Dan LeBatard

The vilification of Dan LeBatard is well underway

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Yesterday Deadspin revealed that Dan LeBatard of ESPN and the Miami Herald was the voter who turned his ballot over to Deadspin readers and cast it pursuant to their collective vote. He didn’t accept any money for it but, ever since Deadspin revealed it obtained a writer’s vote a couple of months ago, the person who gave it up has been the BBWAA’s public enemy number one. Maybe even in his own mind, as LeBatard himself went on the Dan Patrick show saying that he now regrets what he did.

Contrite or not, since yesterday the knives have been out for LeBatard. A small sampling:

A longer take came from Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, who took great issue with LeBatard. But, interestingly, seems like he would have been OK if LeBatard had asked ESPN readers to fill out his ballot instead of Deadspin readers:

People are missing the point about my ESPN vs. Deadspin argument. I’m just saying that LeBatard could have made his point better and had a much greater impact had he written a column or ESPN.com that said, “I think the process is broken and I believe you fans can create a better ballot than most of these hacks. So here’s a ballot. Each of you fill it out, and whoever gets 75 percent, I’ll check on my ballot and send it in.” Few could have criticized him for that, and since he could have said that weeks ago, he could have directed a lot of attention to his cause. Instead, LeBatard was effectively saying, “The BBWAA sucks, so I’m going to hand over my ballot to a website that also thinks the BBWAA sucks so I can make my point.” And oh, by the way, Biggio got only 3.3 percentage points more on the Deadspin ballot than the BBWAA ballot. And you know what? Maddux wasn’t unanimous on their ballot either.

I understand the generalized discomfort with what LeBetard did. It was played up by Deadspin as a scam in certain respects — “look at us, we bought a vote!” — and that set off a lot of alarm buzzers. And of course, Deadspin said right up front that the idea was to, more or less, mock the process.

But in practice, this was no different than a writer allowing readers to inform his voting which many voters have done in the past. No, he didn’t say anything about it beforehand, and no, his protest, such as it was, was not as effective as if he had longly and loudly argued the grounds of it before the vote, but the end product — a fan vote and a very good ballot as far as these things go, with no payment or other ethical lapse — seems pretty harmless. But it’s not being viewed as such by the voters themselves. I predict LeBatard  will have his BBWAA membership revoked as a result and I expect he will be treated as persona non grata for a long long time.

But a question: does this play out different if a website other than Deadspin is involved? If it’s ESPN, as Shulman suggests, or FanGraphs or Baseball Prospectus or Baseball America, does it draw this level of ire? I seriously doubt it. I believe that Deadspin is the reason so many voters are pissed off at LeBatard. A great deal of the establishment press hates Deadspin and its product. Views Deadspin as pranksters at best, Everything That is Wrong With Journalism at worst. And many use Deadspin as a placeholder for all online media, and many of these guys feel threatened by online media in a general sense anyway.  At least when they forget that they work in online media themselves:

I dunno. LeBatard is a BBWAA member and any club has a right to police its membership, so if and when they bring the hammer down on him it’s not like we can say much. But I wonder why his particular protest is any more odious than the silly, look-at-me votes of Ken Gurnick, Murray Chass and many others in their ranks. Voters who, the BBWAA membership has told me quite loudly in the past week, are entitled to their opinions however silly and that we should — no, we must — respect them lest we be considered bullies or jerks or people of intemperate tone. I guess that doesn’t apply to LeBetard. He can be called a clown and a fraud until the cows come home.

He wouldn’t be, I’m guessing, if it wasn’t Deadspin involved. Even if the fact of Deadspin’s involvement was effectively no different than any other website’s would have been. And even if this particular protest was way less harmful to the actual voting results than the protests of the Ken Gurnicks and Murrays Chass of the world.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.