Given that I’ve written approximately ten thousand Hall of Fame posts in the past three weeks, I have no leg to stand on, but something over at MLB.com today provides a good reminder for us not to get too worked up at tomorrow’s vote totals:
First, there were five. Cy Young, whose name graces the highest pitching award in baseball, didn’t make the cut. He didn’t even get 50 percent of the vote.
That was in 1936, when — in order of voting percentage — Ty Cobb (98.2), Babe Ruth (95.1), Honus Wagner (95.1), Christy Mathewson (90.7) and Walter Johnson (83.6) comprised the first class of National Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, the very first players on Cooperstown’s hallowed roster.
Baseball history was a different beast then. Nostalgia wasn’t yet invented — George Lucas did that while filming “American Graffiti” over 35 years later — and the giants of the game’s history were mostly still alive and playing golf and stuff.
But it is worth noting that, even if we can get worked up over voting philosophy and sins of both omission and commission when it comes to the Hall of Fame, time usually makes these things seem less important. Cy Young eventually made the Hall of Fame and no one died because he got 50% of the vote in whatever voting procedure they happened to use in 1936. Likewise, no one’s vote totals tomorrow will cause a national crisis.
Which isn’t to say that the things I’ve been going on about aren’t important. They’re just of a more localized importance, temporally speaking. Most of the things with which we occupy our days are not important to the gaze of history.
Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.
The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?
Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.
The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.
I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.
ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.
MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.
Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.
Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: