On Le Batard, Neal and the Privilege of Voting

That same lack of consistency is at the heart of my second objection to the BBWAA’s ruling on Le Batard. According to Neal, any abuse of the Hall of Fame voting privilege is unacceptable.

Here’s the definition of the word ‘abuse:’ “To use wrongly or improperly; misuse: as in to abuse one’s authority.”

Here’s the relevant portion of the BBWAA election rules: “5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

Here’s the rationale given by BBWAA member and Hall of Fame voter Ken Gurnick, who named just one player, Jack Morris, on his ballot: “As for those who played during the period of PED use, I won’t vote for any of them.”

Here’s another quote from Gurnick: “It’s not a personal thing. It’s an indictment of an era.”

Rather than considering the record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions of the players on the ballot, Gurnick used his Hall of Fame vote to make a statement about the era in which those players played. That would seem to qualify as an abuse of his privilege.

The BBWAA has not issued any statement condemning Gurnick. His membership has not been suspended, nor has he been stripped of his vote. (To be fair, Gurnick apparently won’t be voting in future elections, but that’s by his own choice.) The BBWAA has also not taken action against the as-yet-unnamed voter who submitted a blank ballot in protest.

Other actions by the writers are equally questionable under this high standard described by Neal. As the BBWAA itself is quick to admit, many of the Hall of Fame voters are honorary members who no longer cover baseball. The BBWAA does nothing to police those voters; instead, the organization simply “trusts” that those honorary members will fill out a “thoughtful” ballot. If they don’t, well, they still keep their voting privileges for life.

Therein lies my final issue with to Dan Le Batard’s punishment. The BBWAA claims to hold the voters to a high standard, yet it hasn’t enforced that standard until this week. Years ago, Tom Seaver missed unanimous election in part because one voter simply “overlooked” his name. The BBWAA (at least publicly) did not even, say, instruct that voter to read his ballot more carefully next time. This year, 16 voters left Greg Maddux off their ballots. None of them have lost their voting privileges.

Here’s hoping that Le Batard’s suspension will open the doors for the BBWAA to keep closer tabs on its membership. That at least has the potential to make the voting process better.

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