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Should the Hall of Fame lower its voting standards?

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Friends of HBT Bill and The Common Man — proprietors of the Platoon Advantage blog — are writing over at ESPN’s Sweet Spot today.  Their big conversation starter of the day: a proposal for the Hall of Fame to lower the bar.  This, Bill and TCM argue, will help alleve the giant backlog that many have identified as a major problem with future Hall of Fame ballots:

So, to combat the problem, we propose a simple solution: The Hall of Fame should lower the voting threshold needed to elect a candidate from three-fourths of BBWAA voters to two-thirds.

Before you go screaming about this, know this tidbit that Bill and TCM point out: almost everyone who has ever gotten two-thirds of the vote has eventually gotten in anyway. As such, rather than lowering the actual quality of Hall of Fame inductees, it would merely lower the amount of time it would take to get the current quality of players inducted. Rather than let in the unworthy, it would merely eliminate that last year or two in which players who are destined for induction anyway are pushed over the current 75% threshold.  Think of it as eliminating one of those  years everyone spent arguing for Bert Blyleven. Think of it as cutting off the small cadre of dead enders who penalized Roberto Alomar last year from exacting their moral price.

I’m struggling to think of any real problems with this apart from that of perception, but perception would be a huge problem.  It would certainly be spun as the Hall of cheapening its standards, even if no one who wouldn’t have otherwise gotten in gets in now.  Unfortunately I think this perception problem would be enough to render the proposal dead on arrival.

Really, the practical way to deal with this is to reform the voting pool, not the voting standards.  The actual working baseball writers — the ones who vote on awards and follow the game closely — tend to do a damn fine job when it comes to this sort of thing.  The problems, it seems, tend to come from guys who last  covered baseball during the Ford administration and hold on to their Hall of Fame voting privileges despite the fact that they now do the senior beat at the Southeast Valley Suburban Advertiser or whatever.

Food for thought, though.

Jake Arrieta almost quit baseball

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 29: Jake Arrieta #49 of the Chicago Cubs scratches his beard as he walks back to the dugout at the end of sixth inning after giving up a three run home run to Gregory Polanco #25 of the Pittsburgh Pirates (not pictured) at Wrigley Field on August 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, the defending National League Cy Young Award winner and author of two no-hitters, considered quitting baseball a few years ago when he was bounced up and down between the major leagues and the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk, Virginia.

At the time, Arrieta was having trouble living up to his potential as one of the Orioles’ top pitching prospects. He started on Opening Day in 2012, but finished the season with a 6.20 ERA and was very quickly moved back to Norfolk after four mediocre starts to begin the 2013 season.

As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Arrieta was considering quitting baseball so that his family could have a regular life.

We were at a point where I had other things that I could segue into and establish a career elsewhere. Not that I wanted that to happen, but I didn’t want to continue to go through the things we were going through and moving from place to place in the minor leagues at 25, 26 years old.

Baseball is something that I’ve loved to do since I was a little kid, but it’s not everything. I had to reevaluate some things. I knew I could always pitch this way, but there were times where it seemed like maybe I wasn’t going to get to that point.

It’s just part of life that we had to deal with.

Mooney also points out that Arrieta had a business background having gone to Texas Christian University and would have done something in that field if he had hung up the spikes.

This has been brought up because Arrieta’s teammate Tommy La Stella considered quitting baseball as well recently, as the Cubs demoted him to Triple-A. Though La Stella received a lot of criticism, Arrieta can relate to La Stella. The right-hander said, “I know that there were things that he was going through and dealing with (that) we may not agree with and understand.”

The National Anthem: an unwavering sports tradition . . . since the 1940s

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Associated Press
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There’s an interesting article over that the New York Times in the wake of the Colin Kaepernick stuff. This one is about the history of the National Anthem at sporting events.

The anthem is a fixture for as long as those of us reading this blog have been attending games and it’d be weird if it wasn’t there. But it hasn’t always been there, the Times notes. Indeed, it was not a regular fixture until 1942 when it was added for the obvious reason that we were at war. The other major sports leagues all adopted the anthem soon after. The NBA at the inception of the league in 1946 and the NHL in the same year. The NFL’s spokesman doesn’t mention a year, but notes that it’s a non-negotiable part of the game experience. The non-negotiability of it is underscored by the comment from the MLS spokesman who notes that they felt that they had no choice but to play the anthem when that league began play in the 1990s.

I like the anthem at ballgames. It just seems like part of the experience. I like it for its own sake, at least if the performance isn’t too over the top, and I like it because it serves as a nice demarcation between all of the pregame b.s. and the actual game starting.

But this article reminds us that there is no immutable structural reason for the anthem at games. Other countries don’t play their own anthems at their sporting events. We don’t play it before movies or plays or other non-sports performances. It’s a thing that we do which, however much of a tradition it has become, is somewhat odd when you think about it for a moment. And which has to seem pretty rote to the actual ballplayers who hear it maybe 180 times a year.