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The BBWAA Vice President did essentially the same thing Dan LeBatard did. Why was he not punished?

Jan 10, 2014, 10:32 AM EDT

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Go read USA Today’s FTW today, which details how BBWAA Vice President Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle has routinely crowd-sourced his Hall of Fame voting — which is essentially what LeBatard got suspended for — and has never received any sanction for it. Here’s an example of Ortiz’s means of filling it out.

I’m sure the BBWAA will try to make a distinction here, but look at what they specifically sanctioned LeBatard for:

The BBWAA Board of Directors has decided to remove Dan Le Batard’s membership for one year, for transferring his Hall of Fame ballot to an entity that has not earned voting status.

They’ll hang it all on the word “transferring” and claim that Ortiz merely sought “the help and guidance” of fans and others who had not “earned voting status.” Never mind that LeBatard has said since yesterday that he retained the option of vetoing the Deadspin reader choices if they were stupid. Maybe that was a self-serving, after-the-fact kind of thing, but as we’ve also noted, the BBWAA did not conduct any hearing about it, so they can’t know for sure.

If what LeBatard is saying is true, he did nothing functionally different than Ortiz did: he threw his vote open to fans, sought their “help and guidance” and then submitted a vote under his signature. A vote that was still counted as valid by the BBWAA this year, so it obviously wasn’t considered facially faulty.*

What we’re left with is LeBatard’s motive being punished, not his act. Not his actual vote. Which is kind of odd given that so many voters have admitted to having ulterior or even destructive motives in mind when they cast their votes, yet never receive sanction. Actually, they receive praise and often vehement defense.

So again, I go back to what I said yesterday: I believe the BBWAA’s sanction of LeBatard is emotionally-driven, with said emotion being stoked by the involvement of Deadspin and the negative publicity that attended it. That’s why it came so swiftly. That’s why it was considered differently than what Ortiz and others routinely do, even though it was functionally identical.

*This part is really getting me right now. The BBWAA knew beforehand that one of the votes would be “sold” or “transferred” or whatever. They now say doing so breaks their rules. Yet they count the vote? If the vote itself violates rules and — more importantly — came from people who don’t have voting privileges — why not throw it out? Some people may say they can’t go back after the announcement, but that’s silly. They can do what they want.

Thought experiment: Someone looks at all the photos of ballots writers have tweeted and faxes in a phony one (heck, we have the fax number too), forging a voter’s signature. The BBWAA finds out about it a day later. Of course they’ll take that vote out, right? They should! It’s an invalid vote from a person without voting rights. Just like LeBatard’s is, per the terms of his suspension. It’s crazy to me that they aren’t axing his vote if, as they say, it comes from a non-qualified voter.

Note: don’t forge a vote and fax it in to the BBWAA, kids. That’s probably wire fraud and you’ll go to jail. Don’t be an idiot. Even if such idiocy helps us in thought experiments.

  1. Old Gator - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    Um…because they’re a bunch of self-important, semi literate hypocrites?

    • unclemosesgreen - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:53 AM

      First they make me feel bad for A-Rod. Then they make me feel sorry for Dan LeBatard. Mainstream sportswriters aren’t just lazy, they’re actively trying to give me pseudo vertigo. Well I won’t stand for it!!

      / gets dizzy and falls over

      • Francisco (FC) - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:04 AM

        /strolls over, looking down and sipping a drink.

        Quite literally won’t stand for it eh?

      • unclemosesgreen - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:15 AM

        It was literally literarily induced.

      • anxovies - Jan 10, 2014 at 2:27 PM

        Le Bastards!

      • braxtonrob - Jan 11, 2014 at 5:04 AM

        (I love this board! You guys crack me up constantly.)

  2. chacochicken - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. And damn all those made up stats. I seen it with my eyes.

  3. megary - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    We have seen it way too often lately; Rushing to judgement has become the new national pastime. Sorry baseball!

    • voteforno6 - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:57 AM

      Well, these writers have to get some exercise.

  4. jkcalhoun - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the BBWAA, specializing in ill-considered and illogical punitive actions since 2006.

  5. savocabol1 - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    Baseball’s old timers are ruining the game. Both in the actual game and in the HOF process.

  6. ramrene - Jan 10, 2014 at 10:58 AM

    Typical Craig…. there is a difference and all your whinning won’t change a thing. Keeping promoting those PED cheats and keep trying to help out your friends. In the meantime, LeBatard got what he deserved.

    • natstowngreg - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:23 AM

      There might be a difference in the realm of theory, where scholars have impassioned debates over the existence of God, or the best economic system, or how many angels fit on the head of a pin. In the realm within which the rest of us live, it makes no difference. Both writers relied on others to help them fill out their ballots.

      It seems that LeBatard’s crime was pointing out the emperor’s lack of clothes. When dealing with the very self-important, not a good way to win friends and influence people.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 10, 2014 at 2:45 PM

      LeBatard got what he deserved.

      Deserves got nothing to do with it.

      Nice comment on the PED players as if it has anything to do with the issue at hand. Should have gone with the Thanks Obama meme, it would have made as much sense as your response did.

  7. steve7921 - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    The voter who really should be removed from future voting is the one who voted for Jacque Jones…no offense to Jacque but that is a bigger and better swipe at the whole process than what Dan did!

  8. hansob - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    apples and oranges. LeBatard had ZERO input. Ortiz asked for input but made the final decision, like most or all HOF voters probably do. If Deadspin decided to get goofy with it and vote Jacque Jones, JT Snow, Armando Benitez, and write in Rusty Kuntz, LeBetard would have had no say in changing it. If Ortiz’ readers tell him to vote for those guys, he’s not just going to do it.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:24 AM

      No, LeBatard said on Wednesday that if the Deadspin poll came back and a silly result was there — say, JT Snow and no one else — he wouldn’t have submitted it. That’s input. He didn’t have to because he said the ballot that Deadspin gave him was a good one that he agreed with.

      He signed it. He submitted it himself. How is that not input, no matter how crazy Deadspin made it out to be?

      • karlkolchak - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:32 AM

        Yep–LeBatard’s comments about the whole process with Deadspin should be read in their entirity. They are fascinating.

      • hansob - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:55 AM

        Then I’m wrong. I had read somwhere that LeBetard said that he thought the Deadspin readers did a good job, but he was half expecting that they’d pick Jacque Jones, and that’s it, or something silly like that. I missed the part where he said he wouldn’t have submitted it.

    • asimonetti88 - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:45 AM

      As opposed to the voters who voted for Jacque Jones, JT Snow and Armando Benetiz on their own accord?

  9. silversun60 - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    What I don’t get is what the crap is wrong with Fan voting.

    Baseball is played… and exists… because of… wait for it… the fans.

    Maybe each fan should have one vote. You have to pass a baseball literacy test to obtain your vote… ie. What is ERA? What is the Sandwich Round in the draft? etc.

    Then the people because of whom the HoF exists…THE FANS….will decide who is in it!

    • spookymilk - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:13 PM

      Fans would vote emotionally, and to keep out certain people. Under the 75% model I wouldn’t be shocked if nearly nobody ever made the Hall of Fame again. I know that’s what your “baseball literacy” plan would hope to exclude, but I doubt the process would end up any more satisfying than what we have right now.

      • drewsylvania - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:36 PM

        Yeah, we’d vote in guys like Catfish Hunter and Phil Rizzutohahahahaha.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 10, 2014 at 2:49 PM

        Doesn’t this contradict exactly what the deadspin vote was? Deadspin, and by extension Le Betard, voted for those who received more than 50% support among the crowd sourced ballot. All of the players they picked were overqualified for the HoF. Unless you think deadspin readers are smarter than the average fan, in which case that might be the first time someone has said that about Deadspin…

      • shadowcell - Jan 10, 2014 at 2:52 PM

        that’s actually another reason the BBWAA has to hate this so much: it threatens their monopoly on the whole “baseball experts who are fit to vote for Hall of Fame candidates” thing. Deadspin’s readers turned in a ballot that, if not for the hoopla about Deadspin and vote-selling, would have been uncontroversial. comparing the Deadspin readers’ vote and the actual vote totals, the Deadspin readers and BBWAA voters are in pretty broad agreement as to who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. apparently those Deadspin readers took the process seriously after all.

        of course, just ‘cuz these particular readers took this particular ballot seriously doesn’t mean all will, so people would still have a reason to worry about letting fans vote for Hall of Famers. but that’s a tougher sell for the BBWAA after this.

    • newpairofsox - Jan 10, 2014 at 1:52 PM

      Unfortunately, fans don’t enter the equation unless they are purchasing a newspaper.

  10. NatsLady - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    Well, I don’t know if LeBatard got what he deserved, but he got what he wanted and surely foresaw. Before this I vaguely remembered him as a sub on MLB Network and thought his name was missing an “s”.

    What gripes me is the self-congratulatory tone of talkers on MLB Network and some writers. “The right guys were elected, so the system is working and it’s worked for all these years.” Except for last year, of course, when no one was elected despite deserving candidates on the ballot, candidates who still weren’t elected this year because the ballot was overloaded and may not be elected next year because new candidates will arrive.

    The HOF voters can’t decide if induction is an “honor” (and so should exclude cheaters, but include drug addicts, wife-beaters and drunk drivers) or a “historical record” (and so should include whoever JAWS spits out as great, but exclude persons banned by MLB).

    The HOF doesn’t want to invite bloggers, fans, sportscasters, scouts, editors, or former GMs to vote because only sportswriters apparently have the time, interest and expertise. Yes, this is about process, because, you know what, process counts. It could be that every presidential election since 1920 would have had the same result without females voting–does that mean women’s suffrage was a waste of time? /ducking

    • paperlions - Jan 10, 2014 at 1:52 PM

      Yes, process does count. But there is abundant evidence that much of the electorate is not qualified. Jeff Passan stated that over 100 members with voting privileges aren’t qualified (based on their lack experience and familiarity with MLB). Many that do cover baseball obviously don’t take the process seriously, and many of them actually write columns bragging about the fact. Yes, process matters and the current process is broken.

  11. kirkmack - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    I keep coming back to questioning whether part of the consternation and the reason why LeBatard lost his vote was for the simple fact that it was Deadspin, who long have criticized high and mighty, lazy writers and media members, not to mention are not considered a legitimate journalistic, being considered more the TMZ of sports. I feel like even this site, were they to do such a thing, would ilicit the same reaction, yet if, say, a newspaper were to use their website to do virtually the same thing and submit it under a member’s name that works for the paper (similar to what Mr. De Jesus Ortiz did), then it would be no problem. Just sounds of spoiled brat syndrome…

  12. dparker713 - Jan 10, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    Craig, the BBWAA likely has no control over the vote after its been submitted to the HOF. Remember, we’re dealing with two separate entities so I wouldn’t be surprised if the BBWAA was unable to invalidate LeBatard’s vote.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:22 PM

      I guarantee you: if BBWAA discovered fraud of some kind after they submitted it, the Hall of Fame absolutely would delay the thing.

  13. clydeserra - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    Because reasons, that’s why

  14. pipkin42 - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    Let’s talk about how the votes are still submitted via fax. Because really, fax?

  15. uwsptke - Jan 10, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    I wonder what would have happened had Biggio been voted in by one vote (LeBetard’s), rather than come up 2 votes short. Would they have the testicular fortitude to invalidate his election?

  16. scatterbrian - Jan 10, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    “The BBWAA knew beforehand that one of the votes would be “sold” or “transferred” or whatever. They now say doing so breaks their rules. Yet they count the vote?”

    This is weird. Why would the BBWAA have a clause allowing them to suspend someone for transferring a ballot “to an entity that has not earned voting status” yet have no actions to resolve the matter if/when it does happen?

    Seems simple: any ballot submitted that was transferred to an entity that has not earned voting status will be counted as a blank ballot.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 10, 2014 at 2:53 PM

      It’d be better if they just counted it as not being submitted. Your choice harms everyone, mine doesn’t since a blank ballot counts in the denominator.

      • scatterbrian - Jan 10, 2014 at 3:45 PM

        Oh I agree. My thinking is counting it as a blank ballot would perhaps deter people from doing it.

        Not that I think this should happen, just something I’d consider if I were in the BBWAA and wanted to put a stop to it.

  17. righthandofjustice - Jan 10, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    The answer is very simple. Officials of most sport, particularly baseball, related organizations make their own rules and exceptions of rules. They behave like the leaders of communist countries.

    If you have to ask why the VP of the BBWAA could ask the friends he “invited to dinner” to help him cast his ballot but a non-ranked writer couldn’t then why don’t you ask similar questions like why did Bud Selig suspend A-Rod 161 days for “obstructing the Biogenesis investigation and frustrating the office of the baseball commissioner” but he himself, Manfred, Mulin among other MLB officers are not suspended for obstructing the very same Biogenesis investigation by the Florida government. They might very well have defrauded the United States and frustrated the functions of the IRS too.

  18. Bob - Jan 10, 2014 at 3:31 PM

    I’m an Astros fan who will eagerly tell you that Ortiz, former primary and now backup Astros beat writer for the Houston Chronicle, is a hack. And the fact that he is the vice-president of the BBWAA is all you need to know about how much of a joke the BBWAA is.

  19. moogro - Jan 11, 2014 at 7:34 AM

    LEN3 is a nice, ultra-safe writer. I would be surprised if anything interesting happened during his tenure.

  20. KR - Jan 12, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    So we’re pretending that there’s no difference between Group of Fans A and Group of Fans B?

    When “Group of Fans B” is a bunch of poorly-socialized mouth-breathers who willingly read a Gawker site, yes, asking one group makes more of a mockery of the process than the other.

    Not saying that said process doesn’t suck and doesn’t deserved to be mocked: of course it does. I’m pretty much on LeBatard’s side here. But he also was obviously trying to tweak the BBWAA as much as possible, so it’s not surprising that they came down on him and not on anyone else.

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