Larry Rocca is currently the Director of Development and Alumni Affairs at Georgetown Prep in Washington D.C., which seems like a very rewarding job since he gets to give back to his alma mater. He used to cover the Mets for the Star-Ledger (and briefly the Yankees for Newsday) from 1997-2004. Before that he was a beat writer for the Angels and Dodgers at the Orange County Register, where he began in 1994.
So Rocca wrote about baseball for roughly a decade and hasn’t written about baseball since for roughly a decade. Now he has a job completely unrelated to anything to do with baseball, but he still gets a Hall of Fame vote.
And the thing is that I don’t even mind Rocca getting a vote. Well, I guess I mind in the sense that there are men and women writing about baseball every day, often for a living, who still can’t vote, and Rocca’s been gone for a decade. But these are the things you just have to deal with when it comes to the mechanics of the BBWAA’s eligibility criteria.
I don’t even mind the fact that Rocca had one of the craziest Hall of Fame ballots I’ve ever seen, going only with Alan Trammell, Tim Raines, Jack Morris … and Hideo Nomo. But you know what, I’ll take a logically inconsistent ballot that at least includes four players over a logically consistent one that lists only Morris.
What I do mind is the fact that after finishing his baseball writing career in 2004, Rocca went on to run Business Operations for the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s NPB for about five years.
Has the BBWAA never heard of a conflict of interest? It’s a really easy concept: When you’re involved in a process anchored in objective input, you shouldn’t include people who may have loyalties that could cloud their nonpartisan judgement. But as I peruse the BBWAA’s Constitution, I cannot find a single mention of disqualifying a member from voting because he works for a professional baseball team, where personal loyalties to players/organizations/institutions may trump the voter’s ostensibly objective analysis.
Now, I know that many beat writers and the like sometimes vote for a player on a club they covered, or literally come out and say in print that they would vote for a friend “even if he wasn’t [sic] deserving” (one of the most overlooked acts of cronyism in BBWAA history), but there are some affiliations we really can’t control as long as baseball writers (and I guess prep school fundraisers) are the exclusive gatekeepers. But to think that you can start working for baseball teams and still have a vote is outrageous.
So back to Rocca. Less than a year ago, he conducted an interview (for a Georgetown Prep alum, which is sweet) about his voting process where he said:
“At least for now, I am not voting for anyone who played the bulk of his career in the “steroids era.” Nobody had more power to rid the game of PEDs than the best players, so even those who didn’t use – if there are any – are at least guilty of complicity. Integrity is part of the criteria. Those who did not move to rid the game of PEDs have to get an F for integrity.”
That’s weird, considering Nomo began his baseball career in 1995 and finished it in 2008, although his 2008 stint was just 4.1 innings and he hadn’t pitched before that since 2005, which qualifies him for “pretty much only played in the steroid era.”
So what gives? Well, today Rocca came out and attempted to explain himself. First, regarding the steroid era comment, he says he doesn’t think Nomo took steroids. Why? He has a “possibly naive” belief, in his own words. Ok, that’s … pretty shallow analysis.
But Rocca also says that Glavine and Maddux had huge standing in the game and union to change steroid culture, and didn’t, which is again odd because 1) it’s a very large moral burden to place on baseball players, 2) who knows what they could’ve actually accomplished or what they actually knew, and 3) Nomo also could have said something, maybe in a more impactful way considering he was coming from a different league/culture and would be more credible as a whistleblower.
Rocca has one more argument: Nomo “blazed the trail” for Japanese players to come to America, which I guess is an okay subjective reason, ignoring the fact that Nomo wasn’t even the first Japanese professional baseball player to play in MLB. Also, the flood of Japanese players coming in wasn’t so much Nomo’s doing as was the huge salaries being offered in the states.
I think it’s much more likely that Rocca has institutional loyalty to the NPB given his job there for a half of a decade. Think that’s conspiratorial? When asked today if he’d vote his former co-worker, Bobby Valentine, into the Hall of Fame, Rocca (somewhat realizing the question was a joke) said that as of now he wouldn’t, but that Valentine is the only manager to reach the finals in both the MLB and NPB (which I guess is cool?), and that it wouldn’t be crazy to think he’d vote for him in the future. My bet is that Rocca will, because at the Hall you can vote for your friends and even your bosses, and it’s no big deal.
Some writers have pegged a certain colleague in their field as pettily touting a “look at me” moment. Ironically, Dan Le Batard was saying “look at this” and actually directing it to all of us while turning in a wonderful ballot. The real guys saying “look at me” are directing it at the exact friends they’re voting for while turning in ballots that make the Hall look like a joke. That’s sad, and it’s wrong, and the Hall of Fame does not seem to care at all.