Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Bill Livingston decided to submit a signed, but blank Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the 2017 Hall of Fame election.
Of all the hall of fames in existence, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York is the gold standard. Making it into the Baseball Hall of Fame is by far the most difficult hall of fame to get into.
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There can be years where no new members are added. Players must be six years retired from the sport and achieve at least 75 percent vote to gain enshrinement. They now only have a 10-year window post-retirement to gain admittance into Cooperstown.
While recent elections have been difficult to navigate for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) due to the bulk of players up for election played in the Steroid Era, the BBWAA has carried out its duty with tremendous pragmatism.
That being said, some writers are proving too cowardly to handle the responsibility of putting together a Hall of Fame Class. ESPN’s Dan LeBatard let Deadspin pick his 2014 ballot. He received a one-year ban and was rightly ridiculed for it.
Leading up to the 2017 election, Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Bill Livingston signed and cast a blank ballot for his vote, citing it as an abstention. This is embarrassing. The BBWAA is is given the honor of making tough decisions, like determining Hall of Fame candidacy in the Steroid Era.
By casting a ballot, Livingston has given every Hall of Fame candidate a no-vote in this election cycle. Since the rules requires being on 75 percent of all ballots cast, this really hurts three players in particular: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Lee Smith.
Bagwell is in his seventh-year on the ballot. He and member of the 2016 Hall of Fame Class Mike Piazza have been the most debated about players up for election in the Steroid Era. Bagwell will likely get elected this year, but Livingston’s abstention doesn’t help.
For Raines and Smith, Livingston’s abstention is brutal. They are in their last year on the ballot. Raines is so close to enshrinement, being tabbed the National League version of Rickey Henderson in his prime. Sabremetricians love him, but does he get in?
Smith hasn’t gotten the love from the voters of the years despite being one of the greatest relief pitchers of the 1980s and 1990s. He will likely get in by virtue of the Veterans Committee one day, but Livingston’s abstention crushes Smith’s case entirely.