Vote right or don't vote at all
By Mike Greenberg
ESPN Radio

You want to know why everybody hates the media? It's because of guys like the two writers who kept Hideki Matsui off their ballots for American League Rookie of the Year. Card carrying members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Messengers whose messages deserve to be killed.

Hideki Matsui
Just because he's a 10-year veteran doesn't make him ineligible.
Those two decided not to vote for Matsui. Not because of anything he did or didn't do on the field, nor because of anything the Royals' Angel Berroa did. They refused to vote for Matsui because he does not fit the image THEY have of a rookie. Not the universally accepted definition of a rookie, mind you. Not the definition that is clearly printed. (A player who hasn't accumulated 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in previous seasons and hasn't spent 45 or more days on 25-man active rosters.)

No, these guys made up their OWN definition. Where do they get the ego?

One of them tried to explain himself by saying he thinks baseball needs to redefine what a rookie is. I agree. I happen to think that the spirit of the rookie award is not well represented by Matsui because of his enormous success in Japanese baseball. He's 29 years old and played 10 seasons for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan's equivalent of the majors before he came to the Yankees.

Rookie of the Year criteria
NBA: If a player played one game any other year, he is not a rookie. Otherwise he is and is eligible for ROY.
NFL: If a player has been on an NFL roster any other year, he is not a rookie. Otherwise he is and is eligible.
NHL: A player can not have played more than 25 games in any single preceding season nor in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons in any major pro league. The player must not be older than 26 years before September 15 of the season in which he is eligible.
Torii Hunter of the Minnesota Twins told us on ESPN Radio that the quality of play in Japan is higher than Triple A in this country. But that is beside the point. If you don't like the rule, lobby to have it changed. In the interim, you have to accept the given definition. If not, you should forfeit your right to vote.

Wouldn't that have been a daring gesture on the parts of these two writers? To forfeit their vote in protest -- what a selfless gesture that would have been. But neither chose that option, perhaps because he is unwilling to relinquish the tiny bit of power he has within the sport he covers.

Some years ago, a New York baseball writer exercised a similarly misguided option to exclude Pedro Martinez from his MVP ballot because he didn't believe pitchers should be eligible for that hardware. His rationale was that pitchers have their own award in the Cy Young. He was dead wrong, just as these guys are now. All three of them should be stripped of their votes as punishment.

Jackie Robinson was named Rookie of the Year in 1947 after he'd spent successful seasons in the Negro Leagues. There are those who will tell you the quality of play in that league was the equal of the majors. Certainly it was as close as Japanese baseball is today. Would these writers have excluded Robinson from their ballots? If they say no, they are hypocrites. If they say yes, you be the judge of what they are.

Angel Berroa
Berroa celebrates with sister and grandma.
Two other writers, incidentally, didn't include Berroa on their ballots, an equally-astonishing phenomenon. But the writers who didn't vote for him at least can say they left him off for legitimate on-the-field reasons. They're misguided, but at least they're playing by the rules.

In Matsui's case, it isn't only the two writers who are willing to flout the criteria. Several players have applauded the selection of Berroa over Matsui, including Cleveland's Jody Gerut, who finished fourth in the American League voting.

"I'm happy that Matsui didn't win," Gerut said. "I don't think he would qualify himself as a rookie."

To that, I say: Who cares? Who cares how Matsui would qualify himself? Who cares what Gerut thinks? Their job is to play baseball. The writers' job is to vote for these awards.

In our nation, voting is a right. In baseball, it is a privilege. How I wish all the writers understood that.

Mike Greenberg co-hosts ESPN Radio's Morning Show with Mike Golic and frequently anchors SportsCenter.



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