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Friday, December 07, 2012

Middle 54: A Humble Proposal Re The Baseball Hall Of Fame’s J.G. Taylor Spink Award

The one where the BBWAA gets a One Chair pulled out from under.

Each year a baseball writer is inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame. That writer is given the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, the highest honor given by baseball writers to baseball writers. The morals clause does not apply, of course. Bill Conlin, a Spink winner and Hall of Fame writer, has been accused by numerous people of being a child molester. He has slithered out of the public eye. The BBWAA’s stance on Conlin, printed here on their own website:

  “Bill Conlin has been a member in good standing of the BBWAA since 1966. The allegations have no bearing on his winning the 2011 J.G. Taylor Spink Award, which was in recognition of his notable career as a baseball writer.”–Jack O’Connell, BBWAA Secretary/Treasurer, December 20, 2011

How about that? A body whose current President, Susan Slusser, has advocated that members do not vote suspected PED users on their ballots due to character issues, will not back down from supporting one of it’s own amid accusations of molesting his niece and, per a former child prostitute, being in a pedophile ring that included Jerry Sandusky. It’s ok to judge a player on character, per the BBWAA, but it is absolutely not a stance they’ll take with a fellow writer.

...If baseball players who were great but had character shortcomings are not deserving of the Baseball Hall of Fame, then I think baseball writers who were bad at their jobs don’t even deserve the opportunity to reach character consideration in their own Hall of Fame cases. I humbly request, then, that that all BBWAA members cast empty ballots for the J.G. Taylor Spink Award over the next couple decades, so we can be sure that no one who was terrible at their journalism job gets into the Hall of Fame, which should only be populated by people who were associated with the game and were truly great at their job.

Repoz Posted: December 07, 2012 at 04:51 PM | 11 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, hof

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   1. bachslunch Posted: December 07, 2012 at 06:10 PM (#4319708)
Each year a baseball writer is inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame. That writer is given the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, the highest honor given by baseball writers to baseball writers.

I was going to comment on this, but the author has since edited the text to correctly say "Each year a baseball writer is given the J.G. Taylor Spink Award during the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, the highest honor given by baseball writers to baseball writers," done so when someone commented at his site to point out the correction. Glad to know some folks actually respond by fixing things when they err.
   2. The District Attorney Posted: December 07, 2012 at 07:00 PM (#4319747)
To be fair, there's a difference between declining to elect someone in the first place, vs. removing someone who was already elected such as Conlin. If it were revealed that a current Hall of Fame player had used PED, I feel quite confident that the person would not get kicked out of the Hall.

(Whether it makes sense to have such a large pre- vs. post-election distinction is another story. But I do think the BBWAA would at least be consistent in upholding that distinction.)
   3. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: December 07, 2012 at 07:13 PM (#4319751)
It's pretty ridiculous to draw any kind of equivalency between child rape and PED use. Or was that already covered in one of the Paterno threads?
   4. clowns to the left of me; STEAGLES to the right Posted: December 07, 2012 at 07:19 PM (#4319754)
It's pretty ridiculous to draw any kind of equivalency between child rape and PED use. Or was that already covered in one of the Paterno threads?
well, i have heard that the ingestion of protein-rich testosterone...

nope. not gonna do it.
   5. themiddle54 Posted: December 07, 2012 at 07:23 PM (#4319757)
Bachslunch, yes, I did edit it, and am embarrassed at my original error.

My point isn't removing Conlin, my point was that the BBWAA will take a hard stance on character issues on players and will not take the same stance when one of it's own does something not just questionable and illegal but horrifyingly awful, harmful to a young human being, and illegal. And that, as such, anyone reading their diatribes on Bonds, Clemens, et al, should keep firmly in the front of their mind that this writer is part of a body of people which is, objectively, hypocritical. All their rancor about the PED users should be ignored. No, not all BBWAA writers fit this bill. However, as an organization, if those right-minded writers who belong are not presenting a strong case--not in their papers but internally among their colleagues--that the BBWAA support of Conlin is appalling and should be stricken, and that their colleagues should be embarrassed to be making character-based cases in their newspapers while defending Conlin publicly on their website, then their silence or lack of resolve in that matter is as much a problem as O'Connell's statement about Conlin, in my admittedly very rigid POV.

My secondary point was that if some players (great at their jobs but lacking a bit in character) are not deserving of being honored, that baseball writers, who throughout the 90s as journalists failed to identify (or identify and report) PED use in baseball, just were not very good at their jobs and are therefore not worthy of an award that is tied in to HOF weekend and a part of the induction ceremonies. If there is a 'no' vote on players from that era, and they will go without acknowledgement in the Hall, I think the JG Taylor Spink award should similarly be vacated for a decade or so, in order to not award journalists for systematically failing at journalism.
   6. SoSH U at work Posted: December 07, 2012 at 07:25 PM (#4319759)
(Whether it makes sense to have such a large pre- vs. post-election distinction is another story. But I do think the BBWAA would at least be consistent in upholding that distinction.)


The BBWAA (or O'Connell, since the rest of the BBWAA scurried from the quote the blogger referenced) had the exact same response to Conlin's revelation as it did to Braun's post-MVP, pre-overturn steroid result. There isn't going to be a revote.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: December 07, 2012 at 08:39 PM (#4319768)
But I do think the BBWAA would at least be consistent in upholding that distinction.)

Well, the BBWAA has no control over throwing people out of the HoF so there'd be nothing for them to be consistent on. As with Braun, we would probably see a handful advocating for removal of the honor, a few saying they should be left in and the vast majority silent.

And of course in either scenario, they have the precedent of OJ still in the football HoF to point to, not to mention Anson and other a-holes in the MLB HoF.
   8. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: December 07, 2012 at 09:49 PM (#4319786)
There is a simple consistency to the Hall of Fame electoral process, even if it can lead to a horrific outcome in cases like Conlin's: Players or writers with known character issues** have a better chance of staying in once elected than they have getting elected in the first place. I doubt if Conlin would be voted in today, and I doubt if a newly outed existing HoF juicer would be booted out tomorrow.

Cases like Conlin's leave a bad taste in one's mouth, but it's a question of timing more than anything else. OTOH if it were up to me I'd give Conlin the boot anyway, due to the nature of his offense, though I'm not sure exactly how that might be accomplished. And if the BALCO case hadn't broken until after Bonds got selected, I wouldn't kick him out after the fact. It'd be just one of those things.

But the point of this column, like many others like it that talk about Ty Cobb's racism and Willie Mays's greenies, is rather transparent: When you want the writers to ignore juicing while casting their votes, use any argument you can think of to try to shame them into admitting them, however dubious the logic. Tactics like this don't usually work.

**as defined by the BBWAA or as universally seen by the entire world, which is not the same thing as being defined by people posting opinions in a blog or on a website.
   9. OCF Posted: December 08, 2012 at 01:33 AM (#4319837)
The BBWAA (or O'Connell, since the rest of the BBWAA scurried from the quote the blogger referenced) had the exact same response to Conlin's revelation as it did to Braun's post-MVP, pre-overturn steroid result. There isn't going to be a revote.

There were no voted MVP-type awards in either league in 1919, so it would be purely hypothetical to ask about this scenario. Suppose Joe Jackson had been voted the 1919 AL MVP. (Yeah, I know, Ruth was better, but you know how these votes go.) What would have happened in 1920 when the story broke?
   10. SoSH U at work Posted: December 08, 2012 at 02:33 AM (#4319847)
There were no voted MVP-type awards in either league in 1919, so it would be purely hypothetical to ask about this scenario. Suppose Joe Jackson had been voted the 1919 AL MVP. (Yeah, I know, Ruth was better, but you know how these votes go.) What would have happened in 1920 when the story broke?


That's a good question. There's obviously a difference between Jackson's crimes and just about anything else, because his was the only one that resulted in permanent banishment from the game. I wouldn't be surprised if the BBWAA of the day did in fact rescind the honor, but I can't say for sure. Still, his records up to that point, including those posted in the series, have never been erased, supporting the idea that the baseball men of the day understood that they can change the future, but not the past.

I'm on record as being unambiguously opposed to trying to revoke history, as I think it's ultimately a fruitless exercise. Nothing can change the fact that the despicable Conlin won the Spink, or that some unsavory characters were inducted into the Hall of Fame, so I don't like attempts to do so. And if some Hall of Famer admits that he gambled during his career, I wouldn't support his removal from Cooperstown (even as I'm steadfastly opposed to Pete ever gaining enshrinement).
   11. bachslunch Posted: December 10, 2012 at 10:09 AM (#4320773)
Bachslunch, yes, I did edit it, and am embarrassed at my original error.

It's all good when the errors are acknowledged and corrected. Everybody makes mistakes. And relatedly, people take positions and then revise them -- I've done this as well.

Admitting and changing an error is fine, and definitely about a million times better than what several sportswriters do, which is stonewall and dig in their heels -- that's where the problems really lie.

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