Madden: the Deadspin Hall of Fame vote-buy is “one of the most despicable things I can ever think of”


The Daily News’ Bill Madden was on Chris Russo’s MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM this afternoon, reacting to Deadspin’s purchase of a Hall of Fame vote from a BBWAA member. Go listen to the segment here. You will not be shocked to learn that Madden is not pleased with this.

Madden started out by saying that whoever sold his or her vote would be “dead in the baseball writers …” which he later clarified to mean drummed out, saying “this person will be forever banished from the Baseball Writers’ Association.” He added that this is “one of the most despicable things I can ever think of.”

All of which is understandable. To be clear: I personally think this is all a riot and could serve to open some people’s eyes about how messed up the Hall of Fame voting is. But the organization itself can’t tolerate this. Indeed, if I were a senior or managing member of the BBWAA I’d be angry too, in that it makes the organization look like a joke. If and when this person is kicked out of the BBWAA it will be well-deserved and a totally valid thing for the BBWAA to do. Take a provocative action and pay the price, you know.

But the desire for someone in the BBWAA to essentially give the organization the finger here is easy to sympathize with when you hear Madden start to get self-righteous about the BBWAA’s role in the Hall of Fame voting.  Madden, when trying to illustrate why it’s so off-base to go after the BBWAA like Deadspin, this voter and other critics are, says “it’s because of the baseball writers — because it’s so hard to get into the Hall of Fame — that’s the reason this is the only Hall of Fame that anyone gives a damn about.”

Me personally? I’d say they give a damn about it because of the baseball stuff. The players inducted, the history it represents and the memorabilia and mementos the institution curates and maintains. The fact that it chronicles and honors a sport with a far richer and far longer history than those other Halls of Fame he mentions do.

But hey, if Madden and other baseball writers believe that it is their gatekeeping which gives the place public legitimacy, well, God bless them. But understand that such an arrogance is exactly why people like Deadspin and this rogue voter are doing what they’re doing. And why, in the Internet age, when people who do not work for newspapers can actually have their voices heard, the folks who are the gatekeepers are getting a lot of blowback.

Congress to pass bill depriving minor leaguers of minimum wage rights

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We saw this coming and wrote about it last weekend, but now it’s official: the new spending bill from Congress contains a gift for Major League and Minor League Baseball in the form of a provision classifying minor leaguers as seasonal workers, exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act. Practically speaking, this means that minor leaguers are not required to be paid minimum wage or have other basic protections to which even part-timers at fast food restaurants are entitled.

The relevant provision — buried on page 1,967 of the 2,232-page spending bill, which will get almost zero time to be read and processed by most people before it’s ultimately passed signed into law by tomorrow — is farcically entitled the “Save America’s Pastime Act.” It exempts from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 people who fit this description:

[A]ny employee employed to play baseball who is compensated pursuant to a contract that provides for a weekly salary for services performed during the league’s championship season (but not on spring training or the off season) at a rate that is not less than a weekly salary equal to the minimum wage under section 6(a) for a workweek of 40 hours, irrespective of the number of hours the employee devotes to baseball related activities.

It may be news to you that the multi-billion baseball industry, run by a few dozen billionaires and billion-dollar businesses, needed to be “saved” in such a fashion. Congress knew though. Maybe because Congress is so benevolent and wise. Or, maybe, because baseball’s lobbying operation spent millions plying Congressmen for this special law to keep it from having to pay workers a living wage.

Based on the response to our past writings on this topic, I suspect most of you won’t care all that much. You either believe that all or most of these players are wealthy via six or seven-figure signing bonuses or will make serious money in the big leagues one day. That’s not true, but many of you believe it. Or, alternatively, maybe you view minor leaguers as a bunch of kids farting around with a hobby until they start their “real life,” so why should they make a living wage?

To the extent you believe that and to the extent this does not bother you, I’d simply suggest that you ask how much money minor league and major league organizations make via the playing and marketing of minor league baseball and how much Major League Baseball benefits by having its training and development system costs legislatively controlled. Ask yourself whether the company that gave you your first entry-level position would’ve loved to have a law allowing it to pay you less than minimum wage and how you would’ve felt if that was the case in your situation. Ask yourself if anyone else would have cared all that much about the job you had when you were 22 and whether that would make a difference to you as you made the equivalent of $5 or $6 an hour for a multi-billion dollar business.

Maybe that still doesn’t sway you. But it doesn’t change the fact that this is a greedy cash grab by baseball which now, thanks to specially-requested government intervention, institutionalizes and legitimizes the exploitation of young men with very little power and even less money. That you may be OK with it doesn’t make it right. In fact, it’s very, very wrong.