Dan Le Batard wanted his Baseball Hall of Fame vote to be heard, so he gave it to one of the biggest megaphones in sports -- Deadspin. And then Deadspin gave the vote to its readers, who put together this perfectly respectable ballot: Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, Edgar Martinez, Jeff Bagwell, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Curt Schilling.
So in the end, what did Le Batard hurt? Himself, even if it doesn't take any imagination to envision some in the younger crowd -- meaning, people younger than me -- celebrating his vote as a victory for ironical hipsters and dimwitted bro's. Anarchy, bro. LOL!
But it doesn't take much imagination to envision most of the older crowd -- meaning, people older than me -- hating it. Well I never! Also: Jack Morris.
The older wing of the BBWAA has already voiced its disgust. Former BBWAA president Tracy Ringolsby, who was presented the J.G. Taylor Spink Award during the 2009 Hall of Fame weekend at Cooperstown, wrote on Twitter, "If I had respect for Dan Le Batard I don't anymore." Longtime ESPN commentator (and occasional Le Batard co-host) Tony Kornheiser called it "egotism run amok." From CBSSports.com, Jon Heyman wrote on Twitter, "Shame on the sanctimonious attention seeker who turned his vote over to a website. #sad."
Young and hip will like it. Old and fogey will not. People will be split, because what Le Batard did was open to interpretation. What he did was, in its own way, a work of art. It was unique, creative, fascinating.
Insulting. Pointless. Stupid.
That's my take from outside the ropes as I stare at his art, which I can't see so much as hear, because his vote screams "look at me" -- ironic coming from this guy, right? -- so loudly and desperately that someone might want to send a roll of Ricola to Le Batard's hoarse, I mean house. On his radio show Le Batard said he's troubled by all the attention on him. He said he'd rather the attention be on what someone did, not who that someone was. Spectacularly childlike, but that's what he said.
Before saying more about Le Batard, a quick word about Deadspin. Without it, this never happens -- but part of me salutes Deadspin for doing what Deadspin does. It tweaks the system. Mocks it. Lampoons us, them, you, me, everyone. Deadspin is a mixture of brilliant journalism, cutting satire and teenage hormonalism. I visit that website
two or three one time a day because I love it. I don't love what it did here and wish it hadn't, but Deadspin couldn't do this unless it found someone to betray his own. And it found him at ESPN.
This story has been out there for months, the revelation that somebody in the BBWAA had given his vote to Deadspin. I was hoping it wasn't someone I knew and liked, because what that someone -- what Le Batard -- did was a betrayal of the BBWAA ... and seeing how the BBWAA is built on a foundation of sports writers, it's a betrayal of my business. Are we self-important? Clearly. But having that weakness underlined by someone who makes his money with makeup on his face seems a bit much, even to an attention hound like myself.
Angry? Me? Somewhat, though more at Le Batard's thought process than at Le Batard himself. He is what he is: A self-promoting media superstar who turned his column at the Miami Herald into a local radio show, then a national TV show, and now a national radio show. Maybe he still does the TV show too, but I don't know. I could look it up, but I intend to be absolutely, revoltingly honest.
Like the following:
Am I jealous of Le Batard? Of his stature in my business, absolutely. Of his ability, even more so. Le Batard might be the single most talented person in sports journalism, a five-tool media monster who can write better than almost anyone, report better, talk on the radio better, host a TV show better. He can do all of that because of his fifth tool: He thinks as fast as anyone I've ever known.
Yeah, I know Le Batard. Or knew him. We were at the Herald together from 1995-97. He was in his mid 20s but already a columnist, maybe the best sports columnist in America. I looked up to him, played tennis and basketball with him, had him over to my house to meet my 2-year-old, who Le Batard teasingly said had the biggest head he'd ever seen. Le Batard was, and surely still is, so charismatic.
We didn't stay in touch after I left the Herald in 1997, but had a run-in last year when he read my Dwyane Wade column on the radio in Miami. It stupidly bothered me, so I stupidly attacked him on Twitter. He defended himself. I felt stupid and backed away.
That's our history. Judge it, and this column, however you want.
I judge this vote, what he did, as shortsighted and stupid, shockingly so for someone so intelligent. Le Batard's too smart to believe what he did will effect actual change, which tells me he did it for the attention he'd get. Being "that" guy, the one who raises a middle finger to the dorks in the BBWAA, is a great way to get street cred with the hipsters and bros in our readership, and guess what? This being the Internet age, the hipsters and the bros are the most crucial segment of our readership. They are the Internet's version of the 25-54 age bracket sought by radio and TV. By giving his vote to Deadspin and letting them unveil his identity, Le Batard made like Captain Morgan and painted a red moustache on the BBWAA while hoisting a drink to all the hipsters and bros out there. A toast, to your new Ironic God.
But what did he accomplish? By making a mockery of the BBWAA vote, he told us what we already know. We know it's a mockery. We know the system is bogus, half-past broken, complicated by steroids in the game and varying piousness in the votership.
We already know the BBWAA is, overall, a joke. It has too many members (16) who didn't vote for Greg Maddux, too many older guys who sneer at sabermetrics because they're scared of what they don't understand, too many people casting a vote that is about the voter -- Look at me, I'm going to vote for only Jack Morris! -- instead of the vote itself.
By giving his vote to Deadspin, Le Batard picked the most outrageous way he could to join a protest that has been raging for years. Too important to cast a single, pointless vote at the ballot box like the other schmucks, Le Batard joined the army of picketers outside the BBWAA doors -- but he didn't put on a sandwich board. Instead he took off his clothes, set his hair on fire and ran around naked, screaming something we already know:
The BBWAA vote is broken!
Thanks Dan. We knew that, so what was your goal?
Besides our attention?