Chris Graham: My All-Valley League vote wasn’t counted

baseball-newThe litmus test for voters for the All-Valley League teams selected by a panel of team representatives and members of the news media covering the VBL to have their ballots counted this year was simple: the number of Harrisonburg Turks included on your ballot.

In my case, it was zero. And because of that, my ballot wasn’t counted.

“I threw your vote out because of clear bias. There is no way you can defend not voting for a single Harrisonburg (player) when they finished with the best record in the league including three players that were voted on every other single ballot,” wrote Brian Hansen, an athletics communications associate at James Madison University and the media-relations director for the Valley League, in an email to me Tuesday afternoon.

One, I shouldn’t have to defend my ballot. Nowhere in the instructions from Hansen on voting for the All-Valley teams is there any requirement to cast a vote for at least one player from every team.

(Download PDF of the instructions from Hansen on behalf of the VBL: Click here.)

Two, had I been asked, I would have answered as to why I didn’t include a single member of the Turks 2013 roster. After a June game in Waynesboro won by the Turks, numerous members of the Harrisonburg team hurled an endless string of expletives at Generals players, coaches, members of the Generals organization, and fans on their way out of Linco Park at Kate Collins Field.

It was one of the uglier scenes that I’ve witnessed in sports in nearly 20 years as a journalist and columnist covering sporting events from the local high-school level to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

I decided that night that absent some sort of apology from the organization or at the least recognition of the inappropriate conduct, I was not going to vote for any members of the Turks team for All-Valley honors in 2013.

As is my right; it’s my vote.

As far as the issue of “bias,” how in the world do we explain just one member of the Waynesboro Generals team total on the first and second teams – the same number as non-playoff teams Front Royal, Rockbridge and Winchester, four less than Woodstock (eliminated in the first round of the 2013 playoffs) and five less than Harrisonburg (regular-season champs, bounced out in the first round of the playoffs, by Waynesboro) and Staunton (which had all of two more wins than Waynesboro in the regular season, and was also bounced from the playoffs in the first round)?

When Waynesboro first baseman Patrick Mazeika doesn’t make the team with a .382 batting average and .552 on-base percentage, and third baseman Anthony Iacomini can’t make the cut with a .337 batting average and .442 on-base percentage, both of which were arguably first-team-worthy, and were head and shoulders above the young men who earned second-team nods at the respective positions, you have to start wondering.

Would my uncounted ballot have had an impact on either of their candidacies? Or the candidacies of Covington third baseman Mike Gilbert (.308, 0 HR, 23 RBI) or Lumberjacks pitcher Abdel Rivera (whose 1.62 ERA was sixth in the league among starting pitchers?

(Covington was the only team to not land a single player on either the first or second team. With three starting pitchers, including Rivera, with ERAs under 1.92, that’s hard to figure. Like it’s their fault that the ‘Jacks were 11th in the league in runs scored in 2013.)

How many ballots omitted members of the Covington Lumberjacks? How many omitted Waynesboro Generals? How many ballots were even cast, who cast them, how did they vote? Was there any tendency toward home-team bias in the balloting?

We may never know, but it may be time for a full public accounting. And also a friendly reminder on next year’s balloting instructions reminding us to make sure to vote for as many Harrisonburg Turks as possible.

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