Tuesday, April 28, 2009

AJC Sports Editor Ramos departs, was against BBWAA awards voting

  • With news of Sports Editor Ronnie Ramos leaving the AJC for a post at the NCAA, I looked to see who his successor might be. Haven't found out yet, but I remembered Mr Ramos' prevented his writers from voting on BBWAA post season league awards. I believe they could still vote for HOF. A 2005 article described Ramos' views and outcomes:
(Westhoff, Riverfront Times): "Every year baseball scribes representing the Baseball Writers' Association of America cast ballots for four prestigious awards: the MVP, the Cy Young Award (limited to pitchers), Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year. In each of baseball's twenty-five big-league markets, eight votes are distributed, two per award.
  • Their choices are critical to players' and managers' livelihoods.

Besides triggering contract-clause bonuses that can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, BBWAA honors are potentially worth millions come salary-negotiation time,

Theoretically, "homerism" is a moot point in the awards process: Every home team-favoring baseball writer has a counterpart in the "rival" city. But in recent years, increasing numbers of writers have opted not to participate,

  • potentially skewing the results.

This year, for instance, sports editor Ronnie Ramos told his writers at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution they were not allowed to cast votes.

  • Atlanta Braves center fielder Andruw Jones finished second in the balloting, with thirteen first-place tallies, seventeen second-place nods and two for third place.
  • Pujols earned eighteen first-place votes and fourteen votes for second. (Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee accounted for the rest of the 32 votes.)

"Everybody's writing these stories about how the AJC is gonna cost Andruw Jones the MVP," Ramos said last week.

"Their expertise is to be used to put stories in the paper and gather news, not make it," Ramos says of his writers, adding that he doesn't permit them to vote for awards in any sport.

"You put reporters in a no-win situation," Ramos goes on. "They're expected to vote for Andruw Jones, and if they don't they're sort of going against the local team. Why should it be that two people in St. Louis vote, and the expectation is that they're going to vote for Pujols? That cheapens the entire existence of the award."

Though the pool of writers has been shrinking for years, the Journal-Constitution's withdrawal was particularly problematic because it

  • The Journal-Constitution's MVP vote went to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, based in Philadelphia.
  • Stark put Pujols at the top of his ballot.

The region's other MVP ballot was cast by Travis Haney of Morris Publishing Group, which owns three papers in Georgia. Haney, the sole Braves beat writer to vote for NL MVP, says he picked Pujols as well.

  • "The Atlanta thing really bothered me," says BBWAA secretary and treasurer Jack O'Connell. "I was always worried that a one-newspaper town would do this.

but I'm never really comfortable with it. I'd much rather get people who are there."

Houston Chronicle sportswriter Richard Justice tapped Jones. But he says it may have been his last MVP vote.

"I personally think there are too many issues that smack of conflict for us to continue," Justice comments via e-mail. "My sports editor hasn't decided, but I'd guess he's leaning the same way. There's no way of getting around the fact that

  • many players have bonus clauses for these awards."

"I think if you were just now starting the [BBWAA] awards, there's almost no way it would be set up the way it currently is," posits Mike Berardino of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

  • "When baseball writers started this way back [in 1931], there were no clauses of any sort."

That said, Berardino believes writers make more informed decisions than, say, pitchers.

"I think the Gold Gloves are the biggest joke, and who votes on those?" he explains, referring to annual honors handed out for defensive prowess. "Managers and coaches — and they always factor in hitting, which is ridiculous. You think Greg Maddux is really the best fielder in the league? He's 39 years old."

Rob Neyer, who covers baseball for ESPN.com, says the way to counteract homerism — perceived or real — might be to bar sportswriters from voting for hometown players. "But you could still manipulate the vote," Neyer notes.

"The Times they are a-Changin'" 11/16/05, RiverfrontTimes.com. News of Ramos departure via Poynter.org/Romenesko

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