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Friday, December 28, 2012

ESPN: T.J. Quinn: The HOF: Why I stopped voting

It struck me over the past couple of years that I was down to one reason I should continue voting for baseball’s Hall of Fame: It’s cool.

I loved receiving the stuffed brown envelope every December. I loved having my kids check off players they liked (and I planned to vote for anyway, of course). And I enjoyed telling people that, yes, I vote for the Hall of Fame.

But two years ago, I decided to stop voting. I haven’t returned the past two ballots. “It’s cool” just wasn’t enough to overcome the myriad arguments that were persuading me I should give up that sacred right. I just couldn’t do it anymore.

This year, with the release of a ballot filled with players who are either confirmed or suspected dopers, a number of my fellow Baseball Writers of Association of America members find themselves in the awkward position of judging a group of men who cannot be judged by the old standards.

I have come to the conclusion that it isn’t my mess to solve, and I wouldn’t be qualified to solve it even if it were.

I’m out.

Thanks to John K.

Repoz Posted: December 28, 2012 at 01:43 PM | 36 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hof

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   1. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: December 28, 2012 at 02:22 PM (#4333740)
I presume that if they do not return their ballot, it does not count towards the final "denominator", correct?
   2. LargeBill Posted: December 28, 2012 at 02:29 PM (#4333743)
Correct.
   3. SoSH U at work Posted: December 28, 2012 at 02:29 PM (#4333744)
I presume that if they do not return their ballot, it does not count towards the final "denominator", correct?


Correct. Blank ballots count, unreturned ones don't.
   4. with Glavinesque control and Madduxian poise Posted: December 28, 2012 at 03:00 PM (#4333761)
This is a really interesting article, but if his conclusion is supposed to be: "I shouldn't vote for the Hall of Fame," then only one of his points supports that. I understand how the fact that he's a journalist and journalists shouldn't make the news but merely report it (because they need to preserve objectivity) means he shouldn't vote.

But the rest of his arguments are basically that the structure should be radically different, and that not many people are in a position to make good decisions about who is in the hall of fame. But whether he votes or not will have a negligible effect, if any, on the structure of who votes, and his not voting gives a lot of dumb ######## that are much further from the game than him a correspondingly larger voice in the matter.
   5. Repoz Posted: December 28, 2012 at 03:13 PM (#4333769)
T.J. Quinn just tweeted...

"Lots of q's about who I'd have voted for. Morris, Murphy, Biggio for sure."

Poor Jack...
   6. Transmission Posted: December 28, 2012 at 03:14 PM (#4333771)
Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Fantastic.
   7. LargeBill Posted: December 28, 2012 at 03:26 PM (#4333779)
Repoz,

Considering info provided in his tweet it is probably best that he not participate.
   8. Repoz Posted: December 28, 2012 at 03:32 PM (#4333783)
Considering info provided in his tweet it is probably best that he not participate.

Flew off...

"So T.J. Quinn would have voted for Jack Morris if he kept his HOF vote. #silverlining"
   9. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 28, 2012 at 03:37 PM (#4333787)
a number of my fellow Baseball Writers of Association of America members find themselves in the awkward position of judging a group of men who cannot be judged by the old standards.

Yes, such a traumatic blow to the old standards that kept Don Larsen on the ballot for 15 years, and gave Jimmy Wynn 0 votes. How awkward for the voters who had to be nagged, cajoled and seduced into electing an overqualified pitcher, after five-sixths of them had dismissed his candidacy during his first three years on the ballot.

It must be hard, in the year 2012, to have to make that sudden attitude adjustment because of the new reality of steroids. Say, I wonder whether Steve Wilstein gets a ballot?
   10. Repoz Posted: December 28, 2012 at 04:00 PM (#4333812)
Gwen Knapp tweets to Quinn on her BBWAA HOF vote...

"By the way, I also decline to vote. Never comfortable with it."
   11. Roger McDowell spit on me! Posted: December 28, 2012 at 04:17 PM (#4333824)
How does the BBWAA decide who gets ballots? I know you have to have been a BBWAA member for 10 years, but beyond that? It seems odd that two people have been given the opportunity and then decline to participate at all, especially if they are "never comfortable with it".
   12. dlf Posted: December 28, 2012 at 04:47 PM (#4333843)
How does the BBWAA decide who gets ballots? I know you have to have been a BBWAA member for 10 years, but beyond that?


Beyond that, the only requirement is having a pulse. All living BBWAA 10 year members are eligible to vote and will receive a ballot.
   13. Howie Menckel Posted: December 28, 2012 at 04:53 PM (#4333844)

Decades ago, I had a boss who handed me a Topps All-Rookie ballot; he noted that if any voter's ballot matched the winners, they were eligible for a prize.

So I analyzed who was most likely to win more than who SHOULD win - and got them all right. My boss later told me that his kid appreciated the prize I had won for him.

sonofa....

fyi, I believe it's 10 consecutive years as a BBWAA member.

   14. SoSH U at work Posted: December 28, 2012 at 04:57 PM (#4333846)
It seems odd that two people have been given the opportunity and then decline to participate at all, especially if they are "never comfortable with it".


What seems odd about it? I don't think every member (or even most) joins the BBWAA so they can vote on stuff, even if that's the only reason we care about the organization.

As a long-time reporter/editor, I happen to believe that we shouldn't be voting on things like this.

   15. Walt Davis Posted: December 28, 2012 at 05:38 PM (#4333866)
As a long-time reporter/editor, I happen to believe that we shouldn't be voting on things like this.

I can see the conflict of interest argument for seasonal awards given the reporters will still be covering those players. By the time a player is on the HoF ballot though, any such conflict of interest is quite minimal.

I am fine with Quinn's stance -- it seems a mature way to handle these issues. Yes, the standards argument is pretty weak but the argument that it shouldn't be his/BBWAA's responsibility to sort this mess out is reasonable and the argument that he and the BBWAA in general aren't qualified to sort it out is spot on.

Is he going to change the process by not participating? Unlikely ... but he wasn't going to change the process by participating in it either. I certainly find his stance more sensible and defensible than Rosenthal's "I won't vote for anybody from this era on the first ballot ... except when I have in the past and will in the future ... and can't make up my mind if I'm going to vote for them on later ballots."

Now if he comes back next year with another column about his non-voting then we're starting to lapse over into self-serving.
   16. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 28, 2012 at 05:43 PM (#4333869)
I certainly find his stance more sensible and defensible than Rosenthal's "I won't vote for anybody from this era on the first ballot ... except when I have in the past and will in the future ... and can't make up my mind if I'm going to vote for them on later ballots."

Oh yeah, yeah, splunge for me, too!
   17. SoSH U at work Posted: December 28, 2012 at 06:06 PM (#4333879)
I can see the conflict of interest argument for seasonal awards given the reporters will still be covering those players. By the time a player is on the HoF ballot though, any such conflict of interest is quite minimal.


It's not just the conflict of interest angle, though that is significant. It's the simple belief that reporters shouldn't be involved in the newsmaking process.
   18. Roger McDowell spit on me! Posted: December 28, 2012 at 06:43 PM (#4333898)
What seems odd about it? I don't think every member (or even most) joins the BBWAA so they can vote on stuff, even if that's the only reason we care about the organization.


Nothing odd about it after seeing the answers about how one is eligible to vote. I thought there might be more to it than the 10 year membership. In that case, kudos to Knapp as well.
   19. Bhaakon Posted: December 28, 2012 at 07:31 PM (#4333919)
It's not just the conflict of interest angle, though that is significant. It's the simple belief that reporters shouldn't be involved in the newsmaking process.


Given that so many of these guys are basically pundits who make a living out of stirring the pot, that ship has sailed.
   20. Srul Itza Posted: December 28, 2012 at 07:49 PM (#4333932)
reporters shouldn't be involved in the newsmaking process


But isn't that exactly what investigative reporters are involved in, and what they aim for -- breaking the big story that has an effect on what comes afterwards?

Woodward and Bernstein are the paradigm here -- they dug and dug and came up with Watergate, and quite likely changed history in the process.
   21. SoSH U at work Posted: December 28, 2012 at 07:55 PM (#4333936)
Given that so many of these guys are basically pundits who make a living out of stirring the pot, that ship has sailed.


Not for everyone it doesn't. There may not be many of us left who care about the ethics of the profession, but we still exist.

But isn't that exactly what investigative reporters are involved in, and what they aim for -- breaking the big story that has an effect on what comes afterwards?


Not really. The aim is to report what has gone on. Change may come out of their reporting, but it isn't the objective.
   22. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: December 28, 2012 at 08:20 PM (#4333948)
It's the simple belief that reporters shouldn't be involved in the newsmaking process.


I am slow but this seems like one of the best points any reporter could make about this whole hall of fame voting thing.
   23. Rob_Wood Posted: December 28, 2012 at 08:24 PM (#4333951)
Bingo.
   24. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: December 28, 2012 at 08:39 PM (#4333963)
This is a really interesting article, but if his conclusion is supposed to be: "I shouldn't vote for the Hall of Fame," then only one of his points supports that. I understand how the fact that he's a journalist and journalists shouldn't make the news but merely report it (because they need to preserve objectivity) means he shouldn't vote.


Norman Mailer (Armies of the Night) argues cogently that objectivity never existed. If a congressman lies, and the reporter knows it, does the reporter merely report the lie, or does he report the lie and the fact that it is a lie? Surely there's a good case for the idea that the news is, in fact, that the congressman is lying.

When there's an industrial accident killing five, is the news that five workers are dead, or is it also that that plant has a long history of safety violations, and that sixteen workers have died in the last three years?

A lot of people would claim that reporting the company's history of violations is a politicization of the event; the counter is that the context for that accident is factual and necessary in order to best understand the event.

A reporter declining to give context shouldn't be given a free pass on the grounds that he's being objective (he's making a specific decision to omit x or y), and in the case of TFA, the rationale for not voting is surely part of the story.

The role of the reporter is nothing like a settled question. From the moment he necessarily chooses what to include and what to exclude, he's part of the story, like it or not.

   25. Howie Menckel Posted: December 28, 2012 at 10:17 PM (#4333988)
"When there's an industrial accident killing five, is the news that five workers are dead, or is it also that that plant has a long history of safety violations, and that sixteen workers have died in the last three years? A lot of people would claim that reporting the company's history of violations is a politicization of the event..."

Do sane people really claim that, if it's the exact same plant?

.......

"But isn't that exactly what investigative reporters are involved in, and what they aim for -- breaking the big story that has an effect on what comes afterwards?

Not really. The aim is to report what has gone on. Change may come out of their reporting, but it isn't the objective."

Some of each, I guess I'd say. The muckraking faction would fit the "effect afterwards" category, while the "not the objective" part fits others. There's room for both in journalism.
   26. Walt Davis Posted: December 28, 2012 at 10:20 PM (#4333991)
Not really. The aim is to report what has gone on. Change may come out of their reporting, but it isn't the objective.

Hopelessly naive I'm afraid. As #24 notes, every decision about what story goes into the paper is "newsmaking." Putting anything in the above-the-fold photo is making news out of it just like burying a story on A16 ensures it has less impact. Heck, headlines are newsmaking.

When a newspaper decides to do a 6-part series on problems in the local school system, change is quite clearly the objective -- and a particular kind of change for that matter. Political corruption is not exposed in the hope that the bums will be re-elected and no charges will be filed.

As to the HoF vote -- a vote isn't news at all until the writer writes about it and the editor publishes it. If there's a problem it's not the voting, it's the story. The ethical thing to do then is to vote (if you want) but not publish a story based on the vote.

And, in this particular case, the only news is the fact that the REPORTER is not voting ... and he's telling us why. This article is a prime example of a reporter making news and being the center of the story.
   27. SoSH U at work Posted: December 28, 2012 at 10:50 PM (#4334004)
Hopelessly naive I'm afraid. As #24 notes, every decision about what story goes into the paper is "newsmaking." Putting anything in the above-the-fold photo is making news out of it just like burying a story on A16 ensures it has less impact. Heck, headlines are newsmaking.


I wouldn't call it hopelessly naive, but hopelessly simplistic. Yes, subjective editorial judgments are made all the time. The work can't be done without such judgments. But simply because subjectivity exists in one facet of the job does not mean that any attempts to approach each story as objectively as possible is fruitless.

And yes, there are a great many editors/reporters who are agenda driven. That's always been a reality. I just find it ethically questionable (or worse), regardless how commonplace it might be. I feel similarly about the odious practice of using anonymous sources (almost always when there are no grounds to grant such anonymity). And the ever-growing use of such within the profession isn't going to alter my view.

While I understand why some might feel differently, from my POV there is a fundamental difference between the kind of newsmaking you're talking about (writing headlines, columns) and actively participating in the process that determines who is/isn't a Hall of Famer, or who wins the MVP. And if newsgathering organizations cared only (or primarily) about doing what was ethically proper, I don't think they would allow it. And some, to their credit, don't.
   28. Walt Davis Posted: December 29, 2012 at 01:12 AM (#4334065)
Just curious, do you have similar objections to the Pulitzer Prizes?

does not mean that any attempts to approach each story as objectively as possible is fruitless.

Subjectivity exists in every facet of the job. It is far better to let loose of the illusion of objectivity and not rely on unenforceable principles and instead be as upfront as you can be about the subjective decisions involved.

There are obvious clear lines that can be drawn -- do you have a financial interest? are you doing this school expose because they suspended your brat?

I certainly have no objection to someone forgoing their HoF vote because they feel it's a conflict; I don't have a problem with a paper instituting that as policy. But an HoF vote column seems to me to be substantially less ethically questionable than reviews of movies, plays, books, TV, music ... and probably less ethically questionable than awarding Pulitzers.

This ship sailed the first time somebody accepted an advertisement ... which I assume was the day after Gutenberg got the damned thing working.
   29. SoSH U at work Posted: December 29, 2012 at 01:45 AM (#4334070)
Just curious, do you have similar objections to the Pulitzer Prizes?


Honestly, I haven't really given a lot of thought to the ethical considerations of inter-industry masturbation.

Subjectivity exists in every facet of the job. It is far better to let loose of the illusion of objectivity and not rely on unenforceable principles and instead be as upfront as you can be about the subjective decisions involved.


Nah. It's pretty damn easy to approach the work objectively. We're human, so it's never
possible to eliminate all subjectivity, but that whole perfect enemy good thing applies here.

I certainly have no objection to someone forgoing their HoF vote because they feel it's a conflict; I don't have a problem with a paper instituting that as policy. But an HoF vote column seems to me to be substantially less ethically questionable than reviews of movies, plays, books, TV, music ... and probably less ethically questionable than awarding Pulitzers.


Opinion will always have a place in the journalism field, though a nice wall between opinion pieces and general reporting isn't hard to manage. I just don't believe that the newsmakers (or opinion givers) should be involved in the next step, the making of actual news through participation in these kinds of exterior awards or honors. Some (Hall of Fame voting, for instance) are less objectionable than others (determining the national champion in CFB), but I agree with those news organizations that don't allow their writers to participate (the Times, for one).

This ship sailed the first time somebody accepted an advertisement ... which I assume was the day after Gutenberg got the damned thing working.


Good publications/organizations put up a pretty strong wall between the revenue side and the editorial side. Sadly, that wall weakened considerably during my time in the daily paper business. But when I started, it really was impregnable.

   30. Bhaakon Posted: December 29, 2012 at 02:32 AM (#4334079)
Opinion will always have a place in the journalism field, though a nice wall between opinion pieces and general reporting isn't hard to manage.


Maybe in other realms of journalism, but not so much in sports, where-non beat writers consistently mix opinion and reporting (often heavier on the former than the later). I don't know, I just have a problem taking sports writing seriously as a journalistic endeavor, as the columnists tend to be entertainers in and of themselves more than reporters, and the whole team/reporter relationship is too convoluted and incestuous. To me, saying "I'm not going to vote on the hall of fame because of my journalistic ethics as a sportswriter" is just nonsense, because the standards of journalistic ethics practiced in other areas of journalism simply aren't followed stringently in sports writing.

And, unfortunately, I think that most other journalistic endeavors (especially political journalism) are following the sportswriting model of ethics.
   31. GregD Posted: December 29, 2012 at 02:45 AM (#4334082)
On the Pulitzer, that's a select board of people who do the decision-making, right? Somehow that seems different to me than polling all the longstanding members of a trade association.
   32. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: December 29, 2012 at 09:17 AM (#4334113)
Norman Mailer (Armies of the Night) argues cogently that objectivity never existed. If a congressman lies, and the reporter knows it, does the reporter merely report the lie, or does he report the lie and the fact that it is a lie? Surely there's a good case for the idea that the news is, in fact, that the congressman is lying.

When there's an industrial accident killing five, is the news that five workers are dead, or is it also that that plant has a long history of safety violations, and that sixteen workers have died in the last three years?

A lot of people would claim that reporting the company's history of violations is a politicization of the event; the counter is that the context for that accident is factual and necessary in order to best understand the event.

A reporter declining to give context shouldn't be given a free pass on the grounds that he's being objective (he's making a specific decision to omit x or y), and in the case of TFA, the rationale for not voting is surely part of the story.


Well put. IMO what's necessary to counter the charges of "bias" is simply this, using the above case as an example: Did the reporter seek out the company owner before publishing the article in order to give "both sides" to the story? And if the owner cites facts that might put the reporter's investigation in a different light, did the reporter follow up on that and report his findings, regardless of what his findings may have revealed?

There's a fine line between being a crusading reporter and being a propagandist for a cause, but the main difference is that the former is interested in all the facts, not just the ones that support his "case". That doesn't mean that the final result has to be "balanced", but it does mean that an honest effort had to be made to consider all possible angles before going to press.

Of course part of the problem with the phony debate about "bias" is that press critics like to conflate hardhitting but honest reporting with the sort of sloppy and unfair reporting that pops up in a few prominent cases, such as the Duke lacrosse case. And yet for every example like that, there are infinitely more cases (at least in serious newspapers) where the reporting is both hardhitting and yet eminently fair.
   33. Chip Posted: December 29, 2012 at 09:40 AM (#4334114)
Good publications/organizations put up a pretty strong wall between the revenue side and the editorial side. Sadly, that wall weakened considerably during my time in the daily paper business. But when I started, it really was impregnable.


Show me the multi-part investigative series of the past on shady practices of local realtors and car dealers. Sorry, but going back decades you could count them on one hand. Across the entire membership of the NAA (or the ANPA before that).
   34. bjhanke Posted: December 30, 2012 at 04:42 AM (#4334529)
I'm pretty happy with this guy's stance, although I have my doubts about his reasons. But still, if you don't want to vote for the HoF, then don't. The one thing that you should NOT do is return a blank ballot. That means that you have voted "no" for everyone, and your "no" carries three times the weight of anyone else's "yes." This guy doesn't corrupt the voting process in that way. He doesn't vote for or against anyone. That's OK by me. - Brock Hanke
   35. cardsfanboy Posted: December 30, 2012 at 01:33 PM (#4334606)
Excellent article, outside of the silly "Sutton in, Morris out" line.
   36. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: December 30, 2012 at 07:48 PM (#4334790)
There's a fine line between being a crusading reporter and being a propagandist for a cause, but the main difference is that the former is interested in all the facts, not just the ones that support his "case". That doesn't mean that the final result has to be "balanced", but it does mean that an honest effort had to be made to consider all possible angles before going to press.


Good summary. This thread seems dead so I don't mind injecting a few political notes, but your last sentence is exactly what I look for in my lefty media. I don't want an echo chamber, or a bubble that supports only my views, but I'm not interested in the faux objectivity of CNN or NBC or USA Today, all of which thoroughly endorse centrist and center right assumptions of how and what the world should be.

Your post reminded me that what I want is not "objective"*** reporting, but honest reporting.


***And I don't think I'm picking nits, by asserting that because a thing can't be completely done, it can't be done. What I see held up as a paragon of objective reporting in fact contains an extraordinary number of suppositions, assumptions, and endorsements, all very often made within an incredibly narrow range, and all very often completely supportive of mainstream thought.

Just one example that comes to mind is every recent report and story on the issue of taxation. Objectivity, to me, means placing the issue within its historical context, which in turn means noting that income taxes at the top end are near an historic low. If that little tidbit had been honestly reported in every story in the last decade on the issue, the entire debate along with a number of local and state election results might well have been very, very different.

The range of facts it's possible to include while keeping within the rubric, "objective" is extraordinary. That alone suggests the term itself is of very little value.



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