I was not inclined to comment on this whole mess, but I think at this point it’s probably a good idea to set a few things straight.
First and foremost is that yes, I do attend MLB games on a regular basis. I couldn’t do my playoff advance reports without actually going to see the teams play live; on the season’s final Saturday, I hopped in the car and drove from Boston to Philly because I hadn’t seen the Phillies play and wanted to get at least two games with them before writing them up. I’m not even sure why this was in question, since I mention being at games all the time. (Seriously, did they think that I sat at home and pointed the radar gun at the television?) I watch games from the scouts’ section, not the press box, because the view is better, and I usually eat before going to the park, not in the press dining room, because the food is better.
Second, Bob Dutton, the president of the BBWAA, has said this:
Some board members informally contacted folks at ESPN with this question and were told neither Rob nor Keith regularly attend big-league games and do not need to do so in order to do their jobs.
To the best of my knowledge, this isn’t accurate. Jack O’Connell, the secretary of the BBWAA, has my full contact info (including cell phone #), and he has the contact info for the ESPN.com baseball editor, who submitted the list of nine names. Neither Jack nor anyone else on the seven-member committee contacted me or the baseball editor to ask if I attended big-league games regularly. We were also both in Nashville in the hotel at the time of the meeting, but again, we weren’t contacted. In fact, we can’t figure out who the board members “informally contacted” at ESPN, because there was no one else with the authority to speak about Rob and myself. I have expressed this concern to Bob, although I won’t reprint any of his private responses to me here.
There are various statements out there on blogs and in blog comments (by the way, thank you all for your support) saying that ESPN somehow told the BBWAA that I didn’t need to be a member. This is false.
Third, the rank-and-file were presented with a binary choice on the motion to admit these Internet writers: Yay, which admitted the 16 who got in and rejected Rob and myself; or nay, which would have admitted no one. There was a little floor debate, but the names could not be unbundled, and I was told by more than one member that they felt there was “no room for discussion.” Given that scenario, I would have voted “yay” as well. Better to get Gammons and Stark and Verducci and Passan and the others in than to get none in at all.
I only know two members of the committee: Dutton, whom I just met for the first time after the vote and who seems for all the world like a great guy; and Bob Elliott, whom I’ve known since 2002 and whom I respect as a person and a writer. I do sort of know Tracy Ringolsby, who isn’t about to nominate me for the Spink Award, but I’d like to give him the credit to think that his personal feelings about me didn’t affect his professional judgment here. I’m told he also voted against the general proposal to admit the 16 who did get in, so this is probably as much about the Interwebs as is it about me. I’ve only exchanged emails with O’Connell and with Phil Rogers (the latter exchange coming years ago), and have never had any interaction with Paul Hoynes or David O’Brien. I’m not sure if any of them would recognize me if they saw me at a ballpark or at the winter meetings or anywhere. Would it have helped if anyone on the committee besides Bob Elliott was more familiar with how I go about doing my job? Perhaps. (NOTE: Ringolsby disputes the accuracy of parts of the preceding paragraph. His objections are in the comments below.)
Either way, I’ve been encouraged by a steady stream of positive comments (support, sympathy, righteous indignation) from the BBWAA’s rank and file to reapply next year. It has now been brought to their attention that I do attend games regularly, and I’ll be going to more games next year anyway. Bob Dutton explained to me that this was the obstacle, and he was one of those encouraging me to reapply. So while I appreciate all of your support, the best course of action for all of us is to just wait until next year. Thanks.