!
posted by graphnerd at 9:12 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

The irony is the Deadspin reader ballot came out pretty good:

To begin with, you voted for Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, Edgar Martínez, Jeff Bagwell, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Curt Schilling. Well done, readers! Tim Raines, Mark McGwire, and Don Mattingly all came close, but couldn't quite crack the ballot.

Better than several of the guys from the BBWAA.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:14 PM on January 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

Talking heads hate deadspin because deadspin:

Scoops them
Calls them on their bullshit
Provides a source for many of their stories

That narrative sounds so familiar. It's almost as if that's exactly how Deadspin positions itself.
posted by graphnerd at 9:41 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Grantland has a good story about the sportwriters role in the whole steroid era and how they are tainted in their voting because of it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:23 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like Dan Le Batard and his show. Given the level of sanctimony surrounding this event, I'm inclined to like him even more. Kieth Olbermann — on record as saying we need a new Hall of Fame — thinks Le Batard is right on for soliciting input from fans. On the other hand, Ken Gurnick and the BBWAA Hall of Fame voters — though it should be duly noted that the prediction in this video was wrong — are the Worst Persons in the Sports World.

The day after Barry Bonds broke the home run record, I found myself with half an hour to kill at the Atlanta airport. I decided to get my shoes shined rather than stand around looking like a "suspicious person." I tried to strike up a conversation with the shoeshine guy, as you do. So I asked him, "What do you think about Barry Bonds breaking the record?"

A range of pained emotions crossed his face and he stammered, "Well… I… uh…." I wasn't sure why he didn't want to give his opinion. Maybe he didn't want to criticize a black man to a white person. Maybe he didn't want to hear yet another white dude's criticism of a black man. Maybe he just didn't want to disagree with somebody in his chair. It was profoundly weird for me, and obviously distressful for him.

In any case, I decided that I should give him my opinion first, and when I said so I could see the relief in his eyes. When I told him what I thought, his eyes grew wide with surprise: Bonds' home runs didn't hit themselves. One of the hardest things to do in sports is hit a Major League pitch. Steroids and other PEDs are not magic home run hitting juice. All they do is let you work out every day. You still have to do the working out. Before steroids there were uppers, and before that something else going all the way back to patent medicines in the late 19th century. Therefore, no matter what you think of Barry Bonds as a person — and he's pretty universally thought to be a Major League asshole — to deny him the record and his rightful place in baseball history is hypocritical at best and straight-up racist at worst.

After that he opened up to me and told me he'd been listening to people run Bonds down all day and it was paining him. We shared a good laugh and the rest of the conversation was the kind of delightful back-and-forth that is the reason I keep up with sports.

All of which is to say, Bonds holds the record. He should be in the Hall.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:25 PM on January 8, 2014 [13 favorites]

"Meanwhile. Ken Gurnick votes only for Jack Morris on his ballot."

I can't say that I think much of any of the mlb.com voters. Fine, some (wrong) people don't support Edgar Martinez. But tied for last?
posted by litlnemo at 12:15 AM on January 9, 2014

Steroids are as famous as any of these guys.
posted by telstar at 12:50 AM on January 9, 2014

character clause,

If Mike Vick could find work in the NFL after beating puppies to death, this *really* makes no sense.
posted by mikelieman at 2:42 AM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Good to see Maddux and Glavin get in though...

Me too. Though, it would have been great tv to watch Olberman, had Maddux somehow not made it in. Keith's been a real rampage about the HoF, and that would have been the proverbial straw.

All of which is to say, Bonds holds the record. He should be in the Hall.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:43 AM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Any voting process which doesn't elect Craig Biggio needs to be fixed, because it is most assuredly broken.
posted by Beholder at 6:03 AM on January 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

The PED issue is divisive and, yes, highly hypocritical. If you restrict the HOF to players who (a) didn't play in racially segregated eras, (b) never used steroids or other modern PEDs, (c) never took other illegal drugs such as amphetamines and (d) are Men of Good Character[tm], 95% of the current inductees will have their plaques mailed back to them.

The Hall of Fame, glued as it is to the BBWAA, is as much about reputation and personality as it is about accomplishments. Bonds and Clemens will not make it in for another decade, if at all, because of that. Some will reflexively refuse to vote for them because of the steroid taint; some will reflexively refuse to vote for them until they _admit_ steroid use and humble themselves; some will reflexively refuse to vote for them because they are colossal douchenozzles largely unliked by the press. So it goes.

Meanwhile, the Serious Writers engage in their Serious Craft and proudly hold themselves far above the unwashed masses as the only baseball experts worthy of selecting inductees. What did Le Batard do? He gave a large group of fans a voice, they produced a very respectable ballot, and he submitted that very respectable ballot as his own vote. Is there a rule that BBWAA voters must lock themselves in isolation booths for the duration of their ballot composition? That no opinions from outside sources may be heard or considered? That the same fans who select All-Star Game starters -- which, through Selig's boneheaded linkage of that game to World Series home-field advantage, may have a direct impact on the championship each year -- are completely unqualified to judge who was great and who was not?

People like Gurnick and Chass are content to throw out decades' worth of accomplishments not only on positive PED tests but on mere speculation and guilt by association. Biggio played in the 90s? Many players in the 90s used steroids? Some guy's best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who claims Biggio shot up at 31 Flavors one night? Guilty, case closed, Biggio is a filthy drug fiend. Evidence is for people who don't trust their GUT.

Maybe we should be drug-testing the voters.
posted by delfin at 6:20 AM on January 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sixteen voters left Greg Maddux off their ballot. These people should be identified and then challenged publicly to explain why. There is no reasonable way to look at Maddux's career and not see a HoFer. Honestly, if you split Maddux in half you would probably get two Hall of Famers.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:21 AM on January 9, 2014 [9 favorites]

Interesting to note, there's no mention on SI.com of the Le Batard deadspin vote at all. Bet they wishing one of their writers had thought of it first.
posted by Walleye at 6:31 AM on January 9, 2014

From the Grantland piece linked to above:

The clubhouse code says that all secrets of the locker room must remain there.

We will never know the truth. We will never know if Bonds and Clemens et al cleverly skirted the rules and used only legal performance enhancing drugs. We will never know if Maddux and Biggio were a hundred percent clean. It's done in secret and nobody wants to deal with the judgmental nature of most of their fellow humans so the truth is going to stay secret. The involved people are going to take these secrets to their grave.

Except for the goofs like Jose Canseco. Dude is a clown and yet in retrospect he actually comes off looking pretty good to me in comparison with 99.999% of the rest of them. Here is a link to a ball bouncing off Canseco's head for a home run.
posted by bukvich at 7:26 AM on January 9, 2014

These people should be identified and then challenged publicly to explain why. There is no reasonable way to look at Maddux's career and not see a HoFer.

I agree, there is no reasonable way. But the unreasonable way is "guilt by temporal association". If you decide to not vote for anyone because they played in the steroid era, then if you are not reasonable at least you are consistent.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:31 AM on January 9, 2014

I think the character clause should kick in if the player has committed murder, maybe some other major felony. Merely being a huge scumball is not a reason to keep them out.

Based on performance, Bonds absolutely should be in, first ballot. As a Pirates fan, I hope he gets hit by a bus on the way to the ceremony, but the whole PED things is such BS.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:37 AM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah let's say Bonds did steroids starting in 1999 because he was mad at the attention McGwire and Sosa were getting (as the narrative goes), so we toss all those seasons out. It's like he got hit by a bus in 1999. We are STILL talking about a 3 time MVP, 8 Gold Gloves and 7 Silver Sluggers, and 8 All-Star appearances with a .289/.408/.556 line with over 400HRs and 1200RBIs.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:16 AM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Failing invention of time travel so that we can go back and prevent the PED era from happening, I don't see how we can keep the likes of Bonds and Clemens out forever. Those games happened and we can't change that now.

In any case, I'm much more offended by deserving people with no evidence against them being kept out like Bagwell than I am people like Bonds getting in.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:21 AM on January 9, 2014

This is brilliant, and my hat is off to LeBatard (whose name, for those who don't know, is pronounced LEHbətard, same stress pattern as "unitard"). I can't tell you how much I hate the sanctimony of the sportswriters who won't deign to favor great players like Bonds and Clemens with their votes. I absoloutely love this sentence (from the first link):
This is because the Hall of Fame ritual has become, more than anything else, a way for an electorate dominated by neo-Puritan scolds, milquetoast handwringers, and straight-out dimwits to show how high its standards are by telling people like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, and Curt Schilling that they're just not good enough.
Thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 8:36 AM on January 9, 2014

The thing that chafes me the most about Hall of Fame voting is that I think there's a direct relationship between the voters who can look at a Biggio, Schilling, Walker, Raines, or Mussina and say "sorry, it's not the Hall of Very Good" but then turn around and vote for Jack Morris.

Jack Morris.

Jack Morris of the 105 ERA+, the 3.90 ERA, the 1.30 WHIP. He's Hall of Fame material to many of these guys, but Mike Mussina (123 ERA +, 3.68 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) or Curt Schilling (127 ERA+, 3.46 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) aren't? Jack Morris is the definition of slightly above average, and I'm saying that as a Jays fan who had Morris (sort of) contribute to a championship team.

The discrepancies between Morris and Mussina, with the latter having a better career in every appreciable way and no hint of steroid suspicion, reinforces my belief that it's hardly about performance or drugs: it's an older cohort refusing to acknowledge the talent or, in the case of Bonds and Clemens, outright superiority of a newer generation.

Murray Chass wrote that he was going to hang onto his ballot and perhaps mail it back empty just to annoy newer baseball writers like Craig Calcaterra and Rob Neyer. That's much more irresponsible than what Le Batard did, but I don't hear the old guard of the BBWAA going after Chass.

The writers never cared about drugs before: steroids and amphetamines have been in baseball since at least the late 1960's. This is just old person get-off-my-lawn style bullshit, and it's alienating to younger baseball fans like myself (I'm 29) who are effectively being told that most of the players we loved and memories we have don't count.
posted by The Notorious SRD at 9:11 AM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sixteen voters left Greg Maddux off their ballot.

With the depth of field this year, at least some of that can be attributed to strategic voting. Half the writers used all ten votes this year, up from something like 22% last year. So you know there are some who would have voted for 12, even 15 players. Just look at that field. Even if you kick out the suspected PED users it's easy to find ten hall-worthy candidates.

So pretend you're a writer, and there's a dozen names on your list. It takes 75% to get in. You also know somebody needs 5% just to stay on the list, and there's a 15 year limit. And you know the list will be just as crowded next year, too.

You know Maddux is getting at least 90%, probably well north of 95%. So one less vote here or there isn't going to change his getting in. He's a given. Probably Glavine, too. Throwing a vote at someone to prop up their chances, like Tim Raines or Alan Trammel, might help their momentum. Maybe it's enough to keep Fred McGriff on the ballot so his case is further considered. Maybe it's enough to make sure the winningest pitcher of the 1980s is in the Hall. Or maybe it means Biggio gets the two votes he needed so the list is a little shorter next year.

I've said this elsewhere, but it's an imperfect system. That's fine, it's an imperfect game and that's part of its appeal. Not everybody uses the same criteria for their vote, otherwise there wouldn't be a need for a vote. It doesn't mean the system is wrong. Imperfect, yes, but it's not like they can't just adjust the rules later. I expect one day we'll have a Committee to Revisit the Tainted Era that will add Bonds, Clemens, and others to the Hall if they don't make it the standard way.

Besides, I think it's just incredible to think you can get over 75% of sportswriters to agree to anything.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:24 AM on January 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think I've recommended this before, but Bill James's Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? is an excellent look at how, basically, the voting for HOF has *always* been screwed up.

Not everybody uses the same criteria for their vote, otherwise there wouldn't be a need for a vote.

And that's fine, reasonable people can disagree on what stats are most important. Is stellar defense enough by itself (see Bill Mazeroski). Do big HRs outweigh big Ks? Etc. But that's not what we're seeing here. These are voters blatantly ignoring the best players of their generation. Some for BS moral reasons, and some for pig headed ignorance about what we've learned about statistical analysis in the last 20 years.

Again, it's always been screwed up, and probably always will be a bit. But we can try to make it BETTER.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:36 AM on January 9, 2014

None of the Morris proponents want to admit that the main reason they want him in the HOF is because of his "heroic" performance in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

I have read quite a few accounts that paint Morris as some type of mythical hero for such an unusual feat. Some writers are almost Homeric in their portrayals. I agree that it was a great game. But how about just admitting it and giving Morris a plaque a la Bonds hitting his 756th homer instead perpetuating this farce of a candidacy? If players will be voted in based on "grit" and "playing the right way", change the name of the place to the "Hall of Players Sportswriters Like".
posted by reenum at 12:03 PM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

So basically he's not allowed to attend Marlins games as a credentialed reporter? He should send BBWAA a thank you note.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:51 PM on January 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wow, that was the exact wrong move for the BBWAA.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:12 PM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Especially given that the rule Le Batard is said to have violated has also been violated in the past by the current BBWAA vice president, according to a Houston writer in an email to Deadspin:

As for the voter who seeks local input, that's BBWAA vice-president Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle. He gathers about 6-8 people over a lunch or dinner, they talk about the players, then he votes by how the majority tells him to vote re: each player. I was part of the panel one year.

Deadspin: "I guess turning over a vote to an entity consisting of your cronies is fine, and turning one over to an entity consisting of baseball fans isn't. QED."
posted by mediareport at 8:49 PM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

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