Others look at the ballot and appreciate the fact that it's a nearly flawless ballot.
In a way, both sides are. LeBatard made a mockery of the system, and that's exactly what he is supposedly fighting against. That having been said, the ballot that was eventually submitted in his name is a great ballot. It makes a lot of sense, and it includes ten worthy Hall of Fame candidates, including the three who were actually inducted.
Did LeBatard NEED to do this to make his point? Of course not. He has a national radio show, a national television show, a column in one of the most well-respected newspapers in the country, and a job with ESPN, the premier sports media network in the world. He has as big a voice as anyone, and he could have used any of those media to get his point across.
That having been said, perhaps the Deadspin stunt needed to happen. And LeBatard wasn't even Deadspin's first choice. He merely offered to be their backup in case their first option fell through, and that's exactly what happened.
Some are suggesting that LeBatard turning in his ballot and revoking his own right to vote would have been a bigger and better statement. But aside from losing his vote in the future, what would have have accomplished?
Should people really be outraged by this? After all, we've seen people like Ken Gurnick submit ballots with ONLY one player on it, who wasn't the best player eligible at his position by any standard imaginable. We saw 15 other people submit ballots without Greg Maddux on them, despite the fact that he's arguably the greatest pitcher of his generation, without even the slightest suspicion of PED use.
MLB.com correspondent Richard Justice took to Twitter to point out his perspective on the LeBatard fiasco, and why people are overreacting:
BBWAA hot about LeBatard shining light on an issue. Apparently okay with dozens of idiots still voting.— Richard Justice (@richardjustice) January 9, 2014
What about spts editors and columnists and Olympic writers who spend 3 minutes on their ballots? We should not give anyone a lifetime vote.— Richard Justice (@richardjustice) January 9, 2014
We had a guy in Houston ask for fan help in filling out his HOF ballot. He still votes.— Richard Justice (@richardjustice) January 9, 2014
We had a guy in Houston who voted for Jim Deshaies so he could write a column about it. He still votes.— Richard Justice (@richardjustice) January 9, 2014
In Houston, we give BBWAA cards to guys from miles away who cover baseball almost as a hobby. Yeah, let's make it about LeBatard.— Richard Justice (@richardjustice) January 9, 2014
Houston BBWAA voted to give one guy the "Nice Guy" award. Only later did someone point out the voters hadn't actually been in the clubhouse— Richard Justice (@richardjustice) January 9, 2014
Justice points out several situations that are absolutely laughable, yet those people still have Hall of Fame votes. Those are the people who vote for the most hallowed Hall of Fame in all of sports. They have the voice. Were LeBatard's actions really that deplorable, in comparison? The result was still a ballot formed on well-educated opinions.
Also, what's the Hall of Fame about? Is it a shrine to the players? Is it a place for writers to make a point about their favorite players? Why isn't it about the fans? After all, it's the fans who will travel to Cooperstown to view the plaques and exhibits. It's the fans who cheered on these players during their careers.
There's nothing wrong with giving the fans a voice in the process. In fact, maybe that's what SHOULD happen.
Speaking of which, here are a few suggestions that I have to improve the Hall of Fame voting process:
1. Publicize ballots - This is, in my opinion, the single most important thing that MUST happen. As bad as Ken Gurnick's ballot was, at least he publicized it. Unlike the other 15 clowns who didn't vote for Maddux, he at least had the intestinal fortitude to publicly announce his ballot. Perhaps he was forced to do it by his employer, but at least he made it public.
2. Eliminate extreme outliers - It's one thing if a player gets 20% of the votes. Or even 90%. But when you've got one person casting a vote for someone like Armando Benitez, it's clear that they have no respect for their duties or the process in general. Eliminate these voters, as it's clear that they don't deserve the opportunity that they've been given.
3. Change voter qualifications - There are many people who currently vote, who have no business voting. As Justice pointed out, they don't cover baseball anymore, and haven't done so for years. So why are they voting? Voters should be reviewed every few years to make sure they're still focused on baseball, and are still qualified to vote. On the flip side, there are people like Brian Kenny, Vin Scully, Bob Costas, Bill James, Jay Jaffe and many others who have covered baseball and been around baseball for years, yet have no voice. Why not? Are they less qualified than BBWAA members? Of course not.
4. Alter/clarify Hall of Fame qualifications - This mostly applies to the "morality clause," in which the Hall of Fame charter notes that "integrity, sportsmanship and character" are part of the HOF qualifications. This is what is now being used to exclude players who may or may not have taken performance enhancing drugs. We conveniently forget that the Hall of Fame includes racists, wife-beaters, adulterers, illicit drug users, alcoholics and many other men of less-than-stellar repute. In some cases, their athletic ability outweighed their moral shortcomings enough so that their induction was still considered permissible. Yet with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, arguably the greatest hitter and power pitcher of all time, we can't overlook the suspicion of PED use in an era in which much of the league's elite players were suspected of the same thing? That's preposterous. The issue is only magnified by the fact that the various HOF voters have different standards of this particular clause, and it muddies the waters for the next few decades.
The Hall of Fame voting is a joke. It has been, for years. Joe Posnanski wrote an excellent piece summing up the various intricacies of this year's process, and it's fascinating that we have so many differing opinions about something that is such a huge part of baseball history.
No matter what happens, SOMETHING must happen. And hopefully, it will happen soon. The process is broken. Let's fix it.