If you had asked me before 2pm today I would have guessed that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens would have received around 50% of the vote. Not a lot given their baseball accomplishments, but a healthy vote for two players so thoroughly associated with PEDs. But they fell far short: Clemens received 37.6% of the vote, Bonds 36.2%.
I think there are two distinct groups of voters who voted no on these guys this year (1) the never ever voters; and (2) the not this year voters. The never ever voters will, obviously, never-ever vote for a PED user. They have drawn a bright moral line and will not consider these two no matter what happens. The not this year voters are voters who took Bonds’ and Clemens’ first year on the ballot as an opportunity to lodge a protest vote. I recall reading many columns by these sorts, all of whom said some version of “I may vote for them in the future, but I don’t know what to do with them now …” or something like it.
For Clemens and Bonds to make it in, that second camp has to be gigantic. And frankly, I can’t see it being such a large group of people that it will allow them to jump up by nearly 40% in the vote be it next year or ten years from now. Given how low their vote totals are the never ever camp has to comprise more than 25% of the electorate, and it only takes one more than 25% of the electorate to block a player.
Maybe attrition changes this, but I have my doubts. It’s fashionable to say that the “old man” voters oppose Bonds and Clemens and then assume that, over time, those voters will die off while younger, more progressive voters fill the BBWAA’s ranks. But I don’t necessarily buy that. There are a lot of “old man” voters who don’t think PEDs are a mortal sin. Maybe because they remember segregation and its after effects, greenies, cocaine and all manner of other bad things and know damn well that there are worse things in baseball than someone taking steroids. Meanwhile, there are a lot of Hall of Fame voters south of 50 who are among the most virulent anti-PED guys as you’ll find anywhere. Even if you’re counting on attrition, it’s going to take longer than the 14 years Bonds and Clemens have on the ballot to make a difference.
No, the only chance those two have to make the Hall of Fame is for some sort of fundamental change in the process to happen. For the BBWAA to alter the composition of its electorate, for MLB and the Hall of Fame to come out with some sort of formal diktat that PED use should not be considered in Hall of Fame voting or for the BBWAA to have the Hall of Fame vote taken away from it altogether.
I don’t see any of those three things happening. And for that reason, I don’t see Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens getting into the Hall of Fame without a ticket any time soon.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.
Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.
Here’s what Mattingly had to say:
Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.
If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.
Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.
There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.
In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.
Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.
I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.
Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.
Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:
These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.
They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.
Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.
[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]