The BBWAA Vice President did essentially the same thing Dan LeBatard did. Why was he not punished?

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Go read USA Today’s FTW today, which details how BBWAA Vice President Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle has routinely crowd-sourced his Hall of Fame voting — which is essentially what LeBatard got suspended for — and has never received any sanction for it. Here’s an example of Ortiz’s means of filling it out.

I’m sure the BBWAA will try to make a distinction here, but look at what they specifically sanctioned LeBatard for:

The BBWAA Board of Directors has decided to remove Dan Le Batard’s membership for one year, for transferring his Hall of Fame ballot to an entity that has not earned voting status.

They’ll hang it all on the word “transferring” and claim that Ortiz merely sought “the help and guidance” of fans and others who had not “earned voting status.” Never mind that LeBatard has said since yesterday that he retained the option of vetoing the Deadspin reader choices if they were stupid. Maybe that was a self-serving, after-the-fact kind of thing, but as we’ve also noted, the BBWAA did not conduct any hearing about it, so they can’t know for sure.

If what LeBatard is saying is true, he did nothing functionally different than Ortiz did: he threw his vote open to fans, sought their “help and guidance” and then submitted a vote under his signature. A vote that was still counted as valid by the BBWAA this year, so it obviously wasn’t considered facially faulty.*

What we’re left with is LeBatard’s motive being punished, not his act. Not his actual vote. Which is kind of odd given that so many voters have admitted to having ulterior or even destructive motives in mind when they cast their votes, yet never receive sanction. Actually, they receive praise and often vehement defense.

So again, I go back to what I said yesterday: I believe the BBWAA’s sanction of LeBatard is emotionally-driven, with said emotion being stoked by the involvement of Deadspin and the negative publicity that attended it. That’s why it came so swiftly. That’s why it was considered differently than what Ortiz and others routinely do, even though it was functionally identical.

*This part is really getting me right now. The BBWAA knew beforehand that one of the votes would be “sold” or “transferred” or whatever. They now say doing so breaks their rules. Yet they count the vote? If the vote itself violates rules and — more importantly — came from people who don’t have voting privileges — why not throw it out? Some people may say they can’t go back after the announcement, but that’s silly. They can do what they want.

Thought experiment: Someone looks at all the photos of ballots writers have tweeted and faxes in a phony one (heck, we have the fax number too), forging a voter’s signature. The BBWAA finds out about it a day later. Of course they’ll take that vote out, right? They should! It’s an invalid vote from a person without voting rights. Just like LeBatard’s is, per the terms of his suspension. It’s crazy to me that they aren’t axing his vote if, as they say, it comes from a non-qualified voter.

Note: don’t forge a vote and fax it in to the BBWAA, kids. That’s probably wire fraud and you’ll go to jail. Don’t be an idiot. Even if such idiocy helps us in thought experiments.

The Braves are leaning toward keeping Brian Snitker as manager

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Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported over the weekend that the Braves are leaning toward keeping Brian Snitker as manager. Part of that comes after team meetings between Snitker and top brass. Some of it, however, is likely attributable to player sentiment, with Bob Nightengale of USA Today reporting this morning that Freddie Freeman and several Braves players have told the Braves front office that they want Snitker back.

Is it a good idea to bring Snitker back? Eh, I’m leaning no, with the caveat that it probably doesn’t make a huge difference in the short term.

The “no” is based mostly on the fact that Snitker has had a disturbing trend of preferring veterans over young players, as Bradley explains in detail here. For a brief moment this summer the Braves seemed surprisingly competitive. Not truly competitive if anyone was being honest, but they were hovering around .500 and were arguably in the wild card race. Around that time he made a number of questionable decisions that favored marginal and/or injured veterans over some young players who will be a part of the next truly competitive Braves team, likely messing with their confidence and possibly messing with their development.

These moves were not damaging, ultimately, to the 2017 Braves on the field — they were going to be under .500 regardless — but it was the sort of short-term thinking that a manager for a rebuilding team should not be employing. Part of the blame for this, by the way, can be put on the front office, who only gave Snitker a one-year contract when they made him the permanent manager last year, creating an incentive for him to win in 2017 rather than manage the club the way a guy who knows when the team will truly be competitive should manage it. Then again, if Snitker was so great a candidate in the front office’s mind, why did they only give him a one-year contract?

I suspect a lot of it has to do with loyalty. Snitker has been an admirable Braves company man for decades, and that was certainly worthy of respect by the club. That he got the gig was likewise due in part to the players liking him — the veteran players — and they now are weighing in with their support once again. At some point, however, loyalty and respect of veterans has to take a back seat to a determination of who is the best person to bring the team from rebuilding to competitiveness, and Snitker has not made the case why he is that man.

Earlier, of course, I said it probably doesn’t matter all that much if they do, in fact, bring Snitker back. I say this because he will, in all likelihood, be given a short leash again, probably in the form of a one-year extension. It would not surprise me at all if, in the extraordinarily likely event the Braves look to be outclassed in the division by the Nationals again in 2018, they made a managerial switch midseason, as they did in 2016. If that is, indeed, the plan, it seems like the front office is almost planning on losing again in 2018 and using the future firing of Snitker as a time-buying exercise. Not that I’m cynical or anything.

Either way, I don’t think Snitker is the right guy for the job. Seems, though, that he’ll get at least an offseason and a couple of months to prove me wrong.

Bruce Maxwell on anthem protest: “If it ends up driving me out of baseball, then so be it”

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For the second straight day, Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell took a knee during the national anthem before the A’s game against the Texas Rangers. Afterward, he said he did not care what the repercussions might be:

“If it ends up driving me out of baseball, then so be it. This is bigger than a monetary standpoint, this is bigger than the uniform I put on every day. This is about the people in this country and we all deserve to be treated equally. That’s the whole purpose of us taking a knee during the national anthem.”

And make no mistake, there will be repercussions of one kind or another. The immediate ones are pretty predictable: Maxwell says he has received threats since his first protest on Saturday night, including racial epithets and warnings “to watch [his] back.” These came via the Internet and Maxwell has brushed it off as the act of “keyboard warriors.”

The more interesting question will be whether there will be career repercussions. He has received support from the A’s, but even the supportive comments come with at least a hint of foreboding. Here’s his manager, Bob Melvin:

“It does take a lot of courage because you know that now the potential of the crosshairs are on you and for a guy who’s not as established, I’m sure, and I’m not speaking for him, but I’m sure there were some feelings for him that there was some risk. I do know that he felt better about it afterwards because there’s a lot of uncertainty when you take that type of step.”

I don’t feel like Melvin is referring to the threats exclusively, there, given the reference to Maxwell not being “as established.” That’s a phrase used exclusively to refer to a player’s standing within the game. As long as Melvin is the A’s manager and Maxwell plays for him, sure, it may very well be the case that only Maxwell’s ability as a player will impact his future. But Melvin seems to be acknowledging here — correctly — that this act of non-conformity on Maxwell’s part could be career limiting. Heck, his teammate, Mark Canha, voices concern over the fact that he merely put his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder in support. He’s worried that that might be seen as bad for him.

And if you don’t read that into Melvin or Canha’s words, fine. Because it’s very clear based on the words of others around the league that Maxwell’s sort of protest might be considered . . . problematic. From the story that Ashley linked yesterday, let’s focus again on the words of Pirates GM Neal Huntington:

“We appreciate our players’ desire and ability to express their opinions respectfully and when done properly,” GM Huntington told Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When done appropriately and properly, we certainly have respect for our players’ ability to voice their opinion.”

Does that sound like a man who is going to judge a player based solely on his baseball contributions? Heck no it doesn’t. How about if Maxwell lands on the Dodgers?

Make no mistake: Matthews is taking a risk with his protest. There are a number of teams — likely more than will admit it publicly — who will hold this against him as they evaluate him as a player.

You can react to this in a couple of ways, I figure. You could nod your head like a sage, adopt the tone of some inside-baseball guy and say “Well, of course! There are consequences for one’s behavior and only those who are naive don’t believe that.” If you do, of course, you’re ignoring the fact that Maxwell has already acknowledged that himself in the quote that appears in the very headline of this story.

Another option: acknowledge his bravery. Acknowledge that he knows damn well that, especially in baseball, that this kind of thing is far more likely to harm his career than help it. If you acknowledge that, you have no choice but to then ask why Maxwell nonetheless continues to protest. Why this is so important to him despite the risks.

That’s when your reacting and your second-guessing should stop and your listening should begin.