Updates from Wednesday, Jan. 8
It turns out that the mystery voter who gave his ballot to Deadspin was none other than Dan Le Batard of ESPN.
He explained his rationale to the site:
I'm not sure what kind of trouble this is going to bring me. I imagine I'll probably have my vote stripped. But I don't want to be a part of the present climate without reform anyway. Given that climate, doing THIS has more impact than my next 20 years of votes as sanctimony bars the HOF door on the steroid guys. Because, in a climate without reform, my next 20 years of votes will be counted but not actually heard. At least this gets it heard, for better or for worse.
Deadspin's fan ballot selected Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, Edgar Martínez, Jeff Bagwell, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Curt Schilling.
In addition, it appears that Le Batard did not get paid for his ballot after all:
---End of update---
For the first time in history, readers will get a chance to have a say in a single vote (at the very least) for the Baseball Writers' Association of America Hall of Fame vote.
According to Deadspin, the website has officially bought a ballot from a voting member for the annual elections:
Our idea was to make a mockery and farce of the increasingly solemn and absurd election process, and to take some power from the duly appointed custodians of the game's history and turn it over to the public.
Well, with the Baseball Writers' Association of America having released its official ballot today, we can happily announce that we have a vote. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America thought our plan sounded like a pretty (expletive) good idea and sold us his/her vote, making a stand against the idea that a somewhat random subsection of the baseball press should maintain the power to confer what is, regrettably, the game's most prestigious honor. For obvious reasons, the voter will remain anonymous for now, but he/she will be filling out his/her ballot on behalf of Deadspin readers, who will be polled in binding elections. The voter will announce his/her name and motivations once his/her vote has been officially cast.
That's right, one voter has agreed to let the website determine whom they will vote for. The website also noted that it is still buying votes.
This year's ballot includes newcomers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Jeff Kent, joining holdovers Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio and Jack Morris.
There's a lot that comes to mind when it comes to this. Is it even legal? And, what do fans think about it?
Is It Legal?
While nothing specifically states it is illegal to sell your Hall of Fame vote in the BBWAA Constitution, there are a few bylaws that seem to make it frowned upon.
Article IV, Section 5 from the bylaws specifically states this:
1. Any member convicted by the Board of Directors of misusing or attempting to misuse his or her membership shall be expelled for five years and his or her membership card shall be revoked.
Selling your vote to a website could constitute misusing your membership. But, if the proceeds go to a charitable organization, then it gets even stickier, according to Article II, Section 2B:
1. The Association shall not sponsor or endorse any marketable physical product or suffer any unauthorized use of its insignia. It may, however, elect to make available to commercial television the presentation of its annual awards, provided that all net financial revenues obtained by the Association from such a presentation are distributed to legitimate charitable organizations of the Association’s choosing, at the earliest possible date, in order for the Association to maintain its not-for-profit status.
The biggest question is, does selling this vote fall under the category of annual awards? That's likely something the lawyers would have to decide.
Regardless, this particular voter selling his or her vote is doing something no other journalist has done in history. Never have fans had the opportunity to cast a vote like this. Granted, hundreds or thousands of votes will be tabulated to create just one, but it's still history in the making.
What Fans Are Saying
Since Deadspin announced it had bought a vote, a lot of fans have taken to Twitter:
So @Deadspin just bought an MLB hall of game vote. About time someone stuck it to the sliver of old-timers who decide those worthy to enter— Bryan Van Den Bosch (@The_Real_Bosch) November 26, 2013
@Deadspin this is great. BBWAA is incompetent to do this job in the first place— Adam (@adamdm4) November 26, 2013
People bemoaning Deadspin buying a HOF vote & tainting the process. The process has always been farcical, this is just the latest iteration.— Sean McNally (@SeanMMcNally) November 26, 2013
And that is what a majority of fans are saying on Twitter. Most like the idea.
Do you have any problems with a writer selling their vote to Deadspin? (Explain in comments)
In The End
Regardless of your personal beliefs on the system, no player has ever missed the Hall of Fame by one vote. The closest has been Nellie Fox, who missed the Hall of Fame by two votes in 1985. He was elected by the veteran's committee in 1997, but never received enough votes from the writers.
However, Fergie Jenkins did come the closest to not getting elected in 1991. He received 334 votes when he needed 333 for election. Ralph Kiner experienced the same thing in 1975 when he received 273 votes when he needed 272. Willie Keeler was also elected by two votes in 1939.
So one vote didn't make the difference, but two the other way could have.
In the grand scheme of things, one vote shouldn't make the difference. Last year, there were 569 ballots cast with 427 votes needed for election.
If this "fan vote" ballot does keep a player from being elected, that still means there would be at least 142 other ballots that kept a certain player off the ballot.
However, until the writer who sold their vote is revealed, there's not much to dissect. While some will have a major problem with it, especially those who paid their dues in the media, the bottom line is that he or she can vote however they like.
The only major issue that may come from this is if the writer personally profits from selling their vote. If that's the case, then there are major conflict of interest issues that will have to be approached in the future.
If the money goes to charity, then it doesn't hurt to try something new. Baseball gives fans a vote when it comes to the All-Star Game. Sometimes players elected aren't deserving, but that's the fans' vote.
At least with the Hall of Fame, it's only one vote (so far) and has no true bearing on a player being enshrined. It will take hundreds of more ballots to elect a player.