Two votes short: who killed Craig Biggio’s Hall of Fame candidacy?

133 Comments

There’s a Bob Dylan song called “Who Killed Davey Moore” about a boxer who died in the ring. It’s a true story, and the song seeks to find the person responsible for Moore’s death. The answer, after several verses, is that many contributed to it, even if no one person was culpable in a criminal sense. That blame is best laid at the feet of many who, however innocent themselves, worked in concert with others, however unwittingly, to allow a tragedy to occur.

Craig Biggio not making the Hall of Fame — missing by just two votes — is, by no stretch of the imagination, as serious as a boxer dying in the ring. But the blame dynamic is the same. You want to blame someone or point a finger but, in reality, many people’s mistakes and ignorance and the simple unfortunate arrangements of rules and incentives worked against him. If I were Llewyn Davis or someone I feel like I could write a similar, albeit far, far worse, song about it than Dylan did about Moore.

Who killed Craig Biggio’s chances at a Hall of Fame induction this year? A year in which he fell two votes short? Take your pick:

  • The one voter, according to the BBWAA website, who submitted a blank ballot has some responsibility. Not submitting a ballot at all doesn’t hurt candidates, as the ballot is not added to the denominator when percentages are figured. But a blank ballot does. Someone out there, in the interests of making a point, made the hurdle for Biggio higher.
  • Ken Gurnick and Murray Chass helped. The former’s “Jack Morris and no one else” ballot and Chass’ belief that everyone besides Morris, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine took roids worked as votes against Biggio too. Obviously, it’s possible that these guys would not have voted for Biggio even if they weren’t tilting at their particular windmills. Maybe they do not think Biggio took PEDs (well, Chass does) and maybe they just think 3,000 hits and everything else Biggio did was not good enough. But I’m guessing, absent the protest, they have a hard time explaining leaving Biggio off his ballot.
  • The novelty voters are fun to look at. Here are some players who received votes: Eric Gagne, J.T. Snow, Armando Benetiz and Jacque Jones. Snow and Gagne got two each! I hope against hope those votes didn’t come from guys who otherwise filled their ballots. The idea that crazy votes like that precluded a the two votes Biggio needed for induction is horrifying.
  • Deadspin? I think their buying a vote for pranking/criticism purposes and allowing their readers to vote was kind of inspired, but I do hope that (a) the Deadspin readers picked Biggio; and (b) the person who sold their vote wouldn’t have voted for him if they did not. UPDATE: WHEW! Deadspin revealed their voter: ESPN and the Miami Herald’s Dan LeBatard. The Deadspin voters did vote for Biggio.
  • The ten-vote limit: this is a bigger thing, of course. There are many voters who filled out ballots, 1-10 but would have but Biggio on it if they had, say, 11 or 15 votes to give. There really is no rational reason for a ten-vote limit, and the fact that there is one does nothing to elevate the Hall of Fame and everything to do harm.

But really, this is a Davey Moore situation. No one wants to screw Craig Biggio, I presume. But the rules, the vendettas, the ignorance that is encouraged and in some cases venerated and many other factors lead us to a situation in which a player who stands head and shoulders above many others already in the Hall of Fame must stand on the outside looking in for at least another year.

It’s not tragic like Davey Moore, but it’s still kinda sad.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.