Deadspin fan vote highlights HOF flaw

Earlier this month, Major League Baseball inducted three new members into the Hall of Fame: Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas.  But shortly after the results were announced, some of the attention turned away from the players and toward the voters.

A few weeks prior, Deadspin had announced on its website that it was looking to buy a vote.  It would turn that vote over to its readers and allow them to pick the players that would appear on the ballot. The person whose vote was “bought” would vote based on those standings, and their identity would be revealed after the votes were tallied.

It wasn’t a publicity stunt.  Deadspin stated repeatedly that the point was not to increase the site’s own notoriety, but rather to shed light on an unfair and outdated policy.

Shortly after the announcement unveiling who made the hall was done, ESPN personality Dan Le Batard was revealed as the person who sold his ballot. In an interview, he said he did it because he doesn’t believe the media should be the only ones allowed to vote.

“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,” he said in the Deadspin article.

Reaction from the media was immediate. Baseball writers called for Le Batard to have his vote stripped and to be banned from the Baseball Writers’ Association, both of which happened. But he’s right.

Writers used to be the only people who saw enough of the players to make an informed opinion. Fans could see the games they went to, but the writers went to every game. They followed the team as closely as anyone could and were trusted with the task of determining who most deserved the honor.

But things are different now. Technology has made statistics easier to come by for everyone. The barriers that prevented fans from meticulously keeping track of their favorite players have fallen, and while by no means should the entire vote turn over to the fans, it’s becoming clear that the writers are stuck too far in the past to keep the vote to themselves.

This isn’t true for all baseball writers. There are some out there who have embraced the advanced analysis sabermetrics and things like it provides. But most don’t. And we, the fans, are forced to endure years like 2013, where nobody was voted into the Hall of Fame.

That’s not even the worse part. People who weren’t pleased with Dan Le Batard for “selling out” (even though he made it quite clear he received no payment) were the same people who were perfectly fine with two writers voting for a total of one player. One left his ballot blank, the other only voted for one player. Former Houston Astro Craig Biggio missed the hall by two votes.

Everything changes with time.   A short whle ago, if you had told anyone the NFL was considering eliminating the extra point and kickoffs they would’ve thought you were out of your mind. But they are.

It’s hard to balance tradition while also maintaining the link to the past that has made baseball what it is today. But change is good. Replay is coming to baseball, and it won’t hinder the sport. It’ll help it. It’s time people realize the same thing can happen with the hall, and let the fans voice be heard.

 

Garth Shanklin is a junior sports communication major from Williamsburg, OH..

Direct comments, questions and other responses to gshanklin@mail.bradley.edu.