In his (paywalled) column today, ESPN's Buster Olney declares that he will not cast a ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, nor any year going forward until the voting process's glaring flaws are fixed.
His justification for his decision is, when put as plainly and as accurately as it here, almost tragicomic: Olney believes Mike Mussina belongs in Cooperstown, but he believes 10 other guys on the ballot deserve it more. The logical outcome is absurdity:
[Mussina's] chances for induction will improve slightly this year because I'm abstaining from the voting for the first time, and won't submit a ballot. The same is true for Curt Schilling, and Tim Raines, and at least two others who I think should be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
To repeat: I think Mussina, Schilling and Raines and others are Hall of Famers, but it's better for their candidacy if I don't cast a ballot.
If that sounds backward, well, that's how the Hall of Fame voting has evolved, squeezed between rules that badly need to be updated and the progression of the candidates linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The process needs to be pruned to allow voters to get back to answering a simple question about each candidate: Was his career worthy of the Hall of Fame?
With voters limited to 10 names, and a massive backlog caused by unclear guidelines and hundreds of different interpretations of how to treat the PED era, being forced to leave a player off a ballot is akin to voting against him. This is as close as Olney—boring, upright Olney, who requires the cold math of the ballot limit to take this stand—will get to raging against his dumb colleagues for not voting in the Bondses and Clemenses as soon as they were eligible. But we will absolutely take it.
Preach on, brother Buster:
I think all players should be judged within the context of the era in which they played, and during McGwire's career, the sport was saturated with performance-enhancing drugs, largely because over the period of about 15 years, no one within the institution of baseball — not the union leaders, not MLB owners, not the commissioner, not the clean players, nor the media that covered the sport — aggressively addressed the growing problem. Through that inaction, what evolved was a chemical Frankenstein of a game. Like it or not, that's what the sport was in that time: no drug testing, lots of drug use, lots of drug users, lots of money being made by everybody. (And by the way, no team, baseball executive or player has offered to give back the money made in that time.)
The idea of retroactive morality is ridiculous[.]
When Dan Le Batard turned his Hall of Fame vote over to us last year, he cited these selfsame absurdities. When we turned our vote over to the public, it was to draw attention to these exact shortcomings in the system. We were branded extremists. What does that make Olney?
This seems like a big deal, like maybe the Hall of Fame's Walter Cronkite moment. Olney is as respected as he is scrupulously beige; not some young firebrand looking to burn down Cooperstown, but as centrist and as establishment as they come. He thinks things are broken. Who else is with him?