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.

The harrowing tale of the end of Bobby Jenks’ baseball career

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Bobby Jenks was a key part of the 2005 world champion White Sox. By 2010, his effectiveness as a closer fell off and he signed with the Boston Red Sox for the 2011 season. He’d pitch in only 19 games that year, suffer a back injury and would never pitch again.

In the year or so after that, we heard that Jenks was arrested for driving under the influence. And then we heard that his back surgery was botched, and his baseball career was over. Then, after years of silence, we learned last spring that Jenks won $5.1 million in a medical malpractice suit against the doctor who performed his surgery.

We did not, however, know all the details until Bobby Jenks wrote about them at the Players’ Tribune this morning. This is must-click link stuff, folks.

Jenks talks about how a seemingly innocuous pitch to Jorge Posada in an early-season Red Sox-Yankees game in 2011 was the last pitch he’d ever throw. He talks about the presumably simple surgery that would supposedly get him back on the field. And then the scary complications in which he almost died due to leaking spinal fluid resulting from the botched surgery. Then, after using painkillers to deal with back pain, Jenks’ fell into drug addiction, all of which culminated in him finding himself half-naked and crazed in a car that didn’t belong to him with police and rescue workers surrounding him.

Jenks got clean but his wife left him. And then he mounted a multi-year lawsuit during which he learned that the reason his back surgery was screwed up was because the surgeon was performing two surgeries at one time, which is an apparently common practice called “concurrent surgery,” that sounds like it totally should NOT be a common practice.

Yet Jenks has survived. He’s been sober for over seven years and he seems to be in a good place. But boy did he have to go through something harrowing to get there. Definitely take the time to read it.