Friday, January 4, 2013

Just Get the Call Right

"Get the call right."
-Joe Girardi, following ALCS Game 2

"Fans need to feel good about the fact that we're going to try to get the call right. I think umpires feel like if there's an easy way to do it, they want to be able to get the call right, too. It helps the game, I think. I think it helps the fans...the objective is to get the call right."
-Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.

Both of these statements were made in reference to the expanded use of replay, where the goal is to simply get the call right. If an umpire makes the wrong call, everyone wants him to ask for help. Whether that's getting the opinion of another umpire on the crew, or wider-ranging instant replay, just get the call right.

BBWAA voting member Phil Rogers took this position following the aforementioned ALCS Game 2, where the Yankees found themselves trailing 3-0 instead of 1-0 going into the bottom of the 8th thanks to a blown call where the umpire in question could have asked for help.

I bring this up in reference to a Twitter conversation between myself and former Astros beat writer (and current BBWAA voting member) Jose de Jesus Ortiz, when I tweeted a hunch that Biggio wouldn't get elected into the Hall of Fame at next week's announcement. Ortiz - who covered the Astros from 2001-2009 - replied that he did, in fact, vote for Biggio (full ballot, with explanation, published here).

I then asked if any other voting member of the BBWAA called or emailed him and asked about the suspicions regarding Bagwell or Biggio and the hated Performance Enhancing Drugs. His reply:

No, but I wouldn't expect them to do that. All of the voters have seen enough baseball to form their own opinions.

This is what I simply cannot understand. There are between 575-600 voting members of the BBWAA. From what I can gather, exactly two of them covered the Astros during Bagwell and Biggio's career: Ortiz and Richard Justice. Yet not one single other voting member contacted Ortiz and asked him about whether he thought Bagwell/Biggio were clean. Why? According to Ortiz, "they have seen enough baseball to form their own opinions."

This may be true. But where did they see Bagwell and Biggio? In the 3-to-18 games per season when Houston played whichever team they covered? Or the zero games they covered? Or were the only times they saw Bagwell play baseball was when he was Hittin' Mad Jacks on SportsCenter?

Morgan Ensberg, who played with both on a regular basis from 2002-2006, said on December 26 that he thought Bagwell was clean. I asked Ensberg if anyone had asked him about their suspicions. No voter asked Ensberg for his opinion on the "cleanliness" of either candidate.  I'm still waiting to hear back from Richard Justice to see if any voting member asked his opinion, but I'm going to go out on a thick, well-supported limb and say that they didn't.

If you have suspicions about a player's integrity, character, or any other intangible that the BBWAA tries to make tangible, is it not a journalistic responsibility to try to get to the bottom of your suspicions? No voter asked Jose de Jesus Ortiz and Morgan Ensberg for their opinion. They had already made up their minds, and "facts" would get in the way.

Were I a voting member from Houston trying to decide on Mike Piazza, I would most certainly take 90 seconds to email Tyler Kepner and ask, "Hey, do you think Piazza used PEDs?" or even "Are you voting for Piazza?" If he responds, I would be happy to adjust my vote accordingly. After all, Kepner would know Piazza better than I, because I would have only covered Piazza six times per season.

Why didn't anyone do this? Because it's typical BBWAA. No one can outthink them. No one can tell them that their eyes are wrong. The BBWAA might as well be summed up by our old pal Evan Grant who tweeted the following regarding the AL MVP vote:

For those carping about the BBWAA awards, a quick reminder: They are OUR awards.'s Eric Wilbur had this to say about the BBWAA following the AL MVP vote:

But the whole process showed, yet once again, what is wrong with the hierarchies of the press box. The BBWAA reeks of arrogance and entitlement, dismissing any argument as uneducated, uninformed, or archeological.

Joe Sheehan, yesterday:
The one certainty is that the voters, rather than the players, are now the primary focus of the Hall of Fame process.

Lazy, vindictive, dismissive, ignorant, uninformed, and unwilling to ask for help. Just get the call right.