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.

Settling the Scores: Memorial Day edition

ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 21:  American flags are shown after being placed by members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment at the graves of U.S. soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in preparation for Memorial Day May 21, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. "Flags-In" has become an annual ceremony since the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) was designated to be an Army's official ceremonial unit in 1948  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died in military service. At some point in the past couple of decades, however, it has become an all-purpose flag-waving, patriotism-declaring, civilians-in-camouflage holiday. It’s understandable why this is the case. We, as a country, haven’t always done mourning well. I think it’s part of our national cultural DNA that we don’t and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make days like this difficult.

I feel like the flag-waving and troop-supporting stuff is some sort of subconscious reaction to death. It’s our way of instantly trying to justify those deaths or to explain how they were not in vain, much the same way we might tell someone upon the death of a loved one that they’re in a better place or that they had a full life. Feeling the pain of loss is hard. We want to soften it in any way we can and make our pain serve a larger, better purpose. And so we get today, when Major League Baseball puts its players in camouflage caps and in jerseys with camouflage logos. They’ll sell them too, with proceeds going to good and noble veterans charities. The intent is noble and the ultimate effect of it all is beneficial. But it’s also a little beside the point. Maybe not beside the point as much as mattress sales or big celebratory barbecues which have come to characterize Memorial Day for so many, but still not exactly the purpose of the holiday.

I don’t condemn it. As I wrote last year, the men and women who actually fought and died in wars were hoping that they were, ultimately, making a better and happier world for those they left behind. And they no doubt hoped, among everything else they hoped, that others didn’t have to face what they were facing. They wanted our lives to be happy and our country to be safe and part of a happy and safe country involves 300 million people doing whatever it is they damn please, even if it’s just having barbecues and wearing camo at the ballpark.

I won’t say have a happy Memorial Day because that seems odd. Have any kind of Memorial Day you want, really, even if it includes barbecuing, drinking beer and wearing a cam ballcap. But as you do, please make sure you take some time to think about those who died in military service. And remember that they didn’t get to have as many days like the one you’re having as they were meant to have. And make at least some effort to offset your happy, patriotic or silly pursuits with some mourning and reflectiveness. It’s OK for that to stand on its own.

The scores:

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3
Orioles 6, Indians 4
Yankees 2, Rays 1
Nationals 10, Cardinals 2
Brewers 5, Reds 4
Royals 5, White Sox 4
Cubs 7, Phillies 2
Rangers 6, Pirates 2
Astros 8, Angels 6
Athletics 4, Tigers 2
Twins 5, Mariners 4
Giants 8, Rockies 3
Diamondbacks 6, Padres 3
Marlins 7, Braves 3
Dodgers 4, Mets 2

 

Should Dave Roberts have taken Clayton Kershaw out of Sunday’s game?

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 29:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch in the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 29, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will likely be second-guessed heavily during tomorrow’s news cycle. Starter Clayton Kershaw had pitched a terrific ballgame, as is his tendency, but with 114 pitches to his name, Roberts decided to pull him from the game in the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on first base.

Roberts opted not for closer Kenley Jansen, who hasn’t pitched since Wednesday, but for another lefty in Adam Liberatore. He was playing the numbers, with the left-handed-hitting Curtis Granderson coming up. Liberatore, much to Roberts’ chagrin, served up what turned out to be a game-tying triple to Granderson, hitting a rocket to right-center just out of the reach of a leaping Yasiel Puig.

Jansen has, for six years, been one of the game’s elite relievers. Kershaw, though at a high pitch count, doesn’t seem to suffer from the times through the order penalty like most pitchers. Kershaw’s opponents’ OPS facing him for the first time was .525 coming into Sunday. Twice, .597. Three times, .587. Four times, .526 (but this suffers from survivorship bias so it’s not exactly representative).

Furthermore, Kershaw held lefties to a .546 OPS over his career. Liberatore, in 99 plate appearances against lefty hitters, gave up a .575 OPS. Jansen? .560. It seems that, faced with three decisions, Roberts arguably made the worst one. Playing conservative with Kershaw at 114 pitches is defensible, but only if Jansen comes in. If Roberts wanted the platoon advantage, Kershaw should have stayed in.

Luckily for the Dodgers, Mets closer Jeurys Familia didn’t have his best stuff. He loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth on a single and two walks, then gave up a two-run single to Adrian Gonzalez, giving the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. Jansen came on in the bottom half of the ninth and retired the side in order to pick up his 15th save of the season.

Royals sweep White Sox over the weekend on three late rallies

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 28:  Brett Eibner #12 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates his game-winning RBI single with teammates in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on May 28, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals won 8-7. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Royals had themselves a pretty good weekend. The quickly fading White Sox, not so much.

On Friday, the Royals fell behind 5-1 after the top of the sixth. They would score once in the bottom of the sixth, four times in the seventh, and once in the eighth to steal a 7-5 win facing pitchers Miguel Gonzalez Dan Jennings, Matt Albers, Zach Duke and Nate Jones.

On Saturday, the Royals entered the bottom of the ninth down 7-1. They scored seven runs on closer David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to win 8-7.

On Sunday, the Royals were down 4-2 after the top of the eighth. They plated three runs in the bottom half of the eighth against Jones and Albers, going on to win 5-4.

Coming into the weekend, the Royals were 24-22 in third place. The White Sox were 27-21, a half-game up in first place. Now the Royals are in first place by a game and a half, and the White Sox are in third place, two games out of first.

Here’s video of the Royals’ comeback on Saturday, since it was so unlikely:

Report: Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there”

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 24: Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers waits to hit during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on May 24, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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In Saturday’s column for The Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo notes that, according to a scout, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there.” Braun has been bothered by neck and back issues this year, missing on Sunday his eighth start out of the Brewers’ last 14 games, but he has still put up a quality .351/.424/.583 triple-slash line in 170 plate appearances this year.

More importantly for an acquiring team, Braun is in the first year of a five-year, $105 million contract. He’s earning $19 million this season and in the ensuing two seasons, and then his salary decreases slightly to $18 million in 2019, $16 million in 2020, and $15 million if both sides pick up his mutual option (else a $4 million buyout would be exercised).

Per Cafardo, the Astros, Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, Giants, and White Sox are potential landing spots for Braun.