On selling a Hall of Fame ballot

Jim McIsaac

As I'm sure you heard, Deadspin bought a Hall of Fame ballot. Which meant that someone sold a Hall of Fame ballot.

The wording is unfortunate, however accurate. Despite the often brutally mercenary nature of our society, the word sold does often come with negative connotations. You might get a little shiver of disapproval when you hear that someone has sold their body, or when an elected official has sold his vote. I don't mean to conflate those two things; the only thing they've got in common is that both happen many times every day. My point is that sold can sound ... well, icky.

You might have had that reaction when you heard that someone sold a Hall of Fame ballot.

Well, now we know who sold his: Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard. Via Deadspin, here's Le Batard's rationale, one at a time:

I feel like my vote has gotten pretty worthless in the avalanche of sanctimony that has swallowed it.

I have no earthly idea if Jeff Bagwell or Frank Thomas did or didn't use steroids.

I think I understand why the steroid guys were the steroid guys in this competition-aholic culture.

I'm not sure why his vote would be more worthless in the avalanche of sanctimony? Wouldn't a non-sanctimonious ballot be worth more now, as a check against the sanctimony? But his other points are dead right.

I hate all the moralizing we do in sports in general, but I especially hate the hypocrisy in this: Many of the gatekeeper voters denying Barry Bonds Hall Of Fame entry would have they themselves taken a magical, healing, not-tested-for-in-their-workplace elixir if it made them better at their jobs, especially if lesser talents were getting the glory and money. Lord knows I'd take the elixir for our ESPN2 TV show if I could.

It's not proven hypocrisy, right? We don't know that the people voting against Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens would have taken the magical elixir. Based on what we know about human nature, we certainly might guess they would have. But without any proof, we might at least allow for the possibility that the hundreds of voters who spurn Bonds and Clemens every year would have turned down the chance to get better with no apparent costs.

I think I'd rather just stick with sanctimony. That's demonstrated, regularly.

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.

Amen, brother.

Baseball is always reticent to change, but our flawed voting process needs remodeling in a new media world. Besides, every year the power is abused the way I'm going to be alleged to abuse it here. There's never been a unanimous first-ballot guy? Seriously? If Ruth and Mays and Schmidt aren't that, then what is? This year, someone is going to leave one of the five best pitchers ever off the ballot. Suck it, Greg Maddux.

Well, it was more than just someone. It was a number of someones, and some of the someones were voting strategically; they knew Maddux would make it, so spend their precious votes elsewhere. I don't have a problem with that. Now, the guys who thought Maddux doesn't actually belong in the Hall of Fame...

I've become a more and more lenient voter over the years, often allowing the max 10 guys in a year, and I wanted to put in more this year. I happen to agree with most of the reader selections. I was afraid you guys were going to have me voting for Jacque Jones and no one else. I was kind of surprised this particular snark-land respected the process. I found it impossible to limit it this year to 10, but 10 was all that was allowed, so thanks for the help. But why limit it to 10 in a year that has more than 10 worthy candidates, by the way? How dumb is that?

I don't know how dumb it is. Pretty dumb, I guess. As Dave Cameron's pointed out in detail, the Hall of Fame's rules simply haven't kept pace with the huge increase in the number of teams and players; there used to be 16 teams, and now there are 30. Which means more great players.

But you have to be careful what you wish for. If the ballot was unlimited, or included space for a dozen or 15 candidates, a few more deserving candidates would be elected ... but a few more undeserving candidates would be elected, too. Before I could support raising the limit, I would want a pretty good idea of the practical effects.

And my final reason: I always like a little anarchy inside the cathedral we've made of sports.

What did Thomas Jefferson say? "I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing."

Every time someone refers to THE FRAMERS as if they were all-seeing gods, Jefferson rolls over in his grave. He knew that nobody's possessed of perfect wisdom, and that while some rights seem inalienable, the list of those rights and their definitions will change. When it comes to the Hall of Fame and the BBWAA, a little rebellion is long overdue. Not because the system hasn't worked; until very recently, it's worked very well. Rather, because without a little rebellion it becomes too easy to believe you've achieved perfection. Which has never happened.

I'm not sure what kind of trouble this is going to bring me. I imagine I'll probably have my vote stripped. But I don't want to be a part of the present climate without reform anyway. Given that climate, doing THIS has more impact than my next 20 years of votes as sanctimony bars the HOF door on the steroid guys. Because, in a climate without reform, my next 20 years of votes will be counted but not actually heard. At least this gets it heard, for better or for worse.

Le Batard is not the only Hall of Fame voter who's sick of the sanctimony and the hypocrisy and the myopia. But he might well be the only Hall of Fame voter who's willing to surrender his part in the process to make a point worth making. I don't lay awake at night, lamenting the BBWAA's restrictive policies that keep me from voting for the Hall of Fame (or anything else). At the same time, I would enjoy voting. If I did have a ballot, I would probably not be willing to give it up to make a point.

Which is why I admire Le Batard. I admire people who have the courage and commitment to do things I would not.

CORRECTION: Le Batard didn't actually "sell" his ballot. Apparently there wasn't even anything for charity. He seems to have just handed it off. Which is nothing that any number of coaches and managers haven't done with their Gold Glove ballots over the years. They just weren't honest about it.

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