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The Usual Suspects

Who votes for Hall of Famers is a thorny issue Add to ...

Was Roberto Alomar deliberately snubbed by the voters of the Baseball Hall of Fame? The former Toronto Blue Jays second baseman - stats geeks say he's the best at the position in 40 years - was denied entry, in his first year of eligibility, by being eight votes shy of the 405 votes needed. Only former Montreal Expo Andre Dawson won the necessary 75 per cent of votes to gain admission to Cooperstown in 2010.

Alomar advocates are suggesting that the baseball writers who comprise the voting panel rejected his candidacy this year because of his infamous spitting incident with umpire John Hirschbeck or a bias against first-year entry or because he played out of sight in Canada. Worthy Hall candidates such as Tim Raines, Bert Blyleven, Fred McGriff and Mark McGwire were likewise kept out of the Hall for reasons ranging from steroids to lack of World Series exposure to personal vendettas on behalf of some writers.

These thorny questions arise every year when the vote for Cooperstown is announced. One question that's not being asked - but should be - is why the reporters who cover the sport are involved in the voting in the first place. The media are supposed to follow the news, not create it. Yet in all the major sports, media members regularly decide who gets into the Halls of Fame, who makes all-star teams, who wins most-valuable-player awards and who receives cash bonuses for any of the above. The organizations they work for rarely, if ever, object to the process.

While not all awards are the result of media votes, many still are. The origin of media voting on such things dates to an era when underpaid reporters earned extra money, season tickets and/or other perks from the clubs they covered. They shared a symbiotic relationship with the players and teams they covered. Demarcation of objectivity was regularly blurred, and no one particularly cared.

But times have changed. As such, it's fair to ask if media should still be involved in the making of news by voting for awards and honours in the sport they cover. Is it not the responsibility of the leagues to decide who gets into the Halls of Fame or wins the rookie of the year? Should writers recuse themselves from such activity? Or is it only a conflict when a financial award is included for the player?

All interesting considerations. But don't look for them to be asked anytime soon by those media guys who like the power and influence their votes give them. (Disclosure time: Usual Suspects is an unpaid member of the voting panel for Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. Which carries no monetary benefit for nominees.)

Junior coverage

TSN's coverage of the world junior hockey championship made the occasional foray into hyperbole- was Canada ever imperilled by Latvia or Slovakia?- but kept a lid on the more xenophobic aspects of cheering 20-year-olds in front of a willing nation. There were interesting portraits of soon-to-be-NHLers and a few former WJC heroes who fell short of the mark at the next level. Gord Miller and Pierre McGuire have their critics, but they work seamlessly after so many years in tandem and nothing is left in the chamber at game's end. Now if they can just get better competition for Canada.

Vegas Turnaround

Now that he's been deep-sixed by Canada's Olympic hockey program, Calgary's Dion Phaneuf may be carving out new career possibilities. The Flames' defenceman nipped down to Vegas recently to break out a singing career. Well, we think it's a singing career for the lubricated NHL star between the f-bombs. Maybe he was just channelling Billy Joel's "Christie Brinkley just dumped me" phase. We'll let you be the judge. It's on tmz.com/videos.

dowbboy@shaw.ca

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