cooperstown

How to fix Hall of Fame voting

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For a long time we’ve been talking about the inevitable logjam on the Hall of Fame ballot due to PED-implicated players getting some but insufficient support for the next 20 years or so.  We’ve also been talking about how the Hall of Fame is on the fast track to irrelevancy if something isn’t done about this and about the manner in which the voters approach their task. Buster Olney weighed in on it all this morning.  It’s not an issue that’s going to go away.

But what to do about it?  That’s a subject The Common Man takes up over at The Platoon Advantage today. He runs down the potential ways in which the voting system could be changed if the Hall of Fame were inclined to change it (note: it’s not at all inclined).  Player votes. Super Committees. Fan votes. Blogger votes (!).  And then some reformation of the BBWAA vote.  He lists the pros and cons. It’s a good handling of it.

Personally I am really starting to not like the idea of baseball writers voting on the Hall of Fame at all, but I also must confess that I don’t see a clearly better way of dealing with it for most of the reasons TCM writes. Maybe some super committee system could work, but it’s risky. Every other possibility has serious, serious downsides.

What I would like to see is the BBWAA make its Hall of Fame electorate look a lot more like its postseason award electorate.  Dispense with the ten-year waiting period currently in place and let most or all active writers — who are the most tuned-in to the game — vote.  Cull from the voting ranks the many, many people who are no longer involved in baseball writing and/or have not been for years or, in some cases, decades.  As TCM noted, strongly, strongly encourage voters to write about their ballots after the fact so that we can see the sausage being made.

I have been pretty pleased with how all of that has worked with awards voting for the past several years. I would really like to see the Hall of Fame vote get the level of care and scrutiny by the voters that the postseason awards  get.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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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.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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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: