Buster Olney is abstaining from Hall of Fame voting

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It’s no secret that the Hall of Fame voting process is broken. Let us count the ways:

  • The ballot has an arbitrary and purposeless limit on the number of players for whom voters can vote;
  • A backlog of overqualified players has resulted from voters casting their ballots on morality grounds rather than baseball merit in ways that never took place until a couple of years ago;
  • Players’ time on the ballot has been reduced, prejudicing players who are being squeezed due to the candidate backlog;
  • Worse than anything, the BBWAA grants voters lifetime voting privileges, regardless of whether or not the voter covers baseball now or has for decades, resulting in an electorate filled with scores and maybe hundreds of people who know virtually nothing about the candidates they are considering.

And now that set of circumstances has led one of the most knowledgable and qualified voters out there — Buster Olney of ESPN — to abstain from voting for the Hall of Fame. His reason? The 10-player ballot limit in combination with the backlog of PED users (for whom he normally votes) means that, rather then just voting on, say, Mike Mussina’s Hall of Fame merits, he is forced to choose between Mussina and, say, Randy Johnson, and thus Mussina is unfairly harmed. His view is that, if he does not submit a ballot, that’s one fewer without Mussina (in his case because Mussina is squeezed) which may, in effect, give Mussina a boost:

Maybe I should’ve figured it out last year, but this puzzle cannot be solved. There’s no way to judge each candidate strictly on his merits given the current ballot limitations, no fair way to vote.

I can’t stand the protest ballots we’ve seen in the past, when someone signs a blank ballot that counts as a vote against all candidates. That’s unfair. I’ve hated to hear the stories of voters who haven’t voted for a player because they didn’t like them personally. The voting shouldn’t be about the writer; it should be only about the players and whether or not they’re worthy of induction.

And I can’t stand the idea of casting a ballot that works against players that I think should be inducted, such as Mussina, Schilling or others. So as much as it has been an honor in the past to participate in the voting, I’ll abstain, and hope that in the future the rules change.

I’m not sure that I would abstain in his situation. I think any benefit the lack of an Olney ballot may bring is outweighed by the fact that there will be one less ballot with many worthy names on it, as his ballot always has. Does this help Mike Mussina a bit? Sure. But it hurts other candidates Olney routinely supports.

Still, I get his frustration. And I agree with him completely that the Hall of Fame voting process is broken and needs to be fixed.