As is the talk of the Internet and seemingly all of sports Twitter today, ESPN host and longtime Miami Herald sportswriter Dan Le Batard “sold” his Baseball Hall of Fame vote to Deadspin, a sports website owned by Gawker Media. Le Batard’s reasons for doing so were to call into question the elitism of the Hall of Fame voting process; the ridiculousness of certain voters never voting for someone during his first time on the ballot; the antiquated notion limit of ten individual nominations per vote; and—in his words—to foster “a little anarchy inside the cathedral we’ve made of sports.”
Whether Le Batard and Deadspin were “just” in this supposed buying and selling of a Hall of Fame vote will be debated ad nauseum in the coming days. While I have my own opinion [I am 100% okay with it], I am more interested in the legality of the act itself. As Le Batard himself said, “I’m not sure what kind of trouble this is going to bring me. I imagine I’ll probably have my vote stripped. But I don’t want to be a part of the present climate without reform anyway.” Regardless of whether or not Dan Le Batard wants to even be a party to Hall of Fame voting today given the polarizing status quo of the Cooperstown election process, from a legal perspective I see no reason why Dan Le Batard should be stripped of his voting rights.
Rule 2 of the BBWAA Election Rules provides the following:
2. Electors: Only active and honorary members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, who have been active baseball writers for at least ten (10) years, shall be eligible to vote. They must have been active as baseball writers and members of the Association for a period beginning at least ten (10) years prior to the date of election in which they are voting.
Le Batard is undisputedly an Elector under the plain language of the Election Rules.
Further, Rule 7 of the BBWAA Election Rules provides the following:
7. Time of Election: The duly authorized representatives of the BBWAA shall prepare, date and mail ballots to each elector no later than the 15th day of January in each year in which an election is held. The elector shall sign and return the completed ballot within twenty (20) days. The vote shall then be tabulated by the duly authorized representatives of the BBWAA.
Le Batard appears to have both personally signed and personally returned his ballot.
Article V, Section 6 of the Constitution of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America provides the following:
Section 6: Any officer convicted by the Board of Directors of commercializing his or her office, or any other form of misconduct as defined by the Board, shall be requested to resign that office. Refusal to resign shall evoke declaration of immediate vacancy. (See Article VII, Section 3-B.)
It is important to note that, contrary to popular characterizations, no purchase or sale of Le Batard’s ballot ever took place. Instead of partaking in any such commercialization under Article V, Section 6, Le Batard refused any and all compensation, and simply allowed Deadspin to choose nominees on his behalf. Legally speaking, Deadspin neither acted as Elector nor an agent to Le Batard, acting in the capacity of Elector.
Finally, Rule 9 of the BBWAA Election Rules provides that:
9. Amendments: The Board of Directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. reserves the right to revoke, alter or amend these rules at any time.
Pursuant to Rule 9, if the Board of Directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum does not approve of Le Batard’s actions, they may alter or amend the aforementioned Rules 2 and 7 to forbid an Elector like Le Batard from doing such things as selling votes, utilizing agents to vote on his or her behalf, or—in Le Batard’s case—simply allowing outside influence to control his particular votes. Such an alteration or amendment, however, should not legally punish Le Batard’s conduct after the fact.
In summation, after analyzing the BBWAA Election Rules, as well as the relevant provisions of the Constitution governing the Baseball Writers Association of America, Le Batard did nothing legally wrong in allowing Deadspin to dictate his 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame votes. Consequently, if the Board of Directors attempts to strip Le Batard of his Elector status without providing legal authority absent from the previously cited governing documents, Le Batard could consider fighting such an illegal removal.