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Thursday, November 15, 2012

HHS: O’Connor: Will Transparency Destroy Us?

From comments: “Just wait for the HoF vote if you want to be angry; if they publish the votes for that, I don’t even want to look at it.” Is this going to happen?

The Baseball Writers Association of America, whose contract with Major League Baseball references as many third-party transactions with Satan as Fox’s World Series contract and the liner notes to a Robert Johnson collection combined, has declared its intentions to make future baseball award votes more transparent than in the past.

Sure enough, the BBWAA released all individual ballots for last night’s Rookie of the Year voting.  While it seems like transparency can only help to legitimize a process that has been under scrutiny longer than Strom Thurmond’s voting record, a glance at the RoY voting suggests that we may be in for some trouble. 

...There’s no reason to throw a fit over a local writer throwing a third-place vote to a hometown guy in a race where third place was wide open.  But after seeing the individual ballots for a relatively controversy-free award, I’m not sure I trust the process more than I did before.  Is there an expectation that every voter will skew his picks toward his hometown team?  If so, does a player suffer if one of his hometown guys issues an objective ballot and leaves him off?  The two Cincinnati candidates had two Cincinnati Enquirer writers on their side (though Cozart was still somehow shut out), while most other teams seemed to be represented by one local writer and one national writer who was shoehorned into a jurisdiction.

This may feel like a non-story, but we’re two days away from Miguel Cabrera winning Mike Trout’s AL MVP Award.  If the voting is close, and all the Detroit voters put Cabrera at the top of their ballots, fans looking for a target for their travesty-induced rage will have names at which to spew their vitriol, rather than a faceless take-back-the-RBI movement.  I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

Repoz Posted: November 15, 2012 at 06:38 AM | 27 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: awards, bbwaa

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: November 15, 2012 at 09:17 AM (#4303206)
I don't like disclosing the votes. If guys want to disclose their own vote they should be able to but I think this is likely to lead to either voting with the crowd to avoid criticism or flat out trolling type votes, neither of which is a good result.
   2. shoewizard Posted: November 15, 2012 at 09:39 AM (#4303212)
One thing I thought of is would a hometown writer be more likely to vote for the hometown candidate so as not to have issues with access and relationships with the people they have to cover and see every day for 7 months of the year ?
   3. bunyon Posted: November 15, 2012 at 09:49 AM (#4303217)
I actually think this is backward. HOF votes should be transparent. I'd leave the award voting closed.

Shoe, in two, mostly says why. On the other side, I'd like to know who the guy is who leaves off Maddux or Aaron, etc.
   4. JJ1986 Posted: November 15, 2012 at 10:07 AM (#4303227)
One thing I thought of is would a hometown writer be more likely to vote for the hometown candidate so as not to have issues with access and relationships with the people they have to cover and see every day for 7 months of the year ?


That was my thought after reading the article. Not just to appease the team and player, but they probably care far more about local fans than National ones.
   5. Mike Webber Posted: November 15, 2012 at 10:32 AM (#4303240)
and the liner notes to a Robert Johnson collection combined,


This has to be stolen from Repoz...
   6. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: November 15, 2012 at 10:39 AM (#4303246)
Not just to appease the team and player, but they probably care far more about local fans than National ones.

Probably true, but I'm amazed at how many people fall into the "you have to see this guy every day to appreciate him" trap.
   7. Danny Posted: November 15, 2012 at 11:40 AM (#4303294)
flat out trolling type votes

I think those guys would publish their ballots, regardless.

I understand the concern about introducing bias, but 1) I like have more data to play with, and 2) I assume there's always bias, and I like having that exposed.
   8. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: November 15, 2012 at 11:53 AM (#4303308)
I don't like disclosing the votes. If guys want to disclose their own vote they should be able to but I think this is likely to lead to either voting with the crowd to avoid criticism or flat out trolling type votes, neither of which is a good result.

This is correct. The trolls will troll regardless of whether they are forcibly publicized, but I don't want Beat Writer X to come in to spring training and be greeted by Star Pitcher Y with "So. Not even on the ballot, huh?"
   9. Random Transaction Generator Posted: November 15, 2012 at 12:04 PM (#4303320)
but I don't want Beat Writer X to come in to spring training and be greeted by Star Pitcher Y with "So. Not even on the ballot, huh?"


But, we have to assume that Beat Writer X had a good reason to leave him off, right? If he does, then he can explain it to Star Pitcher Y. If he doesn't, then I don't mind him being shamed.
   10. The Yankee Clapper Posted: November 15, 2012 at 02:12 PM (#4303409)
If a writer doesn't want to have his/her vote disclosed, he/she can just decline the opportunity to vote, as is already the practice at a number of papers. A small price to pay for perhaps deterring the most indefensible votes.
   11. SoSH U at work Posted: November 15, 2012 at 02:21 PM (#4303416)

But, we have to assume that Beat Writer X had a good reason to leave him off, right? If he does, then he can explain it to Star Pitcher Y. If he doesn't, then I don't mind him being shamed.


The fear is the writer giving an undeserved vote to Hometown Pitcher Y to avoid that wrath when he has to deal with him regularly in the following season (though this highlights what YC notes, that papers really shouldn't allow their guys to be voting on these awards to begin with).

   12. Ron J2 Posted: November 15, 2012 at 02:27 PM (#4303421)
I don't like disclosing the votes.


I feel exactly the opposite. In fact I'd like to make it mandatory that a voter file a story with his vote -- explaining why he voted as he did.
   13. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: November 15, 2012 at 02:34 PM (#4303427)
The fear is the writer giving an undeserved vote to Hometown Pitcher Y to avoid that wrath when he has to deal with him regularly in the following season

If someone is that spineless than he should just not vote. Transparency is always better.
   14. SoSH U at work Posted: November 15, 2012 at 02:41 PM (#4303432)
If someone is that spineless than he should just not vote.


He has to work with these guys on a daily basis at a job that's far more important than his awards voting task. It's not in the best interests of the vote if a guy shades his voting to make his professional life easier.

There's obviously a legitimate argument for transparency. There's also a very sound reason to keep it voluntarily anonymous (as we do with our electoral process).

As a former newspaper guy, my feeling is we should eliminate the conflict altogether, that guys covering the sport shouldn't be involved in the newsmaking end of the sport as well

   15. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: November 15, 2012 at 02:54 PM (#4303445)
He has to work with these guys on a daily basis at a job that's far more important than his awards voting task.

Well, that's fine, then don't vote. People do exist that are willing to actually stand up for themselves and say "You were great Justin, but I though David was a little better last year". To give up transparency to protect writers with weak constitutions is too high a price to pay. We need to identify there idiots who vote Fernando Rodney and shame them.

As a former newspaper guy, my feeling is we should eliminate the conflict altogether, that guys covering the sport shouldn't be involved in the newsmaking end of the sport as well

Well obviously, but who are you going to get? Anyone is going to be victim to the same biases and stupidity we see witnessed annually in the writers award voting. At least the writers are sort of obligated to watch a game now and then and follow the sport.
   16. The Yankee Clapper Posted: November 15, 2012 at 03:01 PM (#4303449)
It's not in the best interests of the vote if a guy shades his voting to make his professional life easier.

Is that any different than shading coverage to make one's professional life easier? The game story/column/analysis is a lot more immediate in its impact than an offseason award vote. If a writer is going to be so easily influenced, anonymity isn't likely to prevent it, but transparency might deter it.
   17. SoSH U at work Posted: November 15, 2012 at 03:03 PM (#4303452)
Well, that's fine, then don't vote. People do exist that are willing to actually stand up for themselves and say "You were great Justin, but I though David was a little better last year". To give up transparency to protect writers with weak constitutions is too high a price to pay. We need to identify there idiots who vote Fernando Rodney and shame them.


Why would you think the weak-constitution guys would choose to give up the vote, rather than give an undeserved vote to the hometown guy? The argument against transparency is not about protecting the writers, but protecting the vote.

Well obviously, but who are you going to get?


I'm speaking from the perpsective of the industry. They shouldn't care who baseball gets.


Is that any different than shading coverage to make one's professional life easier?


That is a concern. It may very well have played a role in the industry's failure on the steroids story.

But yes, there is a difference. Writing about the game is his job. He may face some backlash for something he's written, but that's what he's paid to do.

Voting on an award is inserting yourself into the newsmaking process. THat should generally be avoided.

If a writer is going to be so easily influenced, anonymity isn't likely to prevent it, but transparency might deter it.


That doesn't actually make any sense.

   18. The Yankee Clapper Posted: November 15, 2012 at 03:18 PM (#4303462)
That doesn't actually make any sense.

Sure it does. Why do they make the votes public in virtually all legislative bodies? To cite perhaps the most egregious example, would anyone dare omit a Triple Crown winner from their entire MVP ballot if it was going to be made public? How did anonymity make the process more objective in that case?
   19. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: November 15, 2012 at 03:24 PM (#4303466)
Why would you think the weak-constitution guys would choose to give up the vote, rather than give an undeserved vote to the hometown guy?

Because if they vote straight, they are afraid to walk in the clubhouse next spring. If they shade towards hometown guys, they get a good public flogging. The idea would be that the weak out there would eventually decide it's more trouble than it's worth, or at some point you just remove his vote. You give the guy anonymity, there's no way to ever get rid of him.
   20. SoSH U at work Posted: November 15, 2012 at 03:28 PM (#4303469)
Sure it does. Why do they make the votes public in virtually all legislative bodies? To cite perhaps the most egregious example, would anyone dare omit a Triple Crown winner from their entire MVP ballot if it was going to be made public? How did anonymity make the process more objective in that case?


Why would he omit a triple crown winner from his MVP ballot on an anonymous ballot?

Because if they vote straight, they are afraid to walk in the clubhouse next spring. If they shade towards hometown guys, they get a good public flogging.


They get good public floggings anyway (you're not new here). I'm sure they're used to that.

Like I said, there are pros and cons to both. I'm not saying anonymity is the way to go, just noting that transparency is not without downsides.

Look at it this way, do you think our votes should be public? Do you not see any potential downside to that?

   21. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: November 15, 2012 at 03:53 PM (#4303494)
Look at it this way, do you think our votes should be public? Do you not see any potential downside to that?

There is a potential downside to everything. If you only do things with no downside, then you won't be doing much. It is, of course, balancing the upside and downside which is important.

If votes were public people, might not be so willing to walk into that booth and vote their fears and prejudices quite so freely. If they knew they might be held accountable, they might actually to some research on the down the ballot initiates and such. Of course, a lot of people would probably just skip the headache and not vote at all and turnout is already a problem. Then again, we could shame them for not voting, that would be fun. Arguments on both sides, I would have to think about it some more.
   22. SoSH U at work Posted: November 15, 2012 at 03:56 PM (#4303497)
Of course, a lot of people would probably just skip the headache and not vote at all and turnout is already a problem.


I think the biggest issue is feeling pressure to vote the way someone else wants them to (specifically, an employer).

Transparency is good for accountability. It can also lead to increased influence from outside sources. They go hand in hand.
   23. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: November 15, 2012 at 04:03 PM (#4303505)
Because if they vote straight, they are afraid to walk in the clubhouse next spring. If they shade towards hometown guys, they get a good public flogging. The idea would be that the weak out there would eventually decide it's more trouble than it's worth, or at some point you just remove his vote. You give the guy anonymity, there's no way to ever get rid of him.

But...the only reason the guy is "weak" is that he does not have anonymity. With anonymity he would not be influenced by any of this.
   24. Howie Menckel Posted: November 15, 2012 at 04:21 PM (#4303528)

"Because if they vote straight, they are afraid to walk in the clubhouse next spring."

That would be one helluva weak constitution indeed.

Most athletes - especially baseball players - aren't quite as attuned to the details as you think. A writer can cover a team for an entire season, home and road, and there will be a handful of players who still don't know your name or what paper you write for. They might recognize the incendiary columnist, but they'll even more likely recognize the local stripper with the unique... act.

At most, an agent might get pissy if your honest vote helps cost his guy a bonus. But if he's going to screw you over for that, then he's going to screw you over anyway. A decent agent might actually have greater respect for the writer who stands up on his hind legs.

   25. Walt Davis Posted: November 15, 2012 at 11:58 PM (#4303984)
If transparency will destroy the BBWAA then transparency it is!

EDIT: I assume it's a sunlight-vampires kinda thing.
   26. Darren Posted: November 16, 2012 at 12:19 AM (#4304000)
In what world are we living that we openly debate whether reporters should be protected from being uncomfortable about those who they report on? Oh yeah, this one: USA 2012!
   27. shoewizard Posted: November 19, 2012 at 02:25 AM (#4305775)
Darren

I know a beat reporter or two. For them it's a lot tougher than a National writer. I think you under estimate just how difficult it would be to do their jobs if their access is cut off. I mean, the teams can't block them from the clubhouse or the press box, but nobody will talk to them....or if they do, they won't give them anything. It's very hard to do your job in that type of situation. Like everything in life, it's not black and white, and there are compromises to be made if you are going to get along in this world.

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