Ethical Voting Procedures amongst the BBWAA

A Call for Ethical Principles Amongst the BBWAA 

Yesterday, Mark McGwire was left out of the Hall of Fame by a significant margin, despite hitting 583 career home runs and breaking Roger Maris’ long standing single season mark in 1997.  Arguments and rumours persist amongst the media and fans if McGwire deserves to be in the Hall for allegations pertaining to his use of illegal substances.

In 1947 Ted Williams was completely left off the ballot of a Boston sports writer who was verbally assaulted by Williams during the ’47 season.  Despite winning the AL Triple Crown, Williams finished second to Joe DiMaggio in the MVP voting, losing 202-201.  If that writer had believed that Williams was even the 10th best player in the AL that year Williams would have rightfully won that MVP award. 

This happend before most of us can remember but any student of baseball history will say, “Williams won 2 MVP’s but in 1947…” or that “Joe D. won 3 MVP’s but in 1947…”.  Should a disgruntled baseball writer have this much impact on baseball history?  Should Williams have kissed up to him in order to get a 10th place vote and win the MVP?  What does this do to Joe DiMaggio’s legacy?

Baseball writers have to be unselfish and unswayable.  They have to make decisions based on the facts, not emotions, allegations or prejudices this is part of their profession.  They have been given this vote for the fact they are professional.  To maintain the integretity of baseball institutions there must be ethical guidelines, and if these guidelines are not followed, there must be consequences.

Many media personalities will release who they voted for and why in their column, radio shows or on television.  This is not binding and is accountable to only their readers who have no recourse that will change anything.  There should be something in place, an authority, to oversee any prejudices.  When voting, a member should have to be accountable for not voting for a player.  An MLB authority should be able to call up Bob Elliot in Toronto and ask him, “Did you vote for Justin Morneau and not Derek Jeter because Morneau is Canadian?”  or “Did you not vote for McGwire because of steroid allegations?”  or “Did you not vote for Jim Rice because he is black”.  Of course all of these questions are hypothetical and do not reflect Mr. Elliot’s belief set but if any writer anwsered ‘yes’ to these questions he should lose his vote and in some circumstances be subject to ‘banning’ that they demand be placed on players from time to time.

Personally, I do not beleive Mark McGwire’s numbers were good enough to get in the HOF ahead of or instead of Gwynn or Ripken, however, I cannot accept that media members possibly would not vote for him because of steroid ‘allegations’.  McGwire is not banned from baseball ballots and until he is he should be given a proper shake at the can by looking at his numbers on the field.  His home run figures alone are awesome and should probably, some day, get him into the Hall. 

If MLB decides that it wants to ban certain players for using banned substances (ie) Palmiero and Canseco, after either an admission or overwhelming proof then so be it.  MLB is a private organisation and can make their own rules and makes the ballot.  I feel, that if they make a ballot and throw it to the wolves (media) they should put some guidelines and accountability if they want to get a proper result. 

The NHL which, like other sports, has fan ballots for All-Star Games has recently been swamped with a 
“Vote for Rory FitzPatrick” campaign which may put a marginal NHLer with no star power on the starting line-up.  I feel this is acceptable.  A fan by root is a ‘fanatic’ and is naturally led by emotion, passion, whim or revenge.  A media person is a professional, they are supposed to deleiver the facts, ideally unbiased, can we not expect the same professional attributes from media personel when they are asked to vote?

In the next decade we will see some player’s who have been thorns in the media’s side, their off field personalities and actions may not be suitable to recieve the vote of some memebers.  If Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, Alomar or Palmiero are on the ballot will BBWAA not vote for them because of ‘allegations’ or ‘spitting incidents’ inturn injoring home runs, batting averages and Gold Gloves.  I challenge BBWAA to look at the on-field contributions to these players and for the integrity of the game vote accordingly.  And MLB, if the writers are not up to the challege, form something to regulate their votes. 

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5 replies on “Ethical Voting Procedures amongst the BBWAA”
  1. says: Kman

    Another great article!

    I read that a sports writer in Chicago left his ballot completely blank due to his lack of “steroid information”. Votes are based upon opinions, but I’d like to see a outside commision that keeps track of a writers votes, and has the power to take it away if need be.


    Now maybe this is nitpicking but Jay Buhner was a decent player, but he deserves a total of 0 votes, not 1. Same goes for Dante Bichette and his 3 votes. Albert Belle was a Top Level star for 10 seasons (Top 10 MVP voting 5 of 10 full seasons), but he was hated by the media. So he gets 19 votes and is droped from the ballot. Shame.

    I think you may be giving sports writers too much credit. Maybe I’m out of my mind, but I think the work done here at Mop Up Duty and at other blogs is at minimum equal to the work that comes from the proffesional sports media, minus an editors help.

  2. says: Early

    The key to sportswriters is that they are “Professional”. We are merely bloggers. There are ethical expectations that come from professionals ie) doctors, lawyers, police, accountants etc. A blogger can write anything and be unsubstantiated.

    I was reading about Johnny Mize the other day. Hated by the media, selfish player but with solid stats in 30s-40s. Didn’t get into the HOF until all the writers he snubbed were in their grave.

    Writers give Joey Belle love when voting for MVP but snub him for HOF. He went downhill and crazy fast.

  3. says: Early

    I read about that Chicago writer and Bravo! to him. I hope more voters will follow his example and in part force MLB to once and for all clear the names of some players. And like I said above, if they are guilty of something suspend them. If someone can’t vote with a clear conscience then they should vote.

  4. says: Jeeves

    The bone I have to pick with the guy from Chicago is that he also left pre- “steroid era” players off the ballot. Why should Jim Rice or Goose Gossage suffer because players after their time potentially used steroids.

  5. says: Kman

    I agree with Jeeves. What does that writer want, a complete history of steroids for the past 100 years? I think we’ve all heard the stories of players in the 50’s using horse steroids, and other “performance enhancers”.

    They should take his vote away. When the complete history of steroid use in baseball is completed, feel free to give him his vote back…

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