Buster Olney is right on the money

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I rip reporters when I think they go off track on the steroids business, most recently with Mark McGwire, so it’s only fair that I point out when someone stone-cold nails it, as Buster Olney did with what he wrote today regarding McGwire (and Tiger Woods):

Why would Tiger Woods need to say he’s sorry out loud? Isn’t that
something that should really be reserved for his family? If Tiger Woods
wanted to bare his soul for the benefit of the public he felt he
betrayed in some way, he’d take all and any questions. If he doesn’t
feel that way … isn’t this whole process all a charade concocted for
the consumption of the media that must be fed? . . .

. . . Mark McGwire has made it clear that he doesn’t feel like his use of
performance-enhancing drugs helped him as a player, and whether we
agree with that or not, this is his stance, which he reiterated
Wednesday. So why would he apologize out loud? Really, it was fairly
evident that his remorse is built in disappointing his father, his son,
Tony La Russa, and others close to him.

But McGwire did his
thing, and now Tiger Woods will follow, in the confessors’ version of
the media perp walk. None of it speaks well of where we are in 2010, in
this business of truth-seeking.

McGwire had to be at least somewhat forthcoming simply because he was asking for a job, and MLB probably wouldn’t have approved of it if he didn’t say something,* but I think he’s said all we can expect of him. But Buster is absolutely right that this ongoing drama, such as it is, is more about the media’s sense of self-entitlement than it is about remorse, real or imagined.

*Woods, on the other hand could easily issue a press release that says “I have made apologies to those who are entitled to them, and will say nothing further about my family or my personal life in public from now on.  I will resume playing golf in the ThusandSuch Invitational this April.  Any questions that aren’t about golf will be ignored. Thanks.” In fact, I hope he does something like that and transforms this into a full-blown pro wrestling-style heel turn. What will people do? He’s Tiger Woods. Golf needs him more than he needs it right now.

Great Moments in Not Understanding The Rules

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Bill Livingston of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is a Hall of Fame voter. In the past he has voted for players who used PEDs, but he’s never been totally happy with it, seeing the whole PED mess as a dilemma for voters.

On the one hand he doesn’t like voting for users and doesn’t like harming those who were clean by shifting votes away from them, but on the other hand, he doesn’t want to pretend history didn’t happen and that baseball hasn’t been filled with cheaters forever. What to do?

This year he decided to abstain altogether. A fair and noble act if one is as conflicted as Livingston happens to be. Except . . . he didn’t actually abstain:

Major league baseball will confer bronzed immortality on a few players Wednesday when the results of the national baseball writers’ balloting for the Hall of Fame will be announced.

I had a 2017 ballot. I returned it signed, but blank, with an explanatory note.

A blank ballot, signed and submitted, is not an abstention. It’s counted as a vote for no one. Each “no” vote increases the denominator in the calculation of whether or not a candidate has received 75% of the vote and has gained induction. An abstention, however, would not. So, in effect, Livingston has voted against all of the players on the ballot, both PED-tainted and clean, even though it appears that that was not his intention.

This is the second time in three years a Cleveland writer has had . . . issues with his Hall of Fame ballot. In the 2014-15 voting period, Paul Hoynes simply lost his ballot. Now Livingston misunderstood how to abstain.

I worry quite often that Ohio is gonna mess up a major election. I guess I’m just worrying about the wrong election.

Hall of Fame voters are making news, not exercising democratic rights

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Associated Press
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Last month the Baseball Writers Association of America voted to make all Hall of Fame ballots public beginning with next year’s vote for the 2018 induction class. In the past 24 hours or so, as this year’s Hall of Fame voting period comes to a close, a lot of folks have been talking about that. Most notably in Jayson Stark’s piece over at ESPN regarding next year’s brave new public world.

Stark is pro-transparency on the ballots, as are the vast majority of BBWAA members who voted on the public ballot measure (it passed 80-9). Not everyone Stark quotes in his article is on board with it, though:

“I’ve already seen a lot of people change their votes from one year to the next,” said one of the strongest dissenters to this decision, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “People have changed their votes based on public opinion.”

Two other sources in the story, Scott Miller of Bleacher Report and a voter who asked to remain anonymous equated their Hall of Fame vote with democracy and invoked the sanctity of the secret ballot. “The No. 1 reason I was against this rule is that in this country, it’s a democracy, and everyone has a vote on different things. And I hate to see a blanket rule that forces everyone to go in one direction,” Miller said. Here’s what the anonymous guy said:

“To me, a secret ballot is a fundamental of democracy. You should be able to vote your conscience without having to explain your vote. But once it’s public, you’re open to public pressure. And that’s not what we want in a democracy. We’re not elected representatives. We’re chosen to be part of a voting group.”

This is ridiculous of course. Voting for the Hall of Fame is not exercising democratic rights. It is making news and making history. Hall of Fame voters are making decisions which will fundamentally alter baseball history and which matter greatly to a large number of baseball fans. They are not advancing their own or society’s interests at the ballot box the way citizens do on election day. Despite the fact that the form of their action here is, technically speaking, a ballot, they are making news in the same way a GM makes a news with a trade, the commissioner makes news with a rule change or a team makes news by winning a World Series.

Would any of these voters — who are credentialed members of the media, by the way, and like to style themselves as truth-seeking members of the Fourth Estate — accept silence from the people who make the news on the beat they cover? Would they be content if the newsmakers whose acts they chronicle demanded anonymity the way they themselves do now? Of course they wouldn’t. And if they got the same silent treatment they’d prefer to give, they’d write one of those petulant little columns they love about players who “duck the press” after a game.

Suck it up, journalists. Act the way you expect the newsmakers you cover to act and own your decisions. Don’t pretend for a moment that you’re not the subject of, and not the reporter of, the story when Hall of Fame season comes around.