Posted November 27, 2013

Hall of Fame voter sells ballot to Deadspin, readers to determine votes

Hall of Fame
Hall of Fame

Photo: Mike Groll/AP

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America is mailing its 2014 Hall of Fame ballot to its more than 600 voting members this week, but one of those ballots is going to be filled out not by the BBWAA member who receives it, but by the readers of Deadspin. Two weeks ago, the popular sports website made a public offer to buy the ballot of a voting member, and on Tuesday, in conjunction with the official release of the ballot, the site’s Tim Marchman (a former SI.com contributor) announced that it had found a seller.

The identity of the BBWAA member who sold his or her ballot to Deadspin is being withheld for now, but Marchman says that this voter, “will announce his/her name and motivations once his/her vote has been officially cast.” The voter will still cast the ballot his or herself, but will do so according to the instructions of Deadspin, which will, in turn, determine how to vote by polling its readership. Neither Deadspin nor Marchman has given any indication as to how the vote will be cast. Indeed, the site seems open to any approach, be it an honest attempt to cast a merit-based ballot, or any of a variety of protest votes, such as a ballot containing only the names of players associated with performance enhancing-drugs, or one that writes in Pete Rose or the like.

Even if Deadspin actually gets its ballot counted (one imagines the BBWAA will void the ballot once the writer steps forward), it will likely have no effect on the results of this year’s election. One vote out of 600 represents 0.17 percent of the total vote in which 75 percent is required for induction. In the entire history of the BBWAA ballot dating back to 1936, no player has ever had his Hall of Fame fate decided by a single vote.

Rather, this is clearly an act of protest in the wake of last year’s election, which resulted in no player being elected by the BBWAA despite a packed ballot containing, in this non-voter’s opinion, at least seven deserving candidates. At best, it will serve to draw attention to some of the issues with the electorate. In order to be eligible to vote for the Hall of Fame, one must have been a BBWAA member for a minimum of 10 years. However, one need not be an active baseball writer. Honorary memberships abound, and while some of those honorary voters are deserving retired baseball writers, some have gone on to write about other sports or other topics entirely, yet retain a Hall of Fame vote, while a great many active and deeply invested baseball writers, not to mention broadcasters, with less tenure are left out of the process entirely.

Put simply, Vin Scully, Bill James, and John Thorn do not have Hall of Fame votes, but all three writers at GolfersWest.com do. My batterymate, Jay Jaffe, whose JAWS system has become the first word on Hall worthiness among progressive analysts, is a BBWAA member and has been writing about baseball online in one place or another for more than a dozen years. Yet he does not have a Hall of Fame vote while the writer willing to sell his or her vote to Deadspin does.

One would expect that writer’s vote to be revoked by the BBWAA once he or she admits to having sold it to Deadspin. Anything short of that would be tacit approval of vote-selling on the part of the BBWAA, which would turn a problematic process into one that could only been seen as fully corrupt. One assumes the writer selling his or her ballot fully expects that to be the result, and that selling their ballot is their way of saying “I shouldn’t have this.”

The BBWAA has made positive strides in recent years, extending memberships to online writers such as Jaffe and many of his former Baseball Prospectus colleagues, but there is still a lot of work to be done for the voting bodies for both the Hall of Fame and the annual player awards to include the best, most dedicated and most insightful analysts and observers. This is not a new observation, nor would it be to point out the glacial pace of change in such matters across the sport as a whole. Similarly, Deadspin’s inflammatory rhetoric concerning “the Hall of Fame ritual . . . dominated by neo-Puritan scolds, milquetoast handwringers, and straight-out dimwits,” is also par for the course.

Deadspin’s purchase of a Hall of Fame ballot, however, is a very new way to call attention to those issues, and if it appears on the surface to be an attempt to expose the vote as a farce, the ultimate goal is a Hall of Fame electoral process that is above such mockery.

11 comments
lakawak
lakawak

So who are these 7 players that supposedly deserved to be elected last year in your idiotic opinion? All cheaters, I assume? And you rationale was "They were good BEFORE they cheated!" (Or so you think, since you have no idea when they stared taking steroids.) Of course...Bernie Madoff was wealthy before he stole from so many. And he still suffered the consequences of his actions. The players who were already established superstars cheating is actually WORSE. They didn't do it for anything but arrogance. I can understand players like Cervelli...desperately trying t stay in the major leagues long enough to provide for his family. But for the guys that I am sure you stupidly think deserve to be elected, they already had more money than 4 generations of their families can spend. They cheated simply becuase they think they were above the rules.

jware2722
jware2722

As a former college pitcher and pitching coach and lifelong baseball fan who loves the history of this great game I am very confused as to why people do not see Mike Mussina as a sure bet Hall of Famer.  I am a lifelong Cincinnati Reds fan in Ohio who just loves watching a great pitcher pitch whomever it might be and I can tell you I watched Mussina his entire career and he was one of the top 5 pitchers every year.  His overall stats rank in the top 15-30 All-Time.  He pitched in the AL East his entire career compared to guys like Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Schilling who either pitched their entire careers in the NL or at least part of it.  He posted a 64% winning percentage winning 117 more games than he lost which is dominance.  His K/9 ranks up with many other Hall of Fame pitchers, Ranks 19th All-time in K's, 24th All-time in WAR for pitchers, and I could go on and on.  He was a winner who even won gold gloves helping his team.  He pitched in hitter parks in the brutal AL East.  When I hear guys like Cal Ripken Jr., Jim Palmer, Derek Jeter and so on say Mussina was a Hall of Famer...he was a Hall of Famer.  I really hope voters look at his stats and just do not look at the "almost" 300 wins (pitched 4 less years than Glavine and still ended with 270 wins, more K's, better WHIP, Better ERA+, etc.) and no ring or Cy Young Award.  Last time I checked Nolan Ryan didn't win a Cy Young either.  Put him on that Braves team with Maddux and he wins 300 easily in less years than Glavine.  Mike Mussina deserves votes and deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.  

BosephHeyden
BosephHeyden

I'd say the Deadspin people are at least as qualified as the BBWAA, maybe more qualified.  There's going to be at least 10% of the vote that won't go to Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine this year, and Frank Thomas, who we know will get in eventually, likely won't this year, simply because the voters are going stretch for reasons not to vote for them.  

Like how I'm sure someone won't vote for Maddux because his ERA in AB's where he started with a fastball under 89 MPH was a lot higher than when he threw a changeup on days where there was a 60% chance of rain after the game.  Or how Glavine won't get voted for by certain voters because on 2-0 pitches where his left shoe was double knotted, the amount of ground rule doubles he gave up to players in their mid-30's was twice as much as lefty relievers throwing that same pitch in extra inning situations.  Or how Frank Thomas is going to have people not vote for him because one time he shook the hand of a guy who's college roommate once wrote a post on a message board where he said he didn't know why steroids were that big of a deal, meaning he obvious used PED's.


The Award itself is for players who did what they did better than 90% of every other player to ever play at least ten seasons of major league baseball in their lives.  It's really not that complicated.  That sports writers have decided not to make it that cheapens the award a lot more than some guy still in his pajamas decided that Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine should be in the Hall this year, as well as guys like Biggio, Bagwell, and even Jack Morris.  


But then again, this is the true purpose of the season:  not to debate, but to ensure that the sports writers get their moment in the public eye.

Lou D.
Lou D.

The writer states there were 7 Hall worthy people last year. No there weren;t. There are also players in the HOF that weren't superstars and statistically don't belong. It is becoming the Hall of Average.The writers got it right, finally.

RussHaasch
RussHaasch

Hall Of Fame organizations, All-Star Games, etc. are a joke.  There are no criteria for elections, the electors are a mish-mash of people with various degrees of credibility and the election results aren't worthy of all the media space they're given.

JerryBelle
JerryBelle

This doesn't pass the smell test.  It sounds highly unethical to sell a vote.  It diminishes the award.

lakawak
lakawak

@BosephHeyden So..YOU get to decide that the Hall of Fame is specifically for the top 10%? Were you the one that came up with the concept to qualify you to make that very specific statement?

BlackSession1
BlackSession1

@Lou D. I'm sorry, but Biggio and Bagwell deserved nods. There have been players with lackluster stats in the Hall for a long time, now. Stop being silly. 

lakawak
lakawak

@BlackSession1 @Lou D. Biggio admitted cheating. If you think he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, then your mom was right about your being an idiot.

MattBugaj
MattBugaj

@BlackSession1 @Lou D. Nobody from the NL West ever thought, "I've got to go to that game tonight! Biggio is visiting!" He did the time to get his 3,000 hits, but he was never a superstar.