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.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.