By now, you've no doubt heard about what Dan LeBatard—the co-host of ESPN2's Highly Questionable—did recently. LeBatard, who earned a vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame by covering MLB for many years during his time with the Miami Herald, lost his Hall of Fame vote (for life!) after he gave his ballot to Deadspin this year and let the Deadspin readers fill it in for him. He did not sell it to Deadspin and make a profit off of it. Rather, he gave it to the site in order to prove a point about the current Hall of Fame voting system—namely, that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. He explained himself in a letter that was published on Deadspin yesterday after the site revealed that LeBatard had given them his ballot this year.
"I don't think I'm any more qualified to determine who is Hall of Fame-worthy than a fan who cares about and really knows baseball," he wrote. "In fact, many people analyzing baseball with advanced metrics outside of mainstream media are doing a better job than mainstream media, and have taught us some things in recent years when we were behind. In other words, just because we went to journalism school and covered a few games, just because accepted outlets gave us their platform and power, I don't think we should have the pulpit to ourselves in 2014 the way we did in 1936."
His main point seemed to be that the readers of Deadspin could do the same job that he's entrusted to do every year when he fills out his ballot. And for the most part, he was right. Here is the ballot that LeBatard filled out after Deadspin told him which players their readers wanted him to vote for:
As you can see, Richie Sexson didn't get a vote on the ballot that Deadspin sent back to LeBatard. Neither did J.T. Snow. Jacque Jones didn't get a sniff, either. The 10 selections Deadspin made were Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Edgar Martinez, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, and Frank Thomas. And while you could make a case for a few guys that Deadspin left off, you could do that with just about any voter's ballot. There's always going to be some debate. So Deadspin did right by LeBatard.
Not everyone saw it that way, though. LaVelle E. Neal III, the president of the Baseball Writer's Association of America—the organization that LeBatard belongs to that allows, er, allowed him to have a Hall of Fame in the first place—spoke out against LeBatard's decision to give his HOF vote to Deadspin.
"When you accept a baseball writers' card, there's a certain way you need to go about your business, a certain conduct you need to have at all times," Neal III said in a video recorded by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "It's disappointing that someone would decide to manipulate his vote in that way."
ESPN writer/analyst/host Michael Wilbon took to Twitter to voice his displeasure with LeBatard. He said, "I LOVE Dan LeBatard…but trust me, TK [Tony Kornheiser] and I are gonna spank that ass on PTI today over this voting stupidity…LOL." Wilbon and Kornheiser then proceeded to do just that.
And countless media members from all over the country have ripped LeBatard—and his decision—to shreds. CBS Sports writer Gregg Doyel called LeBatard "the single most talented person in sports journalism" in a column he released this morning but also wrote that, by giving his vote to Deadspin, the only thing he really accomplished was bringing more attention to himself (it should be noted that, earlier this year, Doyel and LeBatard got into it on Twitter). Miami Herald sports editor Jorge Rojas revealed that he understood the point LeBatard was trying to make but spoke for the Herald as a whole when he said, "We think there are other ways he could have made it." And ESPN distanced themselves from LeBatard's decision immediately by pointing out that he earned his vote through his work at the Miami Herald and saying that "we wouldn't have advocated his voting approach."
There were a lot of fans who weren't happy about what LeBatard did, either:
Dan Le Batard is an idiot. What he did with his vote his lame— Gregorious Battles (@gregbatts76) January 8, 2014
Dan Le Batard is a moron for what he did with his HOF vote. I don't care if the @Deadspin readers did ok, if you wanna protest don't vote— Daniel Siegel (@DanSiegelUnCut) January 8, 2014
Is anybody surprised that Dan Le Batard did something stupid and self promoting?— Navin R Johnson (@hawkeyehaynes) January 9, 2014
But there were also quite a few tweets that were sent out over the course of the last 24 hours that were pro-LeBatard. It seems that some people weren't all that broken up about the fact that he gave his vote away and let others decide who he would vote to the Hall of Fame:
Love that Dan Le Batard gave up his HOF vote. The process is stupid. Writers shouldn't vote on athletes based on their suspicions.— Deskaheh Bomberry (@Bomber07) January 9, 2014
Thank you to Dan Le Batard. You understand how stupid the process has become.— J. (@FieldLevelView) January 8, 2014
Kudos to Dan Le Batard for giving up his vote to Deadspin... The whole process is just stupid.— Art Middleton (@GameTimeArt) January 8, 2014
So at the moment, LeBatard is the most polarizing figure in sports. But does his decision to give his vote to Deadspin really matter? And should everyone be analyzing LeBatard as deeply as they are right now?
In the grand scheme of things, LeBatard's decision to give his vote away is probably not going to have a huge impact on the future of Hall of Fame voting. It will impact him because, as we mentioned, he was stripped of his Hall of Fame vote. But the truth is that, although baseball does have an issue on its hands when it comes to Hall of Fame voting, that issue is bigger than LeBatard. It's bigger than Deadspin. And it's bigger than a controversial ballot that will, in the coming days, become a distant memory as soon as the next big sports controversy pops up.
So if we learned anything from the stunt that LeBatard and Deadspin just pulled, it's that baseball as a whole needs to reconvene and figure out a better way to vote guys into the Hall of Fame. The entire voting system needs to be destroyed and rebuilt from the ground up. Otherwise, who really cares who makes it to the Hall of Fame and who doesn't? After all, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas were all elected into the Hall of Fame yesterday. Yet, all anyone wants to talk about today is Dan LeBatard and the other guys who vote for the HOF players every year. It's become more about the voters than the players themselves. And that says a lot about how people view the Baseball Hall of Fame and, more importantly, the voting process behind it.