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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.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Laying Down the Law

You have to love a good old-fashioned double standard when it crops up.

Yesterday,
the Yankees revoked the press credentials of Hiroki Homma of The Fuji Evening News because he broke a rule that forbids members of the media from seeking autographs from players when he asked Roger Clemens to sign a copy of a photograph his newspaper had taken during Clemens' 350th win. This is a league rule, and it's clearly posted in major league clubhouses, sometimes even in Japanese given the influx of reporters from that country. It should be noted that it wasn't Clemens who had a problem with the reporter; he actually signed the autograph. But a clubhouse attendant noticed and informed the Yankees, who, following their own team policy and league guidelines written into the rule, revoked Homma's credentials for the season. They had every right to do so, and I have no problem with that.

In an official statement, the Yankees, Homma, and his newspaper have all agreed it was an innocent mistake, one arising from the different cultures involved. In Japan, apparently, reporters often seek autographs from players, and frequently go to dinner with them as well. Homma has acknowledged his mistake and apologized profusely while accepting his punishment, which will have little practical impact on him since the club can grant him game-by-game media rights in lieu of his standing press credential, and have indicated that they intend to do so.

You'd think that would be the end of the matter, but it isn't. Not satisfied to let that punishment stand, the BBWAA decided to strip Homma of his membership, his breech of journalistic ethics being so extreme, apparently, that he is no longer welcome in that organization. He can't apply for reinstatement until next year.

Now, remember that the BBWAA has members who have profited from
co-authoring players' autobiographies. As a voting body they make decisions on the MVP and Cy Young awards knowing that the players involved directly profit from the results through contract bonus clauses. They have members who accept the contributions of time and memorabilia from players for pet charitable causes (see Peter Gammons' "Hot Stove Cool Music" events).

They have members who have publicly refused to comply with baseball's rule for voting for the MVP, as
LaVelle Neal Jr. admitted when he refused to put Pedro Martinez anywhere on his ballot in 1999 on the grounds that he didn't feel pitchers should be eligible. They are, and baseball's rules clearly state they are, but Neal decided his judgement was better than baseball's and publicly said so.

They have voting members for the Hall of Fame who haven't worked as baseball reporters for years, but they continue to hold their voting rights because apparently these guys are deemed to be experts on evaluating a player's place in baseball history even long after they've stopped, you know, watching baseball games.

There are members of the BBWAA who have been
arrested for drunk driving. They have members who have been suspended by their employers for saying things like "she needs someone to smack her" (about a woman who was already a victim of domestic abuse).

None of these guys had their BBWAA membership yanked. Apparently, none of those infractions were considered to be too terrible by the BBWAA, but a guy mistakenly thinks it's okay to get an autograph and suddenly all hell breaks loose. Am I supposed to believe, after all of the BBWAA's winks and nods at the behavior of other members, that this is their standard for unacceptable ethics?

Give me a break.

2 comments:

小弟姓黑名貓 said...

I don't understand how is this an issue. Rules are rules. If you break them, you are going to suffer the consequences. Otherwise what's the point for setting those rule?

I agree with you that people should not have the right to vote HOF if they haven't worked as baseball reporters for years. But drink driving is an offense that is irrelevant to one's professionalism because this wasn't happen in workplace.

Maybe Hiroki Homma is a nice guy. However, he has breached the rules. Therefore it is fair to kick him out of BBWAA.

Paul White said...

As I said in the post, I don't have any problem with Homma being disciplined for what he did. He broke the rules, acted unprofessionally and deserved the punishment he got. On that I agree with you.

What I have a problem with is the BBWAA choosing a rule as meaningless as autograph-seeking to enforce when they've refused to get tough on far worse offenses.

Isn't it a far greater breach of professionalism to be suspended by your own newspaper for publicly making comments about beating up women? Isn't it more unprofessional to make money from writing books with current players? Or openly flaunting the rules for Hall of Fame elections or award voting? There have been numerous cases where BBWAA members demonstrated far more unprofessional behavior than Hiroki Homma just demonstrated, with no action taken against them by the BBWAA. For that organization to act now makes them look both petty and duplicitous.