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For those who missed it, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas were voted into the Hall of Fame this past Wednesday. All three were more than deserving of the honor, and one would think they would have their time in the spotlight. Unfortunately, a loud-mouthed reporter with his own agenda, Dan Le Batard, took that away from them. In November 2013, Deadspin announced that they had “bought” a Hall of Fame vote and would allow their readers to vote on the names on the ballot. This past Wednesday, Dan Le Batard was announced to be the journalist who “sold” his vote. First things first, it is important to note that Le Batard did not actually sell his vote, he merely gave it away. This fact changes the story from something borderline illegal to an ill-timed publicity stunt. For those who have not seen the Deadspin article, you can find it here.
While I cannot condone the manner in which it was done, Le Batard is correct in that the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) and its Hall of Fame voting process is an extremely sketchy process. To become eligible for a Hall of Fame vote, you have to be part of the BBWAA for ten years. Now this seems like common sense, but what is surprising is how many members of the BBWAA do not cover baseball anymore. They still retain their vote through their “honorary” status even thought some have not covered a baseball game in over 10 years. To have these kinds of people voting on baseball’s highest honor is a backwards thoughts. To put this into perspective, how did Hideo Nomo (123-109 4.24 career ERA) receive 6 votes and yet Greg Maddux was left off 12 ballots? How does someone who gave Nomo a vote, when people who live and breathe the game such as Bill James, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, do not have one?
To be fair there are many retired baseball writers who still are immersed in the game like Bob Ryan, but many are not. There should be a process every three years or so where retired writers are sat down and tested on their baseball knowledge. In order to be eligible for a vote, only those who know the most about baseball should qualify. Dan Le Batard was right here in saying that the process is messed up and something should be done. Hopefully his publicity stunt will give the BBWAA the encouragement it needs.
Le Batard pulled a publicity stunt to show that the Hall of Fame process is slimy and full of ridiculous politics. He’s right — that’s exactly what the process is — but he offers no solution. He doesn’t explain how the process may be fixed, he simply says “I’m going to show you all how messed up the process is” and receives a bump to his brand. Le Batard does not cover baseball full-time, either. He spends most of his time making a fool of himself and yelling on his show on ESPN2. If Le Batard really cared that much about the process he would have also waited a day. There was no reason to take the story away from Maddux, Glavine, and Thomas and focus it on Le Batard himself. If he truly cared about the process and the game, he would have showed respect to those players. In the aftermath, the BBWAA banned Le Batard from their association for one year and rescinded his vote for life. This was the appropriate action by the BBWAA, and hopefully more actions are in store to make sure this never happens again and that the system is fixed.