The Baseball Hall of Fame Voting Controversy

Pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, plus designated hitter Frank Thomas were elected as the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014 by the Baseball Writer’s Association of America (BBWAA).  All three were elected in their first year of eligibility, and all are deserving of enshrinement.  Here’s Maddux in action in the 1996 World Series:

The story that has almost overshadowed this year’s selections has been the actions of Miami Herald writer and ESPN personality Dan Le Batard, one of those BBWAA members. Le Batard, who has been critical of the voting process (even calling the voters “sanctimonious” in regards to some of them excluding anyone who played during the Steroid Era, even those who played clean), gave his ballot to Deadspin.com.  The website allowed its readers to vote their choices for the Hall based on the names on the ballot, Le Batard approved the selections, and submitted the ballot.

To the surprise of no one, this did not sit well with the Establishment.  According to the rules, only members of the BBWAA who have been in the organization for 10 consecutive years can vote for the Hall of Fame, and Le Batard violated this sacred trust.  The righteous indignation of certain writers came down swiftly and harshly via social and print media.  No one compared Le Batard to Hitler, but they came close.  Retribution from the BBWAA leadership was also swift; the organization suspended Le Batard for a year and took away his future Hall of Fame voting privileges.

Not everyone trashed Le Batard, and there were some calls to examine the process.  SportingNews.com was one of those who supported Le Batard.  The Sporting News began as a print publication in the 1880’s but no longer has a print edition and is a website now.  The BBWAA has few members who write for websites (of course, many newspapers have websites and their writers’ work appears in both print and digital form).  Also excluded are broadcasters and baseball executives, both of whom can and are elected to the Hall in their respective categories, not to mention players who are already in the Hall of Fame.  According to this “logic”, Dodgers’ announcer Vin Scully, who has been doing play by play since 1950, or Bob Uecker (Brewers’ broadcaster since 1971), are unqualified to vote even though both are in the broadcaster’s wing of the Hall of Fame themselves.  And don’t tell us that Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, Cal Ripken, or any other Hall of Fame player knows less about the game than the

Was Le Batard grandstanding?  Perhaps, but there is a point to his action which should not be lost in the shuffle. It’s time for the BBWAA to acknowledge that times have changed, news media isn’t just print anymore, and others are qualified to vote for the Hall.  By the way, Le Batard submitted his ballot with the top 10 players as voted on by Deadspins’ readers (voters can vote for a maximum of 10).  Three of those 10 were Maddux, Thomas, and Glavine.

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