Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The BBWAA Is Nothing But A Bunch Of Slimy Hypocrites

The Baseball Writers Association of America has gone mad with power, appointing itself as the watchdog of ethics in baseball.

It's the ultimate irony of ironies, and this time I'm certain I'm using that word correctly. Apparently, no players who retired in the last twenty years were worthy of enshrinement in baseball's Hall of Fame this year, an incredible fluke when you consider that eras must have dominant players or else everyone would be roughly equal. I've been letting my rage about this fester for a while, as writer after writer openly and brazenly refused to be open to reasoned analysis regarding the Hall of Fame vote, but it finally boiled over today. The BBWAA is nothing but a bunch of slimy hypocrites and they should be ashamed of themselves.

Jonah Keri covered a lot of the media's hypocrisy and double standards in this excellent piece at Grantland, but he doesn't go far enough. Keri writes persuasively about the intellectual inconsistencies that say abusing (equally illegal) amphetamines is not as bad as steroids, the lack of a true standard in the BBWAA rules for election and that many writers so openly will not take the process seriously, but his is a picture of intellectual and ethical ineptitude, not ethical failings. In my estimation, baseball writers have abjectly failed.

Not to get all self-referential, but I mentioned this failing when I wrote about drugs and baseball in comparing the Steroid Era to the sub-prime mortgage boom. In both instances, members of the media had a chance to do their jobs - i.e. tell the real story instead of wantonly clinging to the happier narrative - and they failed to do so. Baseball writers treated McGwire and Sosa like kings, turning a blind eye to what should have been obvious, that both were using technically illegal but untested-for substances to aid their performance. That the steroid use was in plain sight should not matter, although it does make the oversight (I'm being generous) even more egregious. Even if steroid use had not been obvious, uncovering these stories is the job of the media, a job which they abdicated in favor of myth-making.

In so doing, the media lost the moral high ground, but more importantly, they lost track of their job. There really should be no moral calculus beyond simply truth, no moral high ground for media to stand on in the first place. We don't need media members to lecture us about morality. We do need media members to hold people accountable, but not to punish players as Ken Rosenthal seems to think necessary. And yes, you could argue that keeping these players out of the Hall of Fame is retroactively holding them accountable, but the media comes off like Captain Renault in Casablanca. They're shocked, shocked to find there is gambling going on here.

Now that we know the truths of the Steroid Era, that many players the media would normally happily write hagiography and epic poems for were nothing but steroid users,  the media are astonishingly quick to lay blame on the players. Those players were technically cheaters (those we know of, at least), but they were also actors acting their parts, and the parts were assigned by the media.

If only Tom Friedman's cab driver had told him steroids were a problem in baseball.

This moralistic dick-wagging infuriates me, plain and simple. However, I could forgive it (angrily) were the moral inconsistencies at least internally consistent, but it's clear that this is nothing more than a bunch of sportswriters ganging up on athletes who sullied their beautiful game. Just check out the sports-writing awards if you want proof.

The 2010 winner of the AP's Red Smith award for excellence in sports journalism award is Mitch Albom, the same Mitch Albom who once fabricated a Final Four recap and got caught doing it. That's just about a cardinal sin in journalism, but Albom's celebrated because he's popular. Or look at Rick Reilly, the 11-time winner of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association National Sportswriter of the Year. Reilly is nothing more than a hack who has numerous times gotten caught not doing his due diligence and verifying information (thank God for Deadspin). He too is celebrated because he too is popular.  Sounds a hell of a lot like McGwire and Sosa.

The same sportswriters who can't bring themselves to vote for Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire or Roger Clemens, all accused of using steroids but all deserving of enshrinement, or even Jeff Bagwell or Mike Piazza, who were simply muscular and played in the late '90s and are equally deserving, have no problem accepting, nay celebrating laziness and ethical breaches among their own. That's about as boldly hypocritical as you can get.

Shots. Fucking. Fired.

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