Suspending Dan Le Batard was the Only Move the BBWAA Could Make

By: J. Scott Smith

The Read Zone’s Brian Mangan makes a passionate case that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America was wrong and cowardly for suspending Dan Le Batard’s vote for giving his vote to Deadspin. I would not disagree that the BBWAA lacks a cogent theory as to how to deal with the Steroid Era players and that their public handling of it has been poor at best and positions like Ken Gurnick’s are indefensible. But Le Batard knew that relinquishing control of his ballot to Deadspin would result in the BBWAA revoking his vote, stating in Tim Marchman’s Deadspin article, “I imagine that I’ll probably have my vote stripped.” That was part of the point. He doesn’t care to participate in the system anymore, so the BBWAA granted his wish. What should the BBWAA have done instead? Congratulate him? “Thanks for embarrassing us!” “Any news is good news!” The only move they had was to revoke his voting privileges. That’s what happens when you work outside of the system rather than within it.

I agree with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon’s discussion of Le Batard’s position on the January 8th, 2014 episode of Pardon the Interruption:

Wilbon: Ton, should the Baseball Writers’ of America immediately revoke Dan’s vote? Please say yes.

Kornheiser: Yes, sooner than immediately. Sooner than immediately. Look, I love him. I’m going to sound like Charles Barkley. “He’s my great friend, but…” There’s nothing more democratic than the voting for the Hall of Fame: One man, one vote…So when you say that it’s not a good process, it’s not a good system, no, it is a good system. What’s not good is if you say “I laugh at you. My ego is such that I laugh at you and spit in your face and give my vote away.” If you want the steroid guys in, if you want to make that argument, advocate for the steroid guys. Write columns, go on your radio show, go on TV, and don’t throw your vote away.

Wilbon: It’s so sanctimonious for Le Batard to offer up this gar-bage. Because when you have a radio show that is now national, a television show that’s national everyday, you write columns, you even wrote for Deadspin. You have a voice, a big fat voice that can reach everyone. Don’t tell me that the process is flawed. Lobby for what you believe in.

I find the arguments for Kornheiser and Wilbon compelling for a couple of reasons. First, the HOF voting process isn’t flawed. The people voting might be flawed, and their thinking might be misguided or antiquated, but the one person, one vote process is not flawed. Maybe you want more than 10 players on the ballot, but if you want to make sure only the greatest players get in, reserving it to 10 makes sense to me.

Second, Le Batard does not offer remedies to current HOF voting protocol and I’ve yet to hear a cogent and consistent approach with regards to voting for or against potential PED users.  Should everyone that played from 1987-2004 get their own wing in the Hall of Fame? Maybe the “with/ without steroids” approach, where you make the distinction that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens would have been Hall of Famers without steroids but Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmerio only compiled HOF numbers because of steroids. Le Batard has two national outlets to make his case to alter the HOF voting process, but he decided giving his vote away would make a greater impact.  And he’s probably right about that.  But the difference between Ken Gurnick, Bill Conlin, and Murray Chass is that Le Batard’s primary intention was to embarrass the BBWAA. He did so.  The members and peers of the organization to which he belongs find his actions beyond the pale, so the BBWAA had little choice but to revoke his voting privileges.  I find the inconsistencies from the BBWAA’s voters just as frustrating as many baseball fans, but making a mockery of the HOF voting process will not help or promote change; it just removes Dan Le Batard from the voting process. But hey, he’d rather talk about the Miami Heat anyway.

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Dr. Smith is a professor of communication at Christopher Newport University.