Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Buster Olney’s HoF vote explanation…


… is probably the best, most reasoned, least hyperbolic explanation of a Hall of Fame ballot that I’ve read, probably ever.

Its ESPN Insider, but if you’re a true baseball fan you should be paying the $2/month or whatever pittance it is in order to get Buster Olney and Keith Law‘s stuff.

He voted for Rafael Palmeiro but not Mark McGwire (I’d tend to disagree here but he reasonably explains why).   He voted for Jack Morris but not Curt Schilling or Mike Mussina (again, even up comparing Morris to either of these guys I’d disagree, but I also like Morris for the Hall despite all the vehiment arguments that people make against him).  Olney explains his thoughts about the “character clause” that seems to be catching so many voters in the most clear and concise way i’ve seen.

Its just a nice read in the face of the just over-the-top criticism on the baseball blogosphere (which is heavily slanted towards the use of metrics above all else) of writers and their votes.

Like you, i’ve had my annual fill of reactionary blog postings to those writers who make their ballots public, with titles judging whether or not the ballot was “good” or “bad” based on whether or not the voter did or did not include someone’s pet name.   Olney simply dismisses these criticisms by saying that “he understands arguments but disagrees.”   I’m tired of some kid writing blog posts in his mommy’s basement acting as if he knows more than a guy who has been covering the game, in the clubhouses and on the road, for 25 years.  (Yeah that’s a total cliche but it isn’t far from the truth; if you found out that some blog post was written by a college freshman who just took a stats class and thinks he knows everything, would you give it more weight than by a veteran beat reporter for a major newspaper?  I didn’t think so).  I’m ready for the announcement of the 2014 class to come, one way or another, so we can get back to preparing for next season.

Pitchers and Catchers in 37 days.   It won’t come a day too soon.

Written by Todd Boss

January 8th, 2014 at 9:57 am

7 Responses to 'Buster Olney’s HoF vote explanation…'

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  1. Todd, if you’re going to spotlight a Hall of Fame ballot, you should see our own Mark Zuckerman’s ballot and explanation. Not only is he local, but it’s the smartest and well reasoned of the 14-15 writeups I’ve seen.

    Mark L

    8 Jan 14 at 5:30 pm

  2. Joe Posnanski’s ballot explanation is also worth reading:

    John C.

    8 Jan 14 at 8:52 pm

  3. I liked Olney’s post, as well as Zuck’s. Generally speaking, I am a fan of Poz but I get weary of him on this topic.

    Scott Boras was on Jim Bowden’s Sirius radio show, and had a good idea, I thought. He felt that the writers should still handle the voting, but that too many are using different standards such that the HoF is in danger of becoming meaningless to the majority of fans. His idea was that the BBWAA should create standards for themselves on how to vote, and police their members who don’t follow them by taking away the vote. I liked it, although the last place that I would want to be is actually in the meetings where they debate the standards.

    Incidentally, Jim may have been lacking as a GM, but I think he is very good as a radio guy. Very credible and entertaining.


    9 Jan 14 at 7:14 am

  4. I appreciated Zuckerman’s post. I 100% agree with him that the vitriol on the internet related to HoF voting has made this time of year a complete chore. When the Dodgers beat reporter Ken Gurnick went public with his one-name ballot people blew a gasket, talking about how Gurnick was going to “cost Maddux his 100% ballot.” Well gee, as it turned out a whole slew of voters didn’t vote for Maddox in the end; he got 555 of 571 ballots. Was all that arrogant blasting of Gurnick really necessary? Agree or disagree with these people, if they state their stance and you don’t agree with it, it doesn’t make them an idiot and you a genius; it means you are interpreting vague guidelines differently. People blasted Dan Shaughnessy for his ballot when he didn’t vote for people’s pet project names… but i think he explained himself pretty well. That’s all that I ask for.

    IF you really wanted to fix this process; review every BBWAA member and remove votes from people who don’t cover the game full time (duh). Expand the ballot. Clarify Rule 5 (the moral clause), and clarify the stance on PEDs. Will the above ever happen? Probably not.

    Honestly, I like the way the NFL does it; a select committee spanning the sport (the list of members is here and includes a number of well-known national writers who publish daily to weekly NFL material) who presents candidates and argues about them behind closed doors. It just seems like a much better way to do selections and discuss borderline candidates than an unmanaged/anonymous group of nearly 600 people which do not encompass many of the leading internet voices of the modern baseball writing era.

    Todd Boss

    9 Jan 14 at 9:27 am

  5. Todd, I’ve had the same thought over the last couple of years, that the Baseball HOF should do what the NFL does. But good luck prying the ballots out of the cold, dead hands of the BWAA. But c’mon, the 16 guys who didn’t vote for Maddux should be out. That’s just lunacy and indefensible. (Required reading: Boswell’s piece on Maddux.)

    I hope you’ll do a follow-up HOF post because there are many interesting things to discuss. I thought Glavine was a Hall-of-Famer, but I’m surprised at the overwhelming support he got, particularly relative to Schilling and Mussina. Thomas got in easily, but comps Bagwell and Martinez are still spinning their wheels. And a guy (Palmiero) with what used to be mortal-lock credentials disappeared off the ballot forever, with Sosa and perhaps McGwire close to joining him soon. Bonds and Clemens are still polling at three times the rate of McGwire, whatever that means. Not sure how people can be voting for the first two but not Big Mac.

    But all in all, it’s hard to fault the trio that did make it.


    9 Jan 14 at 8:38 pm

  6. I was (sort of) kidding about writers who didn’t vote for Maddux being stripped of their vote, so let me clarify. If nothing else, people who decide to do something like that owe the world an explanation. They’re writers, after all, so write. I don’t agree with Gurnick, but at least he gave a public explanation, so give him credit for that. It beats the heck out of anonymously submitting a blank ballot.

    It’s possible that some of the Maddux nonvoters left him off in order to include 10 worthy others. I don’t agree with that, either, but it’s a legit reason, so tell us about it. Shaughnessy gives a very good explanation of what he did.

    What no one is offering, that I’ve seen, is a way ahead with the PED guys. We all agree that they cheated, and that it was wrong. But of course we don’t even have a clear definition of who “they” were since guys like Bagwell, Piazza, and Biggio have never been implicated but are being treated by some as if they have. I respect the writers who don’t want to vote for the PED guys right now (Zuckerman, at least, indicated that his mind might change), but I also find it curious that even most of the writers who are voting for them are hiding Bonds and Clemens well down their lists, after the three that made it and generally two or three others as well (like the hazy guys Bagwell and Piazza).

    Whether people slog all the way through Joe Posnanski’s long blog, I encourage you to scroll down to the comments, where an interesting thread emerged among younger readers who basically feel like the stars of their youth are being persecuted. Of course Todd has made a similar argument about the lack of representation from the ’80s, when the stats perhaps weren’t inflated enough.


    10 Jan 14 at 6:49 am

  7. I’m thinking that I’m glad the HoF voting period is past; i have had my fill of arrogant ballot-reactions from know-it-all bloggers who just can’t realize that baseball was different in the 80s and 90s than it is today.

    I think its telling that only about 35-40% of voters make their ballots public. If I was a voter, why would I subject myself to egotistical teenagers lambasting me in public blog settings if I spent a career in MLB clubhouses covering games? You can NOT convince me that the blogger is more valuable than the beat reporter.

    Todd Boss

    10 Jan 14 at 9:56 am

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