On Dan Le Batard’s brilliance, and the stupidity of the Baseball Hall of Fame

The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame is a joke.

I wish I could say I have known this for awhile, but I haven’t. Truthfully, up until the point where I was 19 or 20 years old, I thought the Hall of Fame was important, that it did mean something. And to the people who do get enshrined, I’m sure it is important and that it does mean something, but for fans like me — those who care more about talent and production and less about “character” and “good moral standing” — the Hall is stupid, stupid, stupid, and it’s been proven. Again.

Today, the Hall of Fame took away Dan Le Batard’s voting privileges for life, because, in an act to promote change within the voting process, Le Batard turned his vote over to Deadspin.com to let the fans decide which players he should vote for on his ballot.

As an aside, to sports journalists and media juggernauts such as ESPN, for instance, Deadspin is basically the antichrist. It’s a no-holds-bars sports website dedicated to objectivity, constantly questioning and ridiculing all the dumb shit we hear pundits and athletes spewing on television or Twitter or whatever medium is your preference. Essentially, if the people we see giving opinions on ESPN are the watchers, then Deadspin is watching the watchers.

So, for Dan Le Batard to volunteer his vote over to Deadspin — and make no mistake, he volunteered it; Deadspin did not pay him — what he was really doing was selling his soul to the devil. Because that type of thing is a no-no, apparently.

Here is Le Batard’s explanation for why he gave his vote away (link above):

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

[…]

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.

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.

[…]

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.

Indeed. And today his vote was stripped.

I especially like his first point, about the moralizing. For about 20 years MLB went through what is now known as the “steroid era,” where many players took Human Growth Hormone (HGH) to get bigger and stronger and recover faster from injuries, and the result was the greatest offensive era in major league history. Naturally (or unnaturally, depending on how you choose to look at it), dudes were tearing the fucking cover off the ball and hitting a shitload of home runs. This is when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa set the big league record for homers in a season, which was later bested by Barry Bonds. After the strike over the collective bargaining agreement in 1994, MLB had a public relations shitstorm on their hands, so both the league and its sports writers turned a blind eye at what they already knew was happening when all the home run records were being set: Players were doing it unnaturally.

And neither the league nor the writers chose to say a damn thing about it, because it was positive attention for the league. By 1999 when McGwire and Sosa went on their home run binge, it can be argued that the popularity of the sport was at an all-time high.

However, in 2008 (I think it was), MLB decided to start cracking down on steroids and HGH, and all of a sudden the sports writers tagged along. Rather than celebrating all the records that were being broken, they began calling into question the integrity of the players who were setting them.

It was no longer a debate over talent, but, rather, if you did steroids you were a bad person, and if you didn’t then you deserve love and admiration.

The truth is, baseball players are human just like you and me. We’ve all done terrible shit, and we’ve all done good deeds when no one was watching. The people voting on who should and should not be in the Hall of Fame have decided that players like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are not human, that they possess less moral fortitude than they themselves do, and that they are above the common fan.

Dan Le Batard, meanwhile, knew exactly what he was doing by giving his vote to Deadspin, or, “the fans,” as it were. He knew he would get his vote taken away from him, and he knew the pompous, sanctimonious fraternity of sports writers would all team up and shit on him for being an arrogant bastard. And by arrogant bastard, I mean he selflessly gave his vote away to fans, even though he knew there would be a heavy media backlash against him.

It’s 2014 for god’s sake. So why the hell are we still allowing a flawed system based primarily on a bunch of baseball writers — who are flawed just like everyone else in the world — to dictate who is and isn’t a good enough person to be in their precious Hall of Fame?

I’m not a huge fan of change, in general. I like the same shaving cream to shave my face with, the same toothpaste, and I still tie my shoes and wipe my ass the same way I always have. That type of change is unnecessary. But where there’s a problem, what then?

Change is the only constant in this world, so MLB needs to start moving along with the times instead of pretending it’s still 1927.

2 responses

  1. Pingback: The Baseball HoF blog I didn’t want to write | For Annabel Lee

  2. To pompous and sanctimonious, why don’t we add cerebrally ossified? It’s been maddening for 10 years now they have acted completely obliviously to the fact they had developed a logjam, for the probable steroid reasons, where the number of eligible people had diluted the vote to the point where critical mass of 75% was impossible for all but the most obvious newly eligible. To not allow voters 20 or 25 votes, if only temporarily, is to cause a lot of deserving people to get screwed. So they cavalierly watch the slow death of players’ eligibility despite constant complaint of voters leaving numerous players off, and what’s their solution? Decrease eligibility from 15 years to 10! Oh that’ll fix it! Kill ’em off and it’ll all be fine!
    Now I’ll admit to being taken for a ride by steroids; chasing homers (that’s me catching Bonds’ 64th first thing after the piece on the World Trade in Burns’ Bottom of the Tenth). I firmly believe the playing field should be level, but for the reasons you stated I wouldn’t have a problem if someone voted for a user – if he set the bar higher to account for the advantage.
    But these arrogant pinheads have really bungled it, and the commentators I consider pretty good should be raising hell on these points.

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