Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Feldner, Sarah

Second Advisor

Berg, Kati

Third Advisor

Pokrywczynski, Jim


Professional baseball writers play the main role in deciding if former Major League Baseball players will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. This time-honored tradition has become more complex now that several players from the “Steroids Era” have become eligible for consideration. This issue has divided writers and baseball fans across the country. In the end, the Hall of Fame offers subjective rules for writers to follow, leaving them to figure it out for themselves and in many ways the entire nation. This study sought to determine how baseball writers legitimized their voting decisions for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and examined the implications of the presentation of those choices. Using theoretical principles about legitimacy and ethical persuasion, this study analyzed the rhetoric of several baseball writers justifying their 2017 Hall of Fame ballot decisions. The writers presented their voting decisions in a variety ways that mostly adhered to principles of legitimacy and ethical persuasion. However, this study identified key areas for needed improvement in the way baseball writers explain their ballot decisions. Those areas include a more consistent use of fact-based arguments, more thorough presentation of context about players and steroid use, and greater effort to create a balance of understanding between them and public.

Included in

Communication Commons