MLB, Twitter, and 'strongly worded suggestions'

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As a follow-up to my MLB/Twitter report from earlier this week, I’m told that what I called a “ban” on MLB.com writers using their Twitter accounts for non-baseball topics was really more like “a strongly worded suggestion” (that every writer followed, since that’s what happens when your employer makes a strong suggestion). To me that sounds like semantics, but fair enough. My apologies for the overstatement.
As you may recall, however, an MLB spokesperson denied the entire premise of my report and told me they were “mystified” by the mere notion of any changes related to MLB.com writers and Twitter. Which is funny, since all the MLB.com writers received an e-mail memo with the “strongly worded suggestion” and several of them quickly created separate Twitter accounts as a result.
Also amusing given the whole “mystified” thing is that any tweets from MLB.com writers mentioning the Twitter-related changes were deleted yesterday, which seems odd if there’s nothing to the report and the whole thing is false. Anyway, this isn’t exactly an earth-shattering story and I’ll probably give it a rest now, but MLB denying the entire premise of something that’s clearly based in fact has been frustrating and strange.
Apparently the MLB spokesperson didn’t inform Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune that the whole thing was make believe, because he has this report today:

It turns out that the Twitter policy sent to each of the 30 Major League teams applies to non-uniformed personnel only. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he didn’t receive an e-mail that was sent to front office members of every major league team. Sox third baseman Mark Teahen said he was informed of the Sox’s Twitter policy from a member of the Sox’s traveling party but didn’t realize the memo was for non-uniformed personnel only.

Setting aside the silliness of MLB denying the existence of something sent to 30 teams and every MLB.com writer, that news from Gonzalez is very positive in that managers like Ozzie Guillen and players like Mark Teahen aren’t subject to any “bans” or “strongly worded suggestions” or whatever you want to call it. We may have lost the ability to see the MLB.com writers’ personalities in between lineup postings, but at least Denard Span can still use Twitter to complain about umpiring.

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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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.