Over the long haul, Barry Bonds’ Hall of Fame prospects aren’t that bad

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Gregg Doyel has a column up over at CBSSports.com about why he thinks Barry Bonds is a Hall of Famer. This part, though, about his CBS colleagues, is interesting to me:

CBSSports.com has seven baseball writers—three with actual HOF votes—and five of the seven said they would vote for Bonds. That’s 71.4 percent in favor of induction, with 75 percent required for admittance.

Again, that’s a small sample size—and here comes an even smaller (but more telling) sample size:

Of our three Hall voters at CBSSports.com—longtime baseball writers Scott Miller, Danny Knobler and Jon Heyman—just one said he’d vote for Bonds. Which one? That’s for him to say, if he chooses. Point being, Bonds’ candidacy is supported primarily by the newer-media bloggers at CBSSports.com, an ominous trend given that most Hall voters are longtime writers from the Miller, Knobler and Heyman mold.

I’m not sure it’s quite so ominous. I agree that the longer-tenured, more established voters are more likely to be anti-Bonds and anti-PED guys in general, and that for that reason he faces a tough road for some time. But time marches on and that electorate is going to change quite a bit in the next 15 years.

And it will be 15 years, because even if Bonds doesn’t get in any time soon, it’s almost certain that he’ll get enough support to remain on the ballot.  Mark McGwire does, after all — he has ranged from 19% to 23% in the voting since he’s been on the ballot — and there’s no rational reason anyone who votes for McGwire wouldn’t vote for Bonds.

Add more to Bonds, in fact, because some people who don’t vote for McGwire don’t withhold votes simply because he did PEDs, but rather, because they are the “discounters,” as it were, and simply think that McGwire wouldn’t be in the conversation without PEDs (i.e they discount some credit for is career totals due to PED use). Such voters likely will feel differently about Bonds given what he did before it’s generally accepted that he did PEDs, figuring that even with the discount he’d be a Hall of Famer.

So, that gives you a baseline of, at the very least, 25% or so for Bonds. And I’d bet that he gets something closer to 50% of the vote.  Then you add in the demographic shift.

It takes ten years as a BBWAA member to become a Hall of Fame voter. So even if one is just admitted to the BBWAA this year — as we here at NBC are going to attempt to do — Barry Bonds will still be on the Hall of Fame ballot for five years after one is allowed to vote.

Not that it’s just starting now, of course.  Younger voters who are more inclined to be open to Bonds’ candidacy — I’d say anyone who began regularly covering baseball in the nineties or later — began being admitted to the BBWAA several years ago and are being given Hall of Fame ballots in greater numbers. Many — especially the web-based members like Keith Law, Rob Neyer, Will Carroll, the Baseball Prospectus guys and the FanGraphs guys — are still several years away.  The upshot: between now and the end of Bonds’ theoretically continuing unsuccessful candidacy, there should be a pretty significant shift in the aggregate attitude of the Hall of Fame electorate.

So, yes, Bonds’ odds of being elected are pretty long in the short term.  But it would surprise me greatly if Bonds spent 15 years on the Hall of Fame ballot without being voted in.

In fact, I’d even offer to eat my hat if I’m wrong, but I’m guessing they will have cured baldness by 2027, so I will no longer have a need for hats.

Major League Baseball limits mound visits, puts off pitch clock until 2019

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Major League Baseball just announced its much awaited pace-of-play initiative for 2018. The big news: no pitch clock, with Rob Manfred deciding, in the words of the league’s press release “to defer the implementation of a pitch timer and a between-batter timer in 2018 in order to provide players with an opportunity to speed up the game without the use of those timers.”

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes. In rules changes which were reached with the cooperation of the Players’ Union, teams will now be limited to six non-pitching change mound visits per team per game, and one extra visit if the game goes into extra innings. Also, a new rule is being introduced that is designed to reduce the time required for inning breaks and pitching changes.

The mound visit rule is NOT limited to coach or manager mound visits. It also includes position players, including catchers, visiting the mound to confer about signals and the like. It will not count the normal conversations which take place between plays, such as when a pitcher says something to a fielder as they throw the ball around the horn. It likewise does not include things like a first baseman coming to the mound to clean his spikes off with the pitcher’s gear on the back of the mound. Mound visits to check on injuries will not count either.

While six visits may seem like a lot, it really isn’t once you realize that a pitching coach may go out two or three times in a close game and that a catcher, especially in close games, may come out to talk about signs and things seemingly countless times. Heck, they could re-name this the Jorge Posada or Gary Sanchez rule.

There will be one big exception to the rule, which relates to catchers and pitchers truly being crossed up on signals after they have exhausted mound visits. It reads thusly:

3) Cross-Up in Signs. In the event a team has exhausted its allotment of mound visits in a game (or extra inning) and the home plate umpire determines that the catcher and pitcher did not have a shared understanding of the location or type of pitch that had been signaled by the catcher (otherwise referred to as a “cross-up”), the home plate umpire may, upon request of the catcher, allow the catcher to make a brief mound visit. Any mound visit resulting from a cross-up prior to a team exhausting its allotted number of visits shall count against a team’s total number of allotted mound visits.

This makes sense as a matter of safety, if nothing else, as you don’t want a catcher truly not knowing where a pitch is going. It’s also notable as one of the few rules changes in recent years that actually adds in an umpire’s judgment rather than takes a judgment call away from an umpire. It’ll be worth watching, however, to see how easy a touch umpires are about this. Again: if we have a tense September game between Boston and New York and everyone has used up their mound visits, I wonder if the umps will truly enforce the rule.

The big problem here is that there is nothing in the new rule which talks about the penalty for trying to make a seventh mound visit. To that end:

This is gonna lead, at some point, to a pretty big argument. Should be amazing.

As for innings breaks, There will be a timer that counts down from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised regular season games, from 2:25 for breaks in nationally televised regular season games, and from 2:55 for postseason games. The timer shall start on the last out of an inning for an inning break. 

There are set things the players must be doing at certain points on the clock. To wit:

  • When there are 25 seconds left, the umpire will signal to the pitcher to complete his last warm-up pitch;
  • When there are 20 seconds left, the batter will be announced and must leave on-deck circle, his walk-up music shall begin, and the pitcher shall complete last warm-up pitch;
  • When the clock gets to zero, the pitcher must begin his motion for his first pitch of the inning.

There will be “special circumstance” exceptions, such as when other random things are happening on the field that prevents this, such as in-between inning events going too long or something, and an umpire can determine that a pitcher or batter needs more time for safety purposes.

Enforcement of the clock will be handled by umpires directing players to comply. Players who consistently or flagrantly violate the time limits will be subject to progressive discipline by the league. Put differently, no one is issuing automatic balls or strikes here. It’ll be handled by fines.