The Hall of Fame electorate has been reduced by 20%

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In late July the Hall of Fame delivered some very good, albeit long overdue news: BBWAA members who were more than 10 years removed from actively covering the game would no longer be allowed to vote for the Hall of Fame.

Prior to the move, once a writer was eligible to vote for the Hall of Fame — with said eligibility coming after 10 years of BBWAA membership — they got that vote for life. This meant that a great many voters who were no longer covering baseball, including many who never really covered baseball in a meaningful way, got a vote. Editors who oversaw baseball writers for a time. People who covered baseball for a few minutes during the Carter Administration but later went on to do other things. It didn’t matter. At the same time, active BBWAA members who were totally engaged with the game and who possessed a thorough knowledge of its history had no vote if they hadn’t been in the club for a decade. It made no sense.

While those BBWAA members without ten years still can’t vote, at least now the dead wood is out. At least in theory. In any event, the Hall of Fame announced today that, as a result of the change, the voting pool has been cut by about 20 percent. Specifically, it estimated 475 ballots would be mailed for the upcoming election. Last year about 600 ballots were mailed and 549 were cast.

This year Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman are the top new candidates for election. I suspect that the change will have zero effect for Griffey, who will be about as close to a unanimous choice as any ballplayer can be (note: there has never been a unanimous choice). Hoffman could see some benefit in that, in theory, the rule change will eliminate more older voters, many of whom may be less amenable to vote for a relief pitcher who plied his trade in an era of specialization.

The backlog could be helped as well. Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines all drew over 50 percent last year but fell short of the required 75 percent needed for election. If you believe that Piazza and Bagwell were dinged by PED suspicions, and if you think that older, less-engaged voters are more likely to harbor such suspicions, their totals should go up. The same could apply to Raines insofar as the merits of his Hall case tend to be less obvious to a certain stripe of voter. Possibly older ones who are less prone to dig deeply into the numbers and prefer to look at more traditional milestones. Not that Raines’ case requires a microscope to appreciate, but that’s another conversation.

These are all broad generalizations of course, and it’s quite possible they’re unfair generalizations. We don’t know how every single voter votes or which voters are being deprived of the franchise. Maybe the culling of the electorate changes things, maybe it does not. But whatever happens, it’s a good move aimed at arriving at a better, more engaged electorate.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.