How to fix Hall of Fame voting

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For a long time we’ve been talking about the inevitable logjam on the Hall of Fame ballot due to PED-implicated players getting some but insufficient support for the next 20 years or so.  We’ve also been talking about how the Hall of Fame is on the fast track to irrelevancy if something isn’t done about this and about the manner in which the voters approach their task. Buster Olney weighed in on it all this morning.  It’s not an issue that’s going to go away.

But what to do about it?  That’s a subject The Common Man takes up over at The Platoon Advantage today. He runs down the potential ways in which the voting system could be changed if the Hall of Fame were inclined to change it (note: it’s not at all inclined).  Player votes. Super Committees. Fan votes. Blogger votes (!).  And then some reformation of the BBWAA vote.  He lists the pros and cons. It’s a good handling of it.

Personally I am really starting to not like the idea of baseball writers voting on the Hall of Fame at all, but I also must confess that I don’t see a clearly better way of dealing with it for most of the reasons TCM writes. Maybe some super committee system could work, but it’s risky. Every other possibility has serious, serious downsides.

What I would like to see is the BBWAA make its Hall of Fame electorate look a lot more like its postseason award electorate.  Dispense with the ten-year waiting period currently in place and let most or all active writers — who are the most tuned-in to the game — vote.  Cull from the voting ranks the many, many people who are no longer involved in baseball writing and/or have not been for years or, in some cases, decades.  As TCM noted, strongly, strongly encourage voters to write about their ballots after the fact so that we can see the sausage being made.

I have been pretty pleased with how all of that has worked with awards voting for the past several years. I would really like to see the Hall of Fame vote get the level of care and scrutiny by the voters that the postseason awards  get.

Nationals’ starting pitching carrying them into World Series

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In my postseason preview at the end of September, I listed the Nationals’ starting rotation as a strength and their bullpen as a weakness. Anyone who had followed the club this season could have told you that. Even the Nats are aware of it as manager Dave Martinez has leaned on his rotation to hide his sometimes unreliable ‘pen.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Martinez was burned by his bullpen as Tanner Rainey, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland combined to allow six base runners and four runs. Martinez used ace Max Scherzer in relief in Game 2, sandwiched by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Starter Patrick Corbin pitched in relief in Game 3 and it backfired, but the bullpen after Corbin continued to allow more runs — three officially, but Wander Suero allowed two inherited runners to score on a three-run homer by Max Muncy. Martinez only had to rely on Doolittle and Hudson in Game 4 and he again went to Corbin in relief in Game 5.

The strategy was clear: use the actual bullpen as little as possible. If Martinez absolutely has to, Doolittle and Hudson get top priory by a country mile, followed by a starter, then the rest of the bullpen.

Thankfully for Martinez and the Nationals, the starting pitching has done yeoman’s work in the NLCS, jumping out to a three games to none series lead over the Cardinals. Aníbal Sánchez famously brought a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 1, finally relenting a two-out single to José Martínez before his night was over. Doolittle got the final four outs in the 2-0 win. Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter in his Game 2 start as well, losing it when Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single. He was erased on an inning-ending double play. Doolittle, Corbin, and Hudson got the final six outs in the 3-1 victory.

It was more of the same in Game 3. While Stephen Strasburg didn’t flirt with a no-hitter, he was dominant over seven innings, yielding one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. The Nats’ offense woke up, amassing eight runs through seven innings which allowed Martinez to give his main relief guys a night off. Rodney and Rainey each pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts in low-leverage situations, their first appearances in the NLCS.

The Nationals starting pitching has been outstanding by itself, but it has also had the secondary effect of allowing Martinez to hide his team’s biggest weakness. Now Martinez just has to hope for more of the same for one more game, then at least four more in the World Series.