thomas

How to handle this overstuffed Hall of Fame ballot

51 Comments

We have a problem here, one that’s going to keep getting worse in future years. The Hall of Fame electorate is permitted to vote for only 10 players per year, but this ballot contains more than 10 Hall of Famers:

Jeff Bagwell
Craig Biggio
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Tom Glavine
Greg Maddux
Mark McGwire
Mike Mussina
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Curt Schilling
Frank Thomas
Alan Trammell

That’s 13 clear Hall of Famers in my book, without even counting the still interesting cases of Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Larry Walker.

Maddux is getting in. That we know. Biggio, Glavine and Thomas have shots; I’m guessing that all three will end up in the 70-80 percent range (with 75 being the cutoff for election). Perhaps one of the trio will get in, probably Glavine or Thomas, but I doubt all three will.

If two get in, that still doesn’t alleviate things for next year. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield are all joining the ballot then.

So, what’s a voter to do? Or at least a stats-friendly voter? Some will check the names of Maddux and Jack Morris, maybe one or two more, and be done with it. But let’s think instead about the more modern voter who recognizes that most or all of these guys above surpass the Hall of Fame standard.

My thought would be to leave Bonds, Clemens and McGwire off the list. I would have voted for all three last year, and I’d vote for the three again. However, I don’t want to take either over cleaner players. Not that everyone else on my 13-man ballot was necessarily clean. I don’t really believe that.

Subtracting those three gives me a ballot of Bagwell, Biggio, Glavine, Maddux, Mussina, Piazza, Raines, Schilling, Thomas and Trammell.

But, I would be wavering on one subject: I’d hate to see Kent fall off the ballot after one year, something I think has a legitimate chance of happening. An adequate defender with a career .290/.356/.500 line, Kent has 76 more homers than any other second baseman in history (377), and he’s second to Rogers Hornsby with 1,518 RBI. That’s not too shabby, and it deserves a heck of a lot more than a one-and-done.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to remove my support from any of the other guys who need it. Maybe take it from the one guy who doesn’t: Maddux. He’s going in, but it’s not like it’d be unanimous anyway. Let’s squeeze Kent in there in his place.

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
3 Comments

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.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
30 Comments

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]