The New York Times was the talk of the Internet Thursday with its bizarre but spectacularly conceived cover that was something out of Seinfield.
As in, it was about nothing.
Look at it here. Never seen this before in my life. Quite an idea. I once met the sports editor, Joe Sexton, because he's a close friend of our own Jerry Sullivan. Very impressive guy and Sully has talked about him for years.
(Sully weighed in on the Hall and PEDs in his column for Friday's editions)
Sexton got a lot of play over this one, including these comments in the Public Editor's Journal at the Times -- written by former Buffalo News editor Margaret Sullivan (h/t to the ex-boss!). The Sherman Report, which studies sports media, also weighed in here.
I've made my views on the entire Hall situation clear on this blog earlier in the week. Several of you on Twitter inquired on my feelings about the Times cover. Here goes:
It's deep thinking. It's obviously eye-catching. It's downright historical; no one will forget it for years. But what does it mean? Is the Times protesting that no one got in the Hall? Or are the folks on 8th Avenue in Manhattan saying the shutout was a good thing? Leaves you to decide.
Or does it?
It was just a day before the election when Tyler Kepner, the national baseball writer with The Times, wrote this column about the problems he sees in the voting process for the Hall (in a separate piece, Kepner correctly predicted the shutout of inductees).
Kepner is a former Yankees beat writer who took over the national slot when Jack Curry went to the YES Network a couple of years ago. I think he's one of the best in the business, regularly coming up with all kinds of story angles no one thinks about (which is why, after all, he works for the Times).
But I say large sections of his column are brutally flawed. Yes, there are voters who should no longer have a ballot because they've long since stopped covering baseball. And maybe one or two broadcasters per team plus legends like Bob Costas and Vin Scully should have a vote.
But you cut the pool of votes down to fewer than 40 and you'll have the same insular, backroom shenanigans that turn the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Hockey Hall of Fame into a farce. You want players, managers and executives to vote? Some of them do such a good job with the Gold Gloves, I can't wait to hear the outrage if they're involved in the Hall.
And you're OK with segments keeping their votes secret? See football and hockey. Doesn't work. The BBWAA is pushing transparency. Its own web site has compiled more than 100 ballots to date and many more have been revealed on publications' web sites. (Disclosure: I am a BBWAA member but do not get a Hall ballot until 2016).
Then there's this: The Times doesn't let its people vote for any awards anyway! That's a self-righteous stance if there ever was one. We don't want to make the news etc-etc-etc. Give me a break. You should WANT your people to be considered personalities. You should WANT them to be considered foremost experts in their field. Stealing from the old line from "All the President's Men": Who gave the New York Times a monopoly on wisdom?
The voting process is flawed only in limited ways. Pare out the people no longer covering baseball and that would make a huge difference. So The Times doesn't vote, its national baseball writer goes on and on about how the process is flawed and the next day -- the next day! -- its sports section comes out with this from-out-of-left-field page pushing the main theme of that column while simultaneously trying to report the news.
But the Times doesn't want its people making the news. Huh. What did Elaine once sort of say to Jerry?
I ain't buyin' it. They shouldn't be sellin' it.
(Times cover from Poynter.org)