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Did the BBWAA violate its own Constitution in disciplining Dan LeBatard? Maybe? I can’t tell.

Jan 9, 2014, 5:42 PM EDT

Dan Szymborski alerts me to something that is potentially  – and I stress “potentially” — quite delicious. It seems that the BBWAA Constitution — under which the BBWAA suspended Dan LeBatard for giving his vote to Deadspin — requires notice and hearing before disciplinary action. Notice and hearing that could not have possibly taken place before his suspension today:

BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Disciplinary

Section 3: As the Association’s disciplinary commission, the Board shall be empowered to investigate charges and conduct trials in special meetings in the following manner:

A written statement of charges of any alleged misconduct against a member shall be served on the respondent at least 15 days in advance of any hearing or trial. The written statement shall include a reference to the provision in the Constitution or other governing rule or regulation alleged to have been violated, as well as a statement of the conduct of the respondent that is alleged to have violated that provision.

The Association and the respondent shall exchange lists of witnesses and copies of all exhibits that they propose to submit at the hearing or trial at least five days in advance of the hearing or trial.

At the hearing or trial, both the Association and the respondent shall be given a reasonable opportunity to cross-examine each others’ witnesses, as well as to present witnesses on their own behalf and to present relevant documentary evidence.

Obviously none of that has or could have happened given that LeBatard’s identity as the Deadspin Whisperer wasn’t revealed until yesterday.

That said, there is another section in the Constitution which works against this, as it suggests that one-year suspensions — which LeBatard recevied — can happen “automatically.”

B: Members shall adhere to the objects and ethics of the Association and shall exercise utmost care in the duties and privileges of memberships.

    1. 1. Violators’ memberships shall be suspended automatically by any Chapter Chair or Association Warden for one year dating there from. This offense shall be reported to the Secretary-Treasurer and the card of the offender shall be revoked.
    1. Reinstatement after suspension shall, in addition to regular qualification, require payment of annual dues for the period of suspension.

This is a little problematic in that neither section references the other, which you would normally expect when one term limits another term of such a document. It’s possible that this is just bad drafting. It’s possible that the one-year “automatic” suspension refers to different kinds of suspensions — ones by local chapter chairs instead of the Board of Directors, for example — than the one LeBatard got. It’s also possible that LeBatard indicated to the BBWAA that he’d waive all hearing and appeal rights and just take his medicine so none of this potential ambiguity matters in the least.

If he did want to challenge this — and if I’m not simply missing something in the BBWAA Constitution — he could theoretically sue to be reinstated or something, arguing that his organization didn’t follow its own rules. But really, it’s highly unlikely he’d bother given that he basically gave the BBWAA the big kiss off with his comments in Deadspin yesterday.

I’d be curious for others — especially others with legal backgrounds — to look at these two provisions and the BBWAA Constitution and see if I’m out to lunch or if LeBatard would actually have something to argue about if he wanted to. My presumption is that the BBWAA Board of Directors thought about all of this beforehand and that there isn’t much here, but my litigator’s eye keeps going to the notice and hearing provision and thinking … “hmmm”

  1. clydeserra - Jan 9, 2014 at 5:45 PM

    But what about the stripping of the HOF vote? It doesn’t seem to cover that.

    • flavadave10 - Jan 9, 2014 at 5:52 PM

      I’m just a paralegal, so I’m not a lawyer, but I have educated myself quite a bit on law just by reading constitutions and the such. I didn’t see anything that gives them the power to do so.

    • dollasnsense - Jan 9, 2014 at 5:58 PM

      1. Violators’ memberships shall be suspended automatically by any Chapter Chair or Association Warden for one year dating there from. This offense shall be reported to the Secretary-Treasurer and the card of the offender shall be revoked.

      If they revoke your card, then you technically are not a member of the BBWAA, and therefore would not be able to vote.

      • flamethrower101 - Jan 9, 2014 at 5:59 PM

        By that word, if the “suspension” is only for a year, can they legally justify revoking his HoF ballot for life? I don’t see that in there…

      • flavadave10 - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:02 PM

        The concern is “for life”.

      • clydeserra - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:06 PM

        Right. Flame thrower, I don’t see the for life thing.

        Spitballing, they could argue that he would need to requalify for HOF voter status, but I didn’t see that either.

        They do have a problem, but like Craig said, its not really going to amount to much

      • flamethrower101 - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:10 PM

        This could be one of those things where Selig enacts his “best interests in baseball” clause to have a committee look into this and hopefully they-*starts laughing maniacally* I-I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I can’t do it! *continues laughing*

    • mmeyer3387 - Jan 10, 2014 at 2:09 PM

      You are so right because the BBWA is a joke. Why don’t we just do away with all of the sports journalist and only allow HOF inducted baseball players to do the voting. It would make a lot sense, because most of the sports journalist are political hacks, that act if they are the divine keepers of a holy religion. They are just people that type opinionated articles and give a few interviews each month. Most of these guys have never even played the game above a little league level. If for some reason they just disappeared, the Hall of Fame would just be fine. Do we really need these guys?

  2. flavadave10 - Jan 9, 2014 at 5:47 PM

    I would read the rest of the constitution, but it won’t load. That’s a GREAT idea by the way-

    BBWAA: “YOU VIOLATED OUR CONSTITUTION!!!! READ IT!”
    LeBatard: “But it won’t load…”
    BBWAA: “NOT OUR PROBLEM!!!!!”

  3. doble37 - Jan 9, 2014 at 5:48 PM

    STICK TO SPORTS!

    • raysfan1 - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:11 PM

      DON’T READ ARTICLES THAT DON’T INTEREST YOU!

      See? I can use all caps too.

      • gothapotamus90210 - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:44 PM

        LOUD NOISES!

    • doble37 - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:13 PM

      Boy, I would have thought that the irony of telling a former lawyer not to weigh in with his opinion on a potential legal matter would have been apparent and we all could have had a good laugh about it. But here we are.

      • km9000 - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:16 PM

        The problem was that Craig does get yelled at a lot by people who care enough to say they don’t care about stories that aren’t REAL baseball news.

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:19 PM

      GO BACK TO PFT!

      • historiophiliac - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:00 PM

        He can’t. Football commenting is dying. He went long and got lost over here. There’s too much room over there and they wander out of bounds trying to cover it all.

    • asimonetti88 - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:39 AM

      If an article about the BASEBALL Writers Association isn’t about sports, what is?

  4. flamethrower101 - Jan 9, 2014 at 5:50 PM

    Both sections seem to contradict each other while also providing a window for the BBWAA to claim he “violated it” and strip him of his vote. I don’t think LeBatard would get anywhere but by challenging this he would once again be bringing the BBWAA into the spotlight, a place they clearly hate to be in despite bringing themselves into it with this flawed voting system.

    • umrguy42 - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:55 PM

      That’s why I’d hope he’d challenge it, why not abuse the soapbox a bit more on his way out the door?He’d still lose the hearing (fair enough), but to get the opportunity to shine the lights back at them during a farce of a hearing? It’d be worth listening to him “BAM!” for a week straight on PTI for that shot…

  5. meatcarroll - Jan 9, 2014 at 5:57 PM

    He should change his name to Le Bastard. What a despicable act of a man of clearly low integrity. The only good thing to come out of this depraved cry for attention was a vote for Edgar Martinez.

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:18 PM

      I’m not sure that word means what you think it means.

      If he had no integrity, he would have remained anonymous and wouldn’t have stood up like a man and take his punishment. He had a statement to make, and made it in the best way he knew how. And you don’t see him crying foul over it, or putting the blame on anyone else.

    • 18thstreet - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:20 PM

      Way to stick it to him. Mocking his family name. HA!

      I’ll bet no one has ever called him that before, so you also win points for originality.

    • sabatimus - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:49 PM

      You must be real proud of yourself for that one.

    • Panda Claus - Jan 9, 2014 at 8:17 PM

      Clearly you have no familiarity with his work. He often is quite profound. I would take his integrity over yours, sight unseen.

      Did you happen to look at the ballot Deadspin turned in? I think they did a good job with it. And yet the LA writer who voted for one guy on his ballot gets to keep his HOF voting rights. That’s way more backwards than what Dan L did.

  6. brewcrewfan54 - Jan 9, 2014 at 5:59 PM

    He knew he was going to get some kind of punishment so I don’t imagine he actually cares about losing his vote or his suspension. And now he can’t get credentialed to cover the Marlins for a year. How is it even punishment?

    • clydeserra - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:07 PM

      He won’t get a credential from the BBWAA. He can still get a credential.

      • brewcrewfan54 - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:21 PM

        That’s what I figured but didn’t feel like looking around to find out.

      • sabatimus - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:50 PM

        Isn’t getting credientialed to cover the Marlins sorta like having to preside over a leper colony?

      • Old Gator - Jan 10, 2014 at 8:16 AM

        He can always lower the basket and crank his interviews back up.

  7. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:15 PM

    I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve watched people play them on TV. And in my professional opinion, the BBWAA is full of it here and should disband immediately under the provision of being a hypocritical farce of an organization.

  8. cur68 - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:21 PM

    I am not an artist…ok, I am, but I’m not any good at it…actually I’m not too bad…but I digress! My PROFESSION is not in art but I gotta say that logo is ballz. A 4 year old could do better. Its no wonder they screwed over their own rules. They can’t respect that logo.

    • deepstblu - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:11 AM

      A 4-year-old might be too shaky on the lettering, but a 4th grader could do that. Of course, I’m thinking “without a computer.” A 4-year-old with a computer could probably put it to shame.

  9. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:22 PM

    I’m still waiting for someone to tell me what LeBatard loses by losing his membership for a year. I understand if a lawyer gets disbarred for a year he can’t practice law, but what exactly can’t LeBatard not do by getting suspended from the BBWA? It’s not like ESPN is going to boot him off the air or the internet will stop allowing him to type words on a keyboard.

    • flavadave10 - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:10 PM

      Can’t cover the Marlins for a year. Somehow that is considered a punishment.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:13 PM

        Does he cover the Marlins now? Is this like the time they decided to suspend Manny Ramirez two years after he retired from baseball?

      • Old Gator - Jan 10, 2014 at 8:13 AM

        Lebatard hasn’t been assigned to any particular Macondo franchise for many years now. He’s always been a “columnist” for the Feeshwrapper and wrote about the scene down here, such as it is, in general. At this point he only writes for the newspaper a couple of times a week at most; most of his time is spent on his 790AM afternoon radio show, which I switch orf immediately when it comes on. It’s the sports broadcasting equivalent of pimple rock.

      • flavadave10 - Jan 10, 2014 at 8:28 AM

        My apologies. He can’t go to any MLB games as a member of the press for a year. In hindsight, that’s how I should have worded it.

    • crackersnap - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:52 PM

      He cannot enter the press box during an MLB game. That’s pretty much it. According to BBWAA constitution, MLB has granted BBWAA with the authority to monitor who gets access to the buffet. This access is a responsibility of the local chapter, and the local chapter is granted security staff from the home team to enforce their decisions.

      His ESPN credentials get him everywhere and anything else.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:59 PM

        Well not entering the press box kinda sucks. I’m sure he can live without access to the buffet.

  10. likewallmvp - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:24 PM

    While the document is ambiguous and poorly drafted, the stronger argument is that procedure was violated.

    Article VII provides the procedure for disciplinary actions. That article does not contain any prescription for how to determine a penalty.

    Penalties are contained in the aforementioned Article IV and in Article V. Article IV penalties include the “automatic suspension” referenced above, nonpayment of membership dues and the “five-year” penalty clause referenced by the current President of the BBWAA:

    1. Any member convicted by the Board of Directors of misusing or attempting to misuse his or her membership shall be expelled for five years and his or her membership card shall be revoked.

    As an aside, the choice of convicted here and “violation” further highlights the poorly-drafted nature of this document.

    Article V penalties are:

    OFFICERS: Penalties

    Section 6: Any officer convicted by the Board of Directors of commercializing his or her office, or any other form of misconduct as defined by the Board, shall be requested to resign that office. Refusal to resign shall evoke declaration of immediate vacancy. (See Article VII, Section 3-B.)

    Again, the inclusion of a reference to the punishment procedure here, and not in previous penalty sections, further goes to the poor drafting.

    To the argument, an ethics violation under Article IV.B is not defined by the constitution. No officer or entity created by the Constitution has authority to determine a violation other than the Disciplinary Committee. A violation would therefore have to be found according to the procedures outlined in Article VII by the Disciplinary Committee. A violator’s penalty is the one-year suspension as proscribed.

    Regardless, spending the gobs of money to actually litigate this probably makes about as much sense as returning a blank HOF ballot.

    • crackersnap - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:54 PM

      Gee. A document that is poorly written? And was written by people who are writers by profession? Writers who consider their authority beyond reproach? I am shocked.

      • Old Gator - Jan 10, 2014 at 8:18 AM

        Why should their constitution be any better written than most of the illiterate garbage they crank out on a routine basis?

  11. wogggs - Jan 9, 2014 at 6:43 PM

    I would be happy to perform this analysis if someone would like to pay me to do it. Because I find it interesting, I am willing to perform this work at a reduced hourly rate.

  12. ducksnort13 - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:02 PM

    This isn’t directly related, but I think it’s tangentially related. With all of the articles and news concerning the BBWAA over the last couple of days, I couldn’t help but notice that they have an unnecessary “B” in their acronym. Given this extra letter, I think it’s up to us to come up with another “B” word for them.

    I humbly submit, “Blowhard”.

    • crackersnap - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:57 PM

      Originally, and for some time (ignoring the idiotic myths of Abner Doubleday and Cooperstown as one might learn from the HoF itself), the game was known as “base ball”. Two words.

  13. txgiant - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:59 PM

    Thing is, LeBatard didn’t sell his vote, nor give it away. He filled out his own ballot based on the methodologies he chose, signed his name to his ballot, and mailed it in, just like every other voter. Every year, other voters defend their ballots saying things like “my opinion”, “don’t question my methodology”, etc. What LeBatard did is no different. He was not contractually bound by the Deadspin connection to vote the way he did, as far as I know. It’s just that the BBWAA didn’t like his particular methodology and chose to violate their own Constitution to punish him for it.

  14. paperlions - Jan 9, 2014 at 8:36 PM

    Man, I figured the BBWAA just had a lot of members that didn’t know much about baseball because so many of them can remain members and continue voting for decades after they stopped covering baseball (if they ever did, which many never did). But it is much worse than that, they actually have no idea what they are doing, and there are so many people out there with evidence of it that they are really digging themselves a hole from a public perception aspect. Such as this nugget from a deadspin article confirming what Justice tweeted earlier:

    “As for the voter who seeks local input, that’s BBWAA vice-president Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle. He gathers about 6-8 people over a lunch or dinner, they talk about the players, then he votes by how the majority tells him to vote re: each player. I was part of the panel one year.”

    Yeah, Jesus…that is TOTALLY different than what LeBatard did. Essentially, they are both crowd sourcing approaches to filling out a ballot.

  15. buttercupstruelove - Jan 9, 2014 at 10:02 PM

    Ok, so they suspend him for breaking their rules. Now that he’s suspended and has to be reinstated, he technically doesn’t fit under their rules, correct? So why couldn’t they decide to ban him from voting for life? They could ban me too and it wouldn’t matter because I don’t work under their rules.

  16. Walk - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:14 AM

    Good job dan lebatard, now we have the precedent to make the ones that are turning in blank ballots and not voting get their priorities straight.

  17. realitypolice - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    The most hilarious part of this story is that the BBWA has a Constitution. This whole thing has really pulled back the curtain on what a bunch of sanctimonious blowhards this crowd is.

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