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Time to put end to writers voting for Hall of Fames, other awards

You may not have noticed, but the recent weeks have revealed an annual winter ritual for baseball writers. Throughout the country, writers have disclosed their ballots for the upcoming Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2014.

Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe wrote about his choices. He still isn’t voting for Barry Bonds. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post went the other way, giving yes votes to Bonds and fellow steroid cheat Roger Clemens.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports wrote about his selections, while the Chicago Tribune, where I work as a contributor, dedicated an entire page of the Sunday paper to allow its five voters to explain their ballots. ESPN.com did the same with its 17 voters.

It all leads up to Wednesday’s official announcement of who will be going to Cooperstown. Unlike last year, when the New York Times sports front used a blank page as a commentary to illustrate how no candidates got in thanks to the residue of the steroid era, two, maybe three or four players figure to be enshrined this year.

As has been the custom, voters eligible from the Baseball Writers Association of America, will again be the gatekeepers in determining who gets through the Hall of Fame’s front door.

Thus, my annual column on how sports journalists shouldn’t be voting for Hall of Fames, and awards such as the Heisman Trophy. Once again, my argument falls under a basic rule of the business: Journalists don’t make news; they report the news.

The writers will be making the news Wednesday. It will be their votes that will be dissected and critiqued. They will be writing stories in which they had a direct impact on the outcome. In many cases, they will be quoted in other stories asking to explain their votes.

An editor wouldn’t allow a court reporter to be on a jury and then write about the case, right? Isn’t this the same scenario? I respect the political reporters who decide not to vote in elections so they can maintain an appearance of objectivity.

Ultimately, the writers’ votes not only will be granting baseball immortality to the players selected, they also will be increasing the financial bottom line for the new Hall of Famers. The inductees will be in far more demand to make appearances where they can place “HOF, 2014” after their signatures.

That in itself is a huge conflict of interest. However, the issue now goes deeper.

Thanks to the cheaters, the Hall of Fame voters now are the ultimate judges over the legacy of the steroid era. They will determine whether players like Bonds, Clemens, Sammy Sosa ever get an invitation to Cooperstown. Judging by the initial returns, the answer appears to be an emphatic no.

I’m not comfortable with the writers having so much power here, which puts an even greater spotlight on their selections. The stakes in this exercise have gone much higher.

Ken Gurnick of MLB.com made news yesterday when he disclosed he only voted for Jack Morris. He said he won’t vote for any players who played in the PED era, including Greg Maddux, who never was accused of taking anything.

Sorry, but I have a problem with Gurnick suddenly becoming the story here. It’s not right.

The main argument for keeping writers as Hall of Fame voters is: Who else would do it? The sentiment is that the crew in the press box are the most qualified to do the job.

Well, while most voters are responsible and do the proper research, it’s been well documented that there are many who have no business having a vote. But that’s beside the point.

Just because the writers have been voting forever doesn’t mean it should continue. Allow me to throw out this scenario:

Let’s say writers didn’t vote for the Hall of Fame in 2014. However, Cooperstown officials, upset with whatever process was in place, approached the writers about handling the duties going forward. What are the chances their editors would allow them to participate?

I would think most editors would say no, citing the inherent conflicts of interests. In fact, several editors already have taken that step, prohibiting their writers from voting for any awards. However, those editors and outlets remain in the minority.

As for who should vote for the Hall of Fame if the writers don’t do it, my reply is, that’s not my problem. Surely, Cooperstown can come up with a panel of qualified baseball people to do the job.

Nothing, though, likely will change. The writers will continue to vote for Hall of Fames and other major awards.

They will make news with their verdict on the Hall of Fame class for 2014 Wednesday. Then they will report on the news they just made. Again.

For more Ed Sherman on sport media, check out ShermanReport.com and follow him on Twitter.

One Response to “Time to put end to writers voting for Hall of Fames, other awards”


  1. DonK says:

    Ed:

    I was told the same thing when I was in school — we report the news; we don’t make it. Sorry, that ship appears to have sailed. “Journalists” are now performers in too many cases.

    I agree that writers/broadcasters have no business voting for honors like the Hall and the Heisman. The sanctimony of some of the BBWAA members is repulsive.

    BTW: You mention “cheaters” — does this mean acknowledged cheaters (Gaylord Perry, Whitey Ford) should be ushered out of the Hall? Does this mean those who took “greenies,” probably half of baseball (including several Hall members) for large parts of multiple decades shouldn’t be included. Or are you referring to more contemporary users of PEDs, genuine (Palmiero, who tested positive), alleged or merely guys who some writers feel might have taken them — and for which there’s no proof of quantifiable benefits?

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