Baseball’s Hall of Fame opened its doors to three new members.
It also has a voting controversy involving a former Miami Herald staff columnist who allowed fans to fill out his ballot, one of the more than 500 that are cast for baseball’s cherished honor.
“I always like a little anarchy inside the cathedral we’ve made of sports,” sports journalist Dan Le Batard wrote on Deadspin, the anti-establishment sports website which conducted its own Hall of Fame vote for fans.
Le Batard, in protest of the voting system, filled out his ballot based on those results.
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The revelation on Wednesday — the same day it was announced that Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Tom Glavine would be headed to Cooperstown — met with an outpouring of both condemnation and cheers.
“It’s sad that one of our members would do this,” said Bill Madden, long-time baseball writer for the New York Daily News and a member for 41 years of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, whose most tenured members vote for the Hall of Fame.
Said Mark Feinsand, who covers the New York Yankees for the Daily News: “The writers who cover the sport earn the right to vote and don’t earn the right to allow others to cast their votes. If you don’t think your vote means anything, then don’t vote.”
Le Batard received his BBWAA membership while still a staff member for the Herald. The opinionated journalist was hired by ESPN in October as a TV and radio commentator and now works for the Herald on a freelance basis.
“Whatever issues might be raised about the Hall of Fame voting process, we do not condone misrepresentation of any kind,” Herald executive sports editor Jorge Rojas said in a statement. “Dan had a point to make. We think there are other ways he could have made it.”
Said ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz in a statement: “We respect and appreciate Dan’s opinions and passion about Hall of Fame voting. He received his vote while at the Miami Herald. We wouldn’t have advocated his voting approach, which we were just made aware of today.”
Jack O’Connell, secretary/treasurer of the BBWAA, said the organization had “no comment at this time.”
Le Batard became involved after another voter who had agreed to sell his Hall of Fame ballot to Deadspin — with the proceeds going to charity — decided to back out. Le Batard said Wednesday he is not getting paid for his vote.
“I feel like my vote has gotten pretty worthless in the avalanche of sanctimony that has swallowed it,” Le Batard wrote in explaining his decision to relinquish his vote.
Le Batard said he is disturbed by “all the moralizing we do in sports in general,” especially as it pertains to the snubbing of baseball greats, such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who were linked to steroids.
Deadspin conducted a poll in which it had readers to vote “yes” or “no” on each of the 36 candidates named on the ballot as to whether or not they should be enshrined in the Hall. Le Batard then turned in a ballot in which he checked off the names of the top 10 vote-getters — the maximum number permitted — from the Deadspin survey.
Interestingly, while Clemens and Bonds fared significantly better in the Deadspin poll and made Le Batard’s ballot, neither received a 75 percent approval rate — the minimum threshold for election — by the website’s voters in terms of their percentage of “yes” votes.
Nor did Le Batard’s ballot make or break any Hall candidate’s election bid. Craig Biggio fell two votes shy of election, as he was named on 74.8 percent of all ballots. But Le Batard voted for him.
Some of Le Batard’s own friends and colleagues denounced his actions. Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, a show on which Le Batard sometimes appears, took him to task. Wilbon called Le Batard’s actions “garbage.” Kornheiser said Le Batard’s voting privileges should be revoked.
Herald sports columnist Greg Cote took a shot at him.
“I love that my buddy Dan must now act as if he’d have preferred none of this get out when in fact this is publicity gold for somebody with a daily radio show who fancies himself a cutting edge establishment-tweaker,” Cote wrote in his Herald blog.
Le Batard acknowledged Wednesday on his local radio show that he is taking heat for his decision.
“The baseball writers are beating me up,” Le Batard said on his show. “They’re saying I’m a joke, an attention seeker. I’m not looking for the attention. Honestly I’m not. I’m interested in bringing attention to this. My ballot is clean, and so is my conscience, by the way.”
There has been no word on whether Le Batard will be kicked out of the BBWAA by having his membership revoked, though he said it wouldn’t surprise him if that happens.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be suspended or what, but I’m on the right side of the principle here,” Le Batard said.