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.

Ichiro was happy to see Pete Rose get defensive about his hits record

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 14:  Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Miami Marlins warms-up during batting practice before a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on June 14, 2016 in San Diego, California.   (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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You’ll recall the little controversy last month when Ichiro Suzuki passed Pete Rose’s hit total. Specifically, when Ichiro’s Japanese and American hit total reached Rose’s American total of 4,256 and a lot of people talked about Ichiro being the new “Hit King.” You’ll also recall that Rose himself got snippy about it, wondering if people would now think of him as “the Hit Queen,” which he took to be disrespect.

There’s a profile of Ichiro over at ESPN the Magazine and reporter Marly Rivera asked Ichiro about that. Ichiro’s comments were interesting and quite insightful about how ego and public perception work in the United States:

I was actually happy to see the Hit King get defensive. I kind of felt I was accepted. I heard that about five years ago Pete Rose did an interview, and he said that he wished that I could break that record. Obviously, this time around it was a different vibe. In the 16 years that I have been here, what I’ve noticed is that in America, when people feel like a person is below them, not just in numbers but in general, they will kind of talk you up. But then when you get up to the same level or maybe even higher, they get in attack mode; they are maybe not as supportive. I kind of felt that this time.

There’s a hell of a lot of truth to that. Whatever professional environment you’re in, you’ll see this play out. If you want to know how you’re doing, look at who your enemies and critics are. If they’re senior to you or better-established in your field, you’re probably doing something right. And they’re probably pretty insecure and maybe even a little afraid of you.

The rest of the article is well worth your time. Ichiro seems like a fascinating, insightful and intelligent dude.

There will be no criminal charges arising out of Curt Schilling’s video game debacle

Curt Schilling
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In 2012 Curt Schilling’s video game company, 38 Studios, delivered the fantasy role-playing game it had spent millions of dollars and countless man hours trying to deliver. And then the company folded, leaving both its employees and Rhode Island taxpayers, who underwrote much of the company’s operations via $75 million in loans, holding the bag.

The fallout to 38 Studios’ demise was more than what you see in your average business debacle. Rhode Island accused Schilling and his company of acts tantamount to fraud, claiming that it accepted tax dollars while withholding information about the true state of the company’s finances. Former employees, meanwhile, claimed — quite credibly, according to reports of the matter — that they too were lured to Rhode Island believing that their jobs were far more secure than they were. Many found themselves in extreme states of crisis when Schilling abruptly closed the company’s doors. For his part, Schilling has assailed Rhode Island politicians for using him as a scapegoat and a political punching bag in order to distract the public from their own misdeeds. There seems to be truth to everyone’s claims to some degree.

As a result of all of this, there have been several investigations and lawsuits into 38 Studios’ collapse. In 2012 the feds investigated the company and declined to bring charges. There is currently a civil lawsuit afoot and, alongside it, the State of Rhode Island has investigated for four years to see if anyone could be charged with a crime. Today there was an unexpected press conference in which it was revealed that, no, no one associated with 38 Studios will be charged with anything:

An eight-page explanation of the decision concluded by saying that “the quantity and qualify of the evidence of any criminal activity fell short of what would be necessary to prove any allegation beyond a reasonable doubt and as such the Rules of Professional Conduct precluded even offering a criminal charge for grand jury consideration.”

Schilling will likely crow about this on his various social media platforms, claiming it totally vindicates him. But, as he is a close watcher of any and all events related to Hillary Clinton, he no doubt knows that a long investigation resulting in a declination to file charges due to lack of evidence is not the same thing as a vindication. Bad judgment and poor management are still bad things, even if they’re not criminal matters.

Someone let me know if Schilling’s head explodes if and when someone points that out to him.