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.