Jayson Stark makes a damn good point about the Hall of Fame ballot

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Today Jayson Stark makes a point about the Hall of Fame ballot that I hadn’t even considered: writers leaving suspected PED users off their Hall of Fame ballots are, perversely, making it harder for the suspected non-users like Fred McGriff and Dale Murphy to make the hall. How is that? Because not everyone thinks like they do, they’ll still vote for the Jeff Bagwells and Rafael Palmieros of the world, and thus you end up with a huge backlog of candidates:

For the first time ever, 10 slots weren’t enough for me to vote for all the players who fit my definition of a Hall of Famer. For the first time ever, I had to leave off the names of players I’ve voted for in the past — not because I’d changed my mind, but because that 10-player limit got in the way.

Because I wanted to vote for three first-timers — Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro and Larry Walker — I had 12 names for 10 spots. So after agonizing for two weeks about how to deal with that challenge, I decided the fairest way was to rank them from 1 to 12.

That meant eliminating, with a case of massive heartburn, the two guys I ranked 11th and 12th — Fred McGriff and Dale Murphy. And so, because I’d voted for them in the past, that meant abandoning a voting philosophy I believe in. That truly stunk. But it also meant penalizing two players I firmly believe were clean, in large part because the Hall of Fame has no idea how to handle the guys who weren’t. That stunk even more.

Bagwell and Palmiero will still be on that ballot next year, and voters like Stark who don’t believe, regardless of what the PED evidence says, that McGriff or Murphy were better than them, will be obligated to vote for them lest they twist themselves in knots.  And just imagine what happens in a few years when Clemens, Bonds and a ton of other inner-circle talents enter the conversation.

Stark aims his ire at the Hall itself, believing that they need to do something with the ballot. It seems he’d have them take the character and morality clause out of the equation.  That may help, but I suspect that the current electorate would still vote against the PED users, believing that their newfound morality on the steroids issue outweighs the criteria set forth by the Hall.  Just a guess, though.

That stuff aside, Stark’s ballot is a good one and his reasoning — even when it comes to players I wouldn’t support — is sound.  Especially good stuff: his evisceration of the view that, on his merits as a player, Bagwell is not Hall of Fame-worthy.

Yoenis Cespedes should be ready for Tuesday’s game

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The Mets are off today, and that day off may be just enough to get outfielder Yoenis Cespedes ready to start their next game, on Tuesday, against the Braves. At least that’s what he’s telling Mets manager Terry Collins.

Cespedes did not play in the weekend series against the Nationals, but was available as a pinch hitter yesterday. He was even on the on-deck circle at the end of last night’s game.

Cespedes, who tweaked his hammy running to second base on Thursday, is hitting .255/.364/.636 with six homers and 10 RBI in 15 games on the young season.

Marcus Stroman was called for an illegal quick pitch for some reason

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A “quick pitch” is an illegal action in which the pitcher pitches the ball before the batter is prepared. What makes a quick pitch a quick pitch? According to Rule 6.02(a)(5), it’s this:

 . . . Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted.

There are a couple of reasons why you don’t want quick pitches in baseball. In one respect, it’s about safety, as mentioned specifically in the rule. You don’t want a pitcher throwing a 90 m.p.h. fastball in the batter’s general direction if he’s not ready for it, because if it goes off course the batter will have no ability to defend himself and bail. But there’s also a spirit-of-the-game reason for it. The essence of baseball is the face-off between batter and pitcher. While everyone wants the game to move along promptly, the game isn’t really the game if the batter isn’t ready.

There is more art than science to all of this, of course, as all batters and pitchers have different pre-pitch routines, but when you watch a game, there’s a rhythm to all of that. You know the batter is gonna take a couple of practice swings and settle in. The pitcher tends to respect that. The quick pitch rule is rarely invoked for this reason.

It was used in yesterday’s Angels-Blue Jays game, however. And used badly in my view. Watch Marcus Stroman pitch to Kole Calhoun. The ump is Ramon DeJesus. The count was 3-1, so the automatic ball resulted in Calhoun being awarded first base:

Calhoun was obviously upset about something, calling time after Stroman is into his motion (which is not allowed) throwing his hands up and stuff after the pitch. But tell me, in what way was he not “reasonably ready” for that pitch, to use the language of the rule? He’s facing Stroman, looking at him. He’s done with his warmup swings, his bat is up and cocked and he’s standing in hitting position. I understand that it’s a judgment call by the umpire, but it seems to me like the umpire just called time too late because Calhoun didn’t feel ideally comfortable or something.

Either way, it set off Stroman and manager John Gibbons. Gibbons was ejected arguing the call. Stroman, who was otherwise excellent yesterday, was rattled for a bit, giving up a couple of hits and a run afterward. It was Calhoun who scored, natch.

It didn’t affect the outcome, but it certainly seemed like a bad call. And possibly a bad precedent, as batters may now try to lobby harder for quick pitch calls, given its success yesterday. Or, if umpires tend to think that was a bad call too, maybe they’ll overcompensate for it and be less likely to call quick pitches? You never know how this stuff will play out.

Whatever happens, I’ve been against Major League Baseball’s habit of increasingly taking judgment calls away from umpires, trying to make the subjective objective and making a flawed instant replay system the Supreme Court of Baseball Calls. But jeez, it’s hard to argue for allowing umps to hold on to judgment calls when they blow ’em like this.