The concept of "first ballot" Hall of Famer is meaningless

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MLB.com’s Hal Bodley repeats a bit of nonsense you tend to hear at Hall of Fame voting time, and that’s that some players are “first ballot Hall of Famers” and some aren’t:

I’m wrestling with whether to check Roberto Alomar’s box.

Alomar’s the most likely of those being considered for the first time
to make it, but does he really deserve to be in the select company of
the 44 players chosen by the BBWAA in their first year of eligibility?  That’s the question I keep asking myself and so far cannot answer.

Probably because it’s a dumb question.  Players are either worthy of being voted into the Hall of Fame or they are not. There is nothing in the Hall of Fame voting rules which provides that those getting votes in their first year of eligibility must meet some heightened criteria. The concept of “first ballot Hall of Famer” is a retrospective thing that simply means that there weren’t as many people on the fence about a guy’s qualifications. It is not some pre-ordained honor against which voters should judge current candidates.

If a voter simply can’t decide whether Alomar is Hall of Fame worthy in an absolute sense, fine, he shouldn’t vote for him. The 15 year window of eligibility is to give people time to change their minds.

But Bodley isn’t doing that. He says “I feel certain he’ll be a Hall of Famer some day, but I’m not convinced it should happen from this ballot.”  In this, Bodley is basically acknowledging that Alomar is worthy, but that he simply doesn’t want to make him one of those magical “first timers.” By adding that extra hurdle, I believe he’s abusing his voting privileges.

There was another miscommunication between the Phillies and Pat Neshek

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Back in June 2017, then-manager of the Phillies Pete Mackanin and reliever Pat Neshek had some miscommunication. In a series against the Cardinals, Neshek worked a five-pitch eighth inning and it was believed he would come back out for the ninth inning, but he never did. Mackanin said Neshek said he didn’t want to pitch another inning. Neshek said he was never asked. There was also some miscommunication the game prior. Neshek thought he had the day off; Mackanin said Neshek said he wasn’t available to pitch.

Mackanin is no longer the Phillies’ manager, but the miscommunication between Neshek and the team apparently persist. Neshek was notably absent during the Phillies’ hard-fought 5-4 win over the Cubs on Monday night. The game featured a struggling Seranthony Domínguez pitching two innings, yielding three crucial runs in his second inning of work.

Manager Gabe Kapler called the bullpen and instructed Neshek to begin warming up to prepare to face Albert Almora, Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Kapler rang the bullpen after Domínguez walked Jason Heyward, who batted ahead of Almora. Neshek wasn’t warmed up yet. Domínguez was able to retire Almora on a sacrifice bunt, which was reviewed and gave Neshek some extra time to get ready. He was ready for the next batter, Daniel Descalso, but at this point Kapler no longer wanted to bring Neshek into the game. Descalso lined a triple to left-center field, scoring two runs and came home himself when shortstop Jean Segura‘s throw caromed off of his foot out of play.

Recounting the situation, Neshek said, “I got on the mound and threw two pitches. [Kapler] said, ‘Is he ready?’ And I said, ‘No. I’m not ready yet. I’ve thrown two pitches.” Neshek was asked how long it takes him to get ready. The veteran said, “A minute. Not 20 seconds. I’m, like, the best in the league at getting ready. My whole career has been coming in like that.”

The Phillies were able to eke out a 5-4 win. Had they lost the game, Kapler and Neshek would likely have been under the microscope for the awkward situation leading to a crushing defeat. Kapler drew plenty of criticism over his bullpen management last year in his rookie managerial season. That included bringing in lefty reliever Hoby Milner into a game in which he hadn’t yet warmed up.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the manager who struggled with bullpen management last year nearly mucked up a win last night, and maybe it’s just a coincidence that a reliever who’s had prior issues with communication had another communication mix-up. Maybe it’s not. It’s worth noting that the Phillies needed three innings from the bullpen to protect a 2-1 lead over the Cubs on Tuesday. Kapler called on rookie Edgar Garcia for two outs, lefty José Álvarez for four, and then brought in Juan Nicasio to close things out in the ninth. No Neshek, even as Nicasio got into trouble. Nicasio would surrender the tying and go-ahead runs, resulting in a deflating 3-2 loss.