BBWAA Watchdog is dedicated to exploring the voting records of the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Their general secrecy about their members, their refusal to open their ranks to journalists outside of the print media, and, primarily, their awful voting history for baseball's highest awards, demand that their collective words and deeds be documented and critically examined.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Of Scorekeeping and Controversy

Embedded in an announcement about who will be the umpires for the upcoming All-Star Game in San Francisco was another little tidbit. It seems that two of the three official scorers for this year's game will be members of the BBWAA - Paul Hoynes, president of the BBWAA, and Andrew Baggarly, chairman of the Oakland-San Francisco chapter of the BBWAA.

Does this strike anyone else as a conflict of interest? For some reason, Hall of Fame voters love to note how many All-Star games someone appeared in, blissfully ignoring the fact that All-Star selections are part popularity contest and part mandated beauty pageant where every team has to be represented. As part of this, All-Star game performances are regularly mentioned as part of a player's case for the Hall of Fame, yet here we have the same people who vote on the Hall making determinations about what a player did during one of the key pieces of their Hall of Fame case.

Picture this scenario. Runner on third, two outs, tie game. A player hits a sharp ground ball to the shortstop and it takes a harsh bounce, hitting the shortstop in the glove before bouncing into shallow left field. Runner scores, League X wins the All-Star game, and official scorers decide whether or not the hitter should be glorified with the game-winning hit or the shortstop vilified for the game-losing error.

Now that the All-Star game determines home field advantage in the World Series, such a play can have even more wide-ranging impact. What if the shortstop's team turns out to be champs of their league, but now has to play four of the seven World Series games on the road because their player made that All-Star game error. Suddenly he looks like an even bigger goat, a
Johnny Pesky Held The Ball goat, and he's got a black mark on his career resume for all time. That kind of mark almost certainly will be mentioned by BBWAA members when they explain, years later, why they did or did not vote for the shortstop when he appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Maybe it won't matter. Maybe the shortstop will be one of those throw-ins on the ballot that feels honored just to be listed. But maybe not. Maybe he'll be someone with a real case to be considered for election, who suddenly looks much more like a borderline case because that error will keep getting mentioned, often by people who didn't actually see the play and remember that it could have easily been called a hit.

Same goes for the hitter. Give him a hit, a game-winning hard smash to win the All-Star game and possibly give his own team home field advantage in the World Series, and suddenly he's got a nice little chit come Hall balloting time. If this hitter is remembered as having won the All-Star game, that might tip the balance in his favor for some voters, and an otherwise questionable guy is suddenly an all-time immortal.

This scenario is not some fantasy; it's a genuine possibility. It may be a remote possibility, but it could easily happen, in which case I can't help but wonder why anyone would set up such a possible conflict of interest in the first place.

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