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This has brought about no small amount of hand wringing from fans, Major League Baseball and ESPN itself; and, honestly, it has been so damn entertaining.
A quick synopsis: Dan LeBatard was, until lately, a voter in good standing with the Baseball Hall Of Fame. He's stated he has issues with the voting process; and, recently, decided to outsource his vote to Deadspin.com readers.
Because the shit hit the fan.
The BBWA (Baseball Writers Of America) have suspended his stadium credentials for a year, and have revoked his Hall Of Fame vote forever. Fans and baseball geeks from far and wide seem to have mostly condemned his action; and, most importantly!, ESPN has kinda been puking blood over this for the past two weeks.
By way of full disclosure, one of LeBatard's main planks on this issue is the willy-nilly dismissal of those who are alleged to have played a big part in the steroid era. He is saying 'how can we know?' and 'who gets to decide?' in cases where folks like, say, Barry Bonds, have NEVER once failed a test.
A salient point, as it calls into question the notion of trying to somehow standardize, on the run, that which will remain a fluid situation for most likely a long, long time.
I, on the other hand, fall into the opposite category for the most part: Bonds, OUT! McGwire, OUT!
And so on...
Yet, I am right with LeBatard on this from start to finish; save for my willingness to hang the obvious, to me, steroid guys...
Even Robert Lipsyte, acting in an 18 month term as ESPN's reigning Ombudsman refers to LeBatard's HOF gesture as a "caper"; which is kinda messed up, as it seems to imply that he decided to do this after gobbling a bag of mushrooms and a half-pint of rum.
C'mon, Robert Lipsyte, you're said to be better than this...
LeBatard's problem is with the "hypocrisy" in the Baseball Hall Of Fame; and while he and I may disagree on what type of hypocrisy exists, we both agree it exists. In multiple forms...
Personally, no one will ever explain clearly enough to me how Brady Anderson went from 15 HRs in 1995 to 50 HRs in 1996. Yeah, I know the '95 season had the first six or so games lopped off the schedule; but, I really doubt Anderson would've hit 25-30 in that week/ten days...
But, that's me.
Actually, despite my almost diametric opposition to LeBatard's BBHOF steroid argument; my sympathy with his "caper" lies in the very notion of such Halls Of Fame themselves.
To begin with, there is Sandy Koufax. I am a Dodgers fan (though I was a baby during his 5 season heyday), through and through; but, Sandy's HOF enshrinement seemed to be something of a pity-based honor, at best-- just like the NFL HOF bringing in Gale Sayers!
Don't get me wrong, I am an absolute fan of them both! Koufax shot down the baseball world for 5 spectacular years between 1962-1966; and his greatness cannot be denied!
Gale Sayers is probably still the most talented running back to ever grace the NFL; and to see his old highlights is to see the term greatness redefine itself with every subtle cut and juke, before that most fucked up acceleration kicked in, burning all in it's wake.
I agree that BOTH Koufax and Sayers should both be in their respective Halls Of Fame.
But, had either been, say, more consistent and less 'flashy' over a longer period of time; but, with the same stats, no one would care.
Sandy Koufax: 165W-87L , 2.76ERA (Baseball Hall Of Famer)
Gale Sayers: 4,956 Yds., 56 TDs (NFL Hall Of Famer)
Yes, Koufax was a World Series champion, while Sayers never came close to the playoffs; but, dig even deeper and you find:
Jack Morris: 254-186, 3.90 ERA (3 time World Series Champion; not in HOF)
Chuck Muncie : 6,702 Yds., 71 TDs (not flashy, not beloved, did some coke, NO HOF for him...)
I realize the semi-ridiculousness of my using two different sports with two different (though similarly baffling) criteria for induction into their respective Hall Of Fame; but, I'm a semi-ridiculous guy.
Making, at least here, a not at all ridiculous point; which is that all major sports need to get their asses together and draw up specific qualifications for their HOFs. To wit: Koufax's stats would NOT get him in by today's standards! So, do we raise the stats bar; or judge by a sliding scale, the importance of such stats against the level of competition?
And these things can be taken across boundaries from sport to sport, as well.
Finally, there is the most ridiculous aspect of the LeBatard "caper", as Lipsyte so dramatically characterized it:
From almost every angle, it appears this thing still has as much traction as it does, only because ESPN is pissed (miffed?) that LeBatard went off-platform by going to Deadspin.com.
Some fellow ESPN on-air folk (especially the "PTI" guys, Wilbon and Kornheieser; known to be friends of LeBatard) skinned Dan LeBatard alive for 'grandstanding'-- like ESPN doesn't encourage sweaty grandstanding from the likes of Chris Berman and Skip Bayless, et al...
The most telling quote of all came from cuckolded ESPN VP of editorial for digital/print media, Patrick Steigman, who said "The problem was not with the protest, but with the execution. Why didn't he do a SportsNation vote on espn.com? Or offer the vote to his radio audience? We'd have allowed him to do it."
So, in summation, what ESPN is griping about and using as a way to sort of distance themselves from LeBatard for awhile is this:
Something that sounds a lot like an objection from a moral high ground; but is really more about him not symmetrically integrating his protest along the many ESPN platforms.
In short, ESPN disagrees with LeBatard because he didn't do it through them. Nothing more.
It was not the act, or controversy, ESPN objected to; just that it happened through another pipeline that has, in the past, taken the Worldwide Leader to task.
Maybe you look into that Mr. Lipsyte?