Posted by: elsalamigrande | January 10, 2013

Mark Faller’s Hall of Fame Ballot Is A Lot Like His Reporting: Empty

It’s Hall of Fame season, kids! That means things are about to get stupid. So buckle up because Mark Faller, Sports Director of the Arizona Republic, would like you to know that he has submitted a blank Hall of Fame ballot, and here’s why:

With no guidance from either the Hall of Fame or Major League Baseball, no clarity from the courts or Congress, and no soul-baring from the players themselves, it’s up to the 600 or so Hall of Fame voters to be judge and jury for these symbols of baseball’s steroids era.

 The questions are unprecedented. Who was dirty? Who was clean? Who got an advantage from using performance-enhancing drugs and who didn’t?

 In the end, all we have is a ton of circumstancial evidence, a general acknowledgment that it was a dirty time in baseball for a lot of players, but no checklist telling us who juiced and who was clean.

A lesser man might point out that this member of America’s Baseball Writing Elite, and editor of the sports section of a major American Newspaper has misspelt the word “circumstantial”. I prefer to focus on the apparent fact that he has no idea what journalism is.

Mark Faller isn’t the entire problem with this process, but he is emblematic of it and he’s also the first one this season to publish an article outlining his own misunderstanding of his role and responsibility as a member of the fourth estate, so let’s address this.

I don’t know how long Mr. Faller has been covering baseball, but since he’s a tenured member of the BWAA, and he’s the sports director of The Arizona Republic, it’s likely a long time. Presumably, he was covering the game of baseball at the time that many of these players were active. He likely wrote about the McGuire / Sosa home-run chase. If he was practicing in Arizona, it’s a good bet that he wrote about the exciting 2001 Arizona Diaomondbacks’ successful World Series campaign, complete with Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson throwing heat, and Luis Gonzalez slugging 57 HR in the regular season. He may have even been writing about baseball when Jose Canseco was an up and coming surly slugger who looked like he stepped out of a weightlifting gym somewhere, or when that tightly wound ball of explosive, sinewy muscle Lenny Dykstra got in a fist fight with the catcher at home plate. This man, who calls himself a “Sports Director” and presumably has worked as a reporter, saw it all and had better access to it all than any other member of the non-uniformed public who cared about baseball.

Through it all, Mr. Faller didn’t write anything about steroid use in baseball, or potential steroid use in baseball. That’s fair enough. Writers and editors can’t just run speculative garbage that might ruin a player’s reputation, but did anyone even ask? Did anyone do any investigative journalism at all? Especially in the era before the internet and citizen-journalism, the news media is expected to ferret out the truth about whatever it is they’re covering. The gravity and palatability of that truth is supposed to be beside the point, journalists are supposed to cover the story, good bad or ugly.
I can’t find anything with Mr. Faller’s by-line reporting on steroid use, but since the lid was effectively blown off this whole thing by non-journalist and serial pariah Jose Canseco, I think it’s safe to assume that Faller and his ilk were lulled into a dopey, ineffective silence by the exciting fact that their jobs were to write about baseball games, and that’s being charitable! A less charitable assumption would be that they willfully failed to report on widespread steroid use by baseball players, because doing so would either limit their access to clubhouses and games, and could possibly reflect poorly on the baseball industry as a whole, off of which they had a habit of making a living. (What’s that? It’s not right to just assume stuff? Huh.)

In any case, after having lived through and reported on this era (or not reported on it, as the case may be), Mr. Faller’s piece betrays a flagrant misunderstanding of his profession. The garden variety excuse has always been that the writer doesn’t know who was clean and who wasn’t, so they’re not voting. Mr. Faller, though, takes it one step further, and expects there to be some sort of road-map to tell him who cheated and who didn’t! There might have been, and we might have been able to avoid the whole era altogether, had Faller and his colleagues simply done their jobs.


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