Baseball HoF voting highlights sports media flaws
Posted January 11, 2014
The legendary Howard Cosell once said, “What's right isn't always popular. What's popular isn't always right.”
I don’t think that is what ESPN personality Dan Le Batard was thinking when he gave his Baseball Hall of Fame vote away to the patrons of Deadspin.com, but his intent was in the right place. What has disturbed me is the fallout of his actions amongst other media types. I am not trying to bite the hand that feeds me, but the circus that followed a decision to turn a hall of fame vote over to sports fans has really shown a poor light on the sports reporting business.
Columnists and talking heads all across America have condemned Le Batard for calling attention to himself, instead of the incredibly flawed and antiquated system that determines who shall live in baseball immortality. He has been called sanctimonious, an attention grabber and some people have gone as far to call him idiotic. Well here is a newsflash for every columnist and TV and radio personality out there, he did what all of us try to do on a daily basis: get attention for HIS actions.
A long time ago, sports reporting stopped being about the sports and became all about the REPORTERS.
I do not know Dan Le Batard. I have never talked to him, met him in a social setting or even bumped into him at a media buffet line covering a game. I do not think he needs, or wants, me defending what he did. But I felt the need. I do see the logic in what he was doing by turning over what should be a coveted task to try to promote a change.
One, he was trying to say as a group of media we have broken something and he doesn’t know how else to fix it. Two, for years I have read writers and heard hosts say, “Change the system!” without doing anything more than saying it.
It was amusing and sad to see the sports writers that are household names thanks to their TV shows or national website platforms rail on Le Batard, instead of trying to bring about change to how baseball elects the greatest players to be enshrined in Cooperstown.
How many celebrities have been made of writers that have a forum on TV and let them scream about what changes need to be made or what coach needs to be fired? When someone finally took a different route to bring about a change that we as media have said needs to happen for years, what happened? The media ate their own. There are a few reasons behind it, but one I truly believe is because Le Batard gave his vote to Deadspin, not a reputable sports reporting outlet.
Now, take a look at how those ‘traditional’ outlets have blog sites there are an awful lot like Deadspin.
Full disclosure, I am not a fan of how sports media has a TMZ quality to it now, and Deadspin lead the way. Box scores have been replaced by blood-alcohol levels. I don’t want to be old-timey sports man here, but I still care more about the games than who is dating who in the sports world (Before you lose your mind, I didn’t say I don’t care about what super model Derek Jeter dates, just not as much as!!!).
What angered me the most at the media cattle was how hard they charged after Le Batard. I am not going to call out individuals, but guys, we all do the same thing as he does every day: we try to draw attention to what we just said about sports. If you haven’t noticed, every columnist is attempting to say, “This is how I would rule the sports world, so tell all your friends about my way!!!”
We are supposed to point out when things aren’t working and try to get people to see that maybe a change needs to happen, and change is never easy. Being a media member is a wonderful privilege, one that I try not to abuse. I can’t tell you how many press conferences I have been at where the reporter asking the question wants the attention, not the question they ask.
I am a sports talk show host, and every time I address a topic, the idea is to get people to see my point of view and the more people who tune in to my show the better for ME. If you know my name (Mike Maniscalco) and you tune in to what I say, that is good for me. I want you to, my bosses want you to. If you agree or disagree, it doesn’t matter as long as you are listening or reading. It is my job to bring up how I see a game, team or coach, and we aren’t going to see eye-to-eye on everything.
So did Le Batard do something that would put the spotlight firmly on him? Yes, of course he did. And I would assume he knew there would be this attention and fallout. Would it have been better had he stayed anonymous? Hard to say. Maybe the point, instead of the man, would have gotten more attention.
This week I have heard that he should have just given back his vote. Would that have changed anything? Would the average fan have even noticed? A returned vote would not even cause any of the other voters to take notice.
Others suggested the idea that he should have brought on every writer to his radio show and demanded change. I love baseball, but even I don’t want to hear 570 interviews about that. Also, wouldn’t that be sanctimonious preaching to his listeners and the other voters to how they should do things?
He has since said publicly he has regretted his decision, I wish he hadn’t. His choice to let the Deadspin readers choose his ballot should have had the right outcome. The BWAA should have seen that the average fan picked a better class than 16 of its members (I’ll explain in a minute). I promise you that the ballot that was turned in under his name was better than at least 200 that were counted. The fans didn’t vote on if a player talked to them or not, which some writers really do take into consideration.
Media types should have seen this as one of theirs saying that you don’t care about my vote, so I gave it to people who do care, the fans.
The real outrage of the media should have come against the 16 voters that left Greg Maddux off the ballot. How do these people get a vote? I almost do not want to hear what logic they have for excluding the best pitcher, yes best pitcher, of a generation from their Hall of Fame ballot. Those people should be banned from covering baseball and never be allowed to vote again. Yet, that won’t happen, but one can dream can’t they? I heard only a smattering of railing against that, and of course the steroid argument which is a separate column.
There are 571 hall of fame voters and there is no changing the ones that hide behind archaic reasoning or honestly don’t understand that there have always been different eras of the game. The fact that Babe Ruth didn’t get 100 percent of the vote shouldn’t mean that Cal Ripken Jr didn’t either.
It’s hard to bring about change if you do nothing. Too bad the person received the attention over the nothing that he was trying to point out.