Baseball purists across the United States were undoubtedly horrified to learn Nov. 26 that Deadspin.com had successfully purchased a vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame elections from an unnamed writer from the Baseball Writers Association. Deadspin, a humorous sports website known for routinely ruffling ESPN’s feathers, will tell this writer which players to put down on his or her ballot based on the results of a readers’ poll. Traditionally, Hall of Fame votes are reserved for designated sports writers of news organizations, such as The Boston Globe, ESPN and Fox Sports, who cast votes for players they believe belong in the Cooperstown-located hall.
As a baseball fan, does this news upset me as an affront to the mythical sanctity and tradition of the game? Not exactly. In my opinion, it’s a brilliant move by Deadspin that could really bring attention to the flaws in the Hall of Fame’s voting system. At the same time, it could set a dangerous precedent for the near future.
As we progress further and further into the 21st century, the nearly 600 BBWA writers who decide on who gets that coveted plaque in Cooperstown appear more and more archaic. The January 2013 results reached the nadir of the voting committee’s jurisdiction when no one received enough votes to be inducted. The ballot included a laundry list of legendary players — including Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Mike Piazza — yet none of them were voted in because of suspicions that these players used performance-enhancing drugs. The voters forgot that the Hall of Fame is a museum and not St. Peter’s pearly gates to heaven.
Whoever the anonymous writer is that sold his or her vote, I applaud them for recognizing how stilted the requirements have become for a former player to be considered “worthy” of these voters’ admirations. While many opponents may say the fans cannot be trusted to make the right choices with Deadspin’s vote, 31 voters from the BBWA don’t cover baseball full time anymore. Three of them, in fact, are writers at GolfWest.com. Are these voters really more qualified than the fans?
Still, I worry that Deadspin’s move may end up giving too much voting power to fans down the road. The U.S. has passionate sports fans, but remember, these could be the same fans who selected a washed-up Allen Iverson to start in the 2010 NBA All-Star game while he was on injured reserve. I’m OK with Deadspin giving fans one Hall of Fame vote — especially if the mere prospect of that happening forces the BBWA to overhaul its process. However, the majority of votes should still go to the writers who cover the game on a daily basis.