Should the Hall of Fame lower its voting standards?

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Friends of HBT Bill and The Common Man — proprietors of the Platoon Advantage blog — are writing over at ESPN’s Sweet Spot today.  Their big conversation starter of the day: a proposal for the Hall of Fame to lower the bar.  This, Bill and TCM argue, will help alleve the giant backlog that many have identified as a major problem with future Hall of Fame ballots:

So, to combat the problem, we propose a simple solution: The Hall of Fame should lower the voting threshold needed to elect a candidate from three-fourths of BBWAA voters to two-thirds.

Before you go screaming about this, know this tidbit that Bill and TCM point out: almost everyone who has ever gotten two-thirds of the vote has eventually gotten in anyway. As such, rather than lowering the actual quality of Hall of Fame inductees, it would merely lower the amount of time it would take to get the current quality of players inducted. Rather than let in the unworthy, it would merely eliminate that last year or two in which players who are destined for induction anyway are pushed over the current 75% threshold.  Think of it as eliminating one of those  years everyone spent arguing for Bert Blyleven. Think of it as cutting off the small cadre of dead enders who penalized Roberto Alomar last year from exacting their moral price.

I’m struggling to think of any real problems with this apart from that of perception, but perception would be a huge problem.  It would certainly be spun as the Hall of cheapening its standards, even if no one who wouldn’t have otherwise gotten in gets in now.  Unfortunately I think this perception problem would be enough to render the proposal dead on arrival.

Really, the practical way to deal with this is to reform the voting pool, not the voting standards.  The actual working baseball writers — the ones who vote on awards and follow the game closely — tend to do a damn fine job when it comes to this sort of thing.  The problems, it seems, tend to come from guys who last  covered baseball during the Ford administration and hold on to their Hall of Fame voting privileges despite the fact that they now do the senior beat at the Southeast Valley Suburban Advertiser or whatever.

Food for thought, though.

Mookie Betts, Christian Yelich win MVP Awards

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Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts and Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich were announced on Thursday evening as the winners of the 2018 Most Valuable Player Awards as voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Betts, 26, led baseball with a .346 batting average, a .640 slugging percentage, and 129 runs scored. He also put together a .438 on-base percentage with 32 home runs, 80 RBI, and 30 stolen bases while ranking among the best defensive outfielders. According to Baseball Reference, Betts was worth 10.9 WAR, the highest total by a position player since Barry Bonds in 2002 (11.8). It was the 21st time a player compiled a 10.9 WAR or better since 1871. The others to do it along with Betts and Bonds: Cal Ripken, Jr., Joe Morgan, Carl Yastrzemski, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Ty Cobb, and Honus Wagner.

Betts is the first Red Sox player to win the MVP Award since second baseman Dustin Pedroia in 2008. Other members of the Red Sox to win the award include Mo Vaughn (1995), Roger Clemens (1986), Jim Rice (1978), Fred Lynn (1975), Carl Yastrzemski (1967), Jackie Jensen (1958), Ted Williams (1946, ’49), Jimmie Foxx (1938), and Tris Speaker (1912).

Angels outfielder Mike Trout and J.D. Martinez each received one first-place vote with Betts receiving the other 28. Trout finished in second place with 265 overall points, Indians infielder José Ramírez finished third with 208, and Martinez finished fourth with 198. They were followed by Alex Bregman, Francisco Lindor, Matt Chapman, Khris Davis, Blake Snell, Justin Verlander, Mitch Haniger, Aaron Judge, Xander Bogaerts, José Altuve, Blake Treinen, Andrelton Simmons, Whit Merrifield, Edwin Díaz, Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius, Jed Lowrie, Trevor Bauer, Aaron Hicks, and Chris Sale.

Trout is now one of four players to finish second in MVP Award voting four times, joining Stan Musial, Ted Williams, and Albert Pujols. Trout was the runner-up behind Miguel Cabrera in 2012-13 and Josh Donaldson in 2015.

Yelich, 26, led the National League with a .326 batting average, a .598 slugging percentage, and a 1.000 OPS. He also put up a .402 on-base percentage with 36 home runs, 110 RBI, 118 runs scored, and 22 stolen bases while playing above-average defense in the outfield.

Yelich is the first member of the Brewers to win the MVP Award since outfielder Ryan Braun in 2011. The other Brewers to have won the MVP Award are Robin Yount (1982, ’89) and Rollie Fingers (1981).

Nearly a unanimous choice, Yelich was voted in first place on 29 of 30 ballots with NL Cy Young Award winner getting the other first-place vote. Cubs infielder Javier Baéz finished in second place with 250 points and Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado finished in third place with 203 points. They were followed by Freddie Freeman, deGrom, Paul Goldschmidt, Lorenzo Cain, Trevor Story, Matt Carpenter, Max Scherzer, Anthony Rendon, Ronald Acuña Jr., Aaron Nola, Justin Turner, Max Muncy, Jesús Aguilar, Anthony Rizzo, Nick Markakis, and Eugenio Suarez.

Coincidentally, both MVP Award winners hit for the cycle this season. Betts achieved it on August 9 while Yelich did it twice, on August 29 and September 17. Yelich also finished two home runs and one RBI short of the Triple Crown.

The BBWAA voters submitted their ballots before the start of the postseason, so the fact that the Red Sox won the World Series and that the Brewers made it to Game 7 of the NLCS had no impact on the award results. That the Red Sox won a franchise record 108 games during the regular season and the Brewers won the NL Central tiebreaker over the Cubs certainly could have been factors for many voters, however.