Cooperstown

Changes to the Hall of Fame voting process aren’t going to result in major changes to who’s inducted

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The past few days have featured a lot of people talking about how to change the Hall of Fame voting process. I appreciate these ideas as, no matter how contentious the debates become, they are inspired by people who want to make things better. By people who care about baseball and the Hall of Fame. Negativity sucks and a lot of people hate it, but remember, almost all of it starts with an impulse of wanting to improve something cool about baseball, and that’s good.

Still, it’s probably worth realizing that no matter what you do with the voting process or the voters or the criteria or anything else, it’s not like the actual induction classes are going to radically change. Adding voters or increasing vote slots or taking the BBWAA out of it or making the Hall of Fame vote the sole province of an elite panel of benevolent, sabermetric dictators is not going to usher Barry Bonds or Alan Trammell or Tim Raines through that door like so many of us would like to see.

I know this because of a recent experience: I was asked to join the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Yes, it’s a real thing. It’s populated by a lot of excellent Internet-based baseball writers. People like  Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Spink Award winner Ross Newhan, Sports on Earth’s Will Leitch, FanGraphs (and many other places’) Wendy Thurm, Bleacher Report’s King Kaufman and many, many others.

Formed in 2009, the IBWAA functions like a shadow government in a parliamentary system, offering its own voting for the Hall of Fame and for postseason awards. I can’t speak for its leadership or membership, but I find it a fun process aimed at perpetuating the baseball conversation in a more focused way as opposed to some serious “storm the barricades” thing regarding the BBWAA. The BBWAA isn’t going anywhere and isn’t letting people like me in, so it’s fun to have an alternative outlet for the imaginary Hall of Fame and awards ballots we’re all doing anyway.

The point of me mentioning the IBWAA is this: we had our IBWAA Hall of Fame vote recently. Four people received 75% of the vote or more: Maddux, Glavine, Thomas and Biggio. Given that Biggio himself only fell two votes short in the BBWAA vote, our IBWAA thing — in results anyway — is pretty much in the margin of error of the real McCoy. Jeff Bagwell didn’t get in. Barry Bonds and Rogers Clemens did not get in.They had higher vote totals than  the BBWAA gave them, but they still fell short. The complete results can be seen here. (note: I originally had Mike Piazza in the “didn’t get in” list, but the IBWAA inducted him last year so, well, yes, some groups can do a bit better than the BBWAA).

The point here is that, even though the electorate is comprised of people who don’t carry the same baggage as many in the BBWAA — people who don’t cover or care deeply about baseball, people who are afraid of sabermetrics, people who do not think an entire era is corrupt — it’s still almost impossible to come to a consensus on more than a small handful of players. There are still voters in this (for lack of a better term) enlightened group of people who view PED use as an automatic grounds for exclusion. Or don’t appreciate the all-around greatness of Alan Trammell. Or, at the moment, somehow don’t think that Mike Mussina is anywhere close to deserving of election.

I think this would be true of an electorate comprised of almost any demographic. Fans. So-called experts. Broadcasters. Any combination of people many have been throwing around as a better electorate than the current BBWAA crowd. No matter how you put it together, you’re likely still to get about three or four inductees, and certainly not all the ones a lot of us think are deserving. People just fundamentally can’t agree on a lot in large enough groups, and that’s especially true of baseball stuff.

All that being said, I do not want my friends in the BBWAA to get all smug. Which, by the way, we’ve seen quite a bit of in the past 48 hours. Patting themselves on the back for what is, inarguably, a great group of inductees. And echoing my points above about how no group of people would do better. Those things may be true, but it’s only part of the story and it doesn’t absolve the BBWAA of its many, many sins.

Process matters, not just the results. No one would fully accept a flawed political election’s results as wonderful just because, well, the right guy basically won and because it wold be too hard and messy to create a perfect process. Likewise in baseball, we should not accept ill-informed and unqualified voters, opportunities for grandstanding, the airing of personal vendettas and procedural rules which have no purpose and do a lot of harm. A good result notwithstanding, those sorts of abuses should still be highlighted and criticized. Those flaws should still be fixed. A process that, by accident of history, happens to be the best we’ve been able to come up with yet should not be assumed to be perfect and forever immune from change. Baseball writers who point to the current inductees and say “we did JUST FINE, so you shut your piehole!” are like pilots who skidded a landing off the end of the runway, turn around to their passengers and say, “Well, we got you here. Quit complaining.”

Change is needed and I think, eventually, it will come. The IBWAA just voted the other day to increase its ballot to 15 players as opposed to ten. The BBWAA will probably do that too (though it’ll take them way longer and they’ll fight about it because that’s how the BBWAA rolls). When these and other changes occur we should applaud them and we should continue to demand improvements wherever we can see the need for them and however we can accomplish them.

We should not, however, do so in the hopes of getting our preferred candidates into the Hall of Fame. Because no matter what changes, it’s still going to be an exercise in getting hundreds of people to agree on something, and that never happens. We should do so only in the hopes of cleaning up a messy system and making the process one in which baseball fans and baseball writers alike can have confidence and about which they can be proud.

Report: Arquimedes Caminero likely to sign with Yomiuri Giants

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 21: Arquimedes Caminero #48 of the Seattle Mariners delivers a pitch during a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Safeco Field on August 21, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Brewers won the game 7-6. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Mariners’ right-hander Arquimedes Caminero is nearing a deal with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball, according to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. The club has reportedly agreed to sell the 29-year-old’s contract, Dutton writes, though no official move has been announced by either team yet. Caminero is under club control through 2020 and currently ineligible for arbitration.

The right-hander began the 2016 season with the Pirates but was sent to the Mariners in a trade for Seattle minor leaguers Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez in order to clear space in the Bucs’ bullpen. With the Mariners, Caminero produced a 3.66 ERA and 8.2 K/9 through 19 2/3 innings in the second half of the year. Although he boasts an electric fastball, one which consistently averaged 98.7 m.p.h. in 2016, his success rate has been tempered by poor control throughout his major league career. According to Dutton, the Mariners’ willingness to sell Caminero’s contract was a strong indication that they did not see him as a viable contender for their 2017 bullpen or as a potential trade chip further down the line.

Should the deal go through, the right-hander will be the second former Mariner to sign with a Japanese club for the 2017 season. Per Dutton’s report, outfielder Stefen Romero also picked up a contract with the Orix Buffaloes of NPB in late November.

Gerrit Cole set to begin throwing program

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 24:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates sits in the dugout in the second inning during the game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on August 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.

The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.

The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.