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Time to put an end to sportswriters voting for Hall of Fames, other awards

My latest column for the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana University also is an annual ritual for me: Sportswriters need to get out of the business of participating in Hall of Fame votes and for other awards.

Today, the big story in sports will be who gets voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The same people who will write that story will have determined the outcome: The sportswriters. As a result, they cross the line and become a big part of the story today.

Here’s why I feel it isn’t right.

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You may not have noticed, but the recent weeks have revealed an annual winter ritual for baseball writers. Throughout the country, writers have disclosed their ballots for the upcoming Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2014.

Dan Shaugnessy of the Boston Globe wrote about his choices. He still isn’t voting for Barry Bonds. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post went the other way, giving yes votes to Bonds and fellow steroid cheat Roger Clemens.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports wrote about his selections, while the Chicago Tribune, where I work as a contributor, dedicated an entire page of the Sunday paper to allow its five voters to explain their ballots. ESPN.com did the same with its 17 voters.

It all leads up to Wednesday’s official announcement of who will be going to Cooperstown. Unlike last year, when the New York Times sports front used a blank page as a commentary to illustrate how no candidates got in thanks to the residue of the steroid era, two, maybe three or four players figure to be enshrined this year.

As has been the custom, voters eligible from the Baseball Writers Association of America, will again be the gatekeepers in determining who gets through the Hall of Fame’s front door.

Thus, my annual column on how sports journalists shouldn’t be voting for Hall of Fames, and awards such as the Heisman Trophy. Once again, my argument falls under a basic rule of the business: Journalists don’t make news; they report the news.

The writers will be making the news Wednesday. It will be their votes that will be dissected and critiqued. They will be writing stories in which they had a direct impact on the outcome. In many cases, they will be quoted in other stories asking to explain their votes.

An editor wouldn’t allow a court reporter to be on a jury and then write about the case, right? Isn’t this the same scenario? I respect the political reporters who decide not to vote in elections so they can maintain an appearance of objectivity.

 

Ultimately, the writers’ votes not only will be granting baseball immortality to the players selected, they also will be increasing the financial bottom line for the new Hall of Famers. The inductees will be in far more demand to make appearances where they can place “HOF, 2014” after their signatures.

That in itself is a huge conflict of interest. However, the issue now goes deeper.

Thanks to the cheaters, the Hall of Fame voters now are the ultimate judges over the legacy of the steroid era. They will determine whether players like Bonds, Clemens, Sammy Sosa ever get an invitation to Cooperstown. Judging by the initial returns, the answer appears to be an emphatic no.

I’m not comfortable with the writers having so much power here, which puts an even greater spotlight on their selections. The stakes in this exercise have gone much higher.

Ken Gurnick of MLB.com made news yesterday when he disclosed he only voted for Jack Morris. He said he won’t vote for any players who played in the PED era, including Greg Maddux, who never was accused of taking anything.

Sorry, but I have a problem with Gurnick suddenly becoming the story here. It’s not right.

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Here’s the link to read the entire column.

 

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