Hall of Fame: If you're voting for Jack Morris, how do you not vote for Blyleven?


Blyleven AP.jpgSports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman set off an hours-long debate last night on Twitter when he revealed his Hall of Fame ballot:

just mailed Hall of Fame ballot, beating deadline yet again. voted for alomar, dawson, larkin, parker, morris & mattingly

At the outset, let me give Heyman some credit. After tweeting that, a cubic crap-ton of people like me came out of the woodwork to attack him, and he basically took on all comers.  As I’ll note below, his arguments were weak, but he stood in the box all night and that’s worthy of some respect.

But with that out of the way, let’s be clear: there is all kinds of ugliness here. Among other things voting for Andre Dawson and Dave Parker while not voting for Tim Raines is more than curious. Voting for Don Mattingly at all is simply silly.  What sparked the big debate, however, was his vote for Jack Morris and failure to vote for Bert Blyleven.

Don’t worry: this is not going to be a big Blyleven-for-the-Hall-of-Fame post. People have beat that to death, and if you’re looking for a comprehensive argument in his favor, there are better places to go for it, including from the man himself.  Personally, I think Blyleven is a Hall of Famer. I understand that a lot of people disagree. They’re entitled to that opinion.  Hall of Fame voting comes with a hefty dose of subjectivity, and with the majority of candidates — including Blyleven, Dawson, Fred McGriff and many like them — there are non-ridiculous arguments on both sides.

But the arguments from any given voter should at least be consistent, and here is where Heyman goes off the rails.  Like Blyleven, Morris is something less than a shoe-in candidate. Personally I don’t think he belongs. Buf if you’re one of those people who do think he belongs — if you’re a proponent of a larger, less exclusive Hall of Fame — how can you vote for Morris and not Blyleven?

As many have noted, Blyleven has a large advantage in just about every possible statistic except for the random “wins in the 1980s” and “wins in Game Sevens of the 1991 World Series” categories. If you’re making a purely statistical case — which I accept that voters do not, as a rule, do — Blyleven is in and Morris is out.

But even if you’re making a broader, shape-of-career case — which voters often do — Blyleven and Morris profile rather similarly: they are good, durable but rarely-considered-great pitchers
without Cy Young awards.  Morris has the rings, but he had a lot of help and they are at the very least equaled in weight by Blyleven’s overall career value. I wouldn’t approach the matter this way, but for those who do,
I can see voting for neither of them. I can also see voting for both of them. I can even see — if voters go to big stats like wins and strikeouts as tiebreakers — voting for Blyleven and not Morris.  I cannot, however, fathom a vote for Morris and not Blyleven.

But that inconsistency is not the most galling.  No, the most galling inconsistencies were volunteered by Heyman himself. First, in response to me lodging the objection from the last paragraph, Heyman saidregarding bert,
86% voted “no” his 2nd yr. unlike others, i’m consistent. he never led
league in wins, ERA but led in HRs, earned runs, Ls

This sort of cherry picking is so common I rarely get outraged anymore, but that doesn’t make it any less outrageous. Ignore all of Blyleven’s stats in his favor and dismiss him as merely a stathead’s pick as so many writers do, but then use the negative stats to hammer his candidacy. It’s simply not legitimate in my mind to look at the dingers he gave up and not even consider his 287 wins and 3701 strikeouts. You have to take his overall stats and weigh them, and guys like Heyman never do that. “Stats are overrated,” they often say when dismissing Blyleven, and then they use stats to twist the knife.  And by the way: Jack Morris led the league in earned runs once. Steve Carlton led the league in homers, ERA and losses on occasion as well. What’s your point?

But the worst part of Heyman’s case comes in the “86% voted “no” his 2nd yr. unlike others, i’m consistent” comment.  Setting aside what some smart people have said about such consistency, Heyman isn’t even consistent about his consistency.  Later, in what became a wide-ranging debate among a good dozen or more people, Heyman said that he would (a) look at Tim Raines’ candidacy again; and (b) that he had voted “no” for Mattingly eight times before changing his mind.  If you’re going to reevaluate for Mattingly and Raines, why not Blyleven? Why not just shorten the Hall of Fame voting window to one year per player?

Maybe Heyman was just joking with the consistency crack. Maybe he’s just so moonstruck with Game 7 of the 1991 World Series that no logical case against Jack Morris would ever dissuade him.

Then again, maybe he’s just shooting darts out there, making up his standards as he goes along.

Concerns over Jon Lester’s throwing ability much ado about nothing

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20: Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

Going into Thursday night’s NLCS Game 5, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts planned to have his team be annoying and distracting on the base paths for Cubs starter Jon Lester. Lester, you see, has a hard time making throws when he’s not pitching from the rubber, as seen here.

The Dodgers got an immediate opportunity to test their strategy, as Enrique Hernandez drew a four-pitch walk to start the game in the bottom of the first inning. Hernandez was taking leads between 15 and 25 feet, just taunting Lester to throw over to first base. Lester never did. And despite being given the luxury of such a large lead, Hernandez never attempted to steal second base.

It ended up costing the Dodgers a run. After Justin Turner struck out, Corey Seager lined a single to center field. Hernandez, large lead and all, should’ve been well on his way to third base, but he settled for staying at second base. Carlos Ruiz then flied out to right field on what should’ve been a sacrifice fly. Hernandez instead just advanced to third. Howie Kendrick grounded out to end the inning with the Dodgers having scored no runs.

In the bottom of the second inning with two outs, Joc Pederson dropped down a bunt, but Lester was able to field it and make a bounce-throw to Anthony Rizzo at first base to end the inning. Lester stared angrily into the Dodgers’ dugout as he walked off the field. If it were me, I’d have been glaring angrily not because the opposing team was attempting to exploit my weakness, but because the strategy is so poor.

The bunting would continue in the seventh inning as first baseman and noted power hitter Adrian Gonzalez tried to sneak a bunt past Lester on the right side of the infield. Second baseman Javier Baez was able to scoop it up and fire to first. Gonzalez was initially ruled safe, but the call was overturned upon replay review.

Lester countered the Dodgers’ bunting and greedy lead-taking by just pitching his game. He went seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts on 108 pitches. The Cubs went on to win 8-4, taking a 3-2 lead in the NLCS. A worthy consideration for the National League Cy Young Award based on his regular season performance, Lester now has a 0.86 ERA in 21 innings spanning three starts this postseason. Turns out, the yips isn’t debilitating if you’re really good at your main job.

Cubs swat their way past the Dodgers 8-4 in NLCS Game 5

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20:  Addison Russell #27 of the Chicago Cubs hits a two-run home run in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

During the regular season, the Cubs had the second-best offense in baseball behind the Rockies, averaging 4.99 runs per game. It was the best after debiting the Rockies for playing in Coors Field. There was no way, after getting shut out in NLCS Games 2 and 3, that the offense was going to stay dormant much longer. They broke out for 10 runs in a Game 4 victory on Wednesday night. They scored eight more to beat the Dodgers 8-4 in Game 5, taking a 3-2 NLCS lead.

The Cubs took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when leadoff batter Dexter Fowler greeted Kenta Maeda with a single to center field. He’d come around to score on a one-out double by Anthony Rizzo who, like teammate Addison Russell, hadn’t hit much until breaking out in Game 4.

Starter Jon Lester was able to silence the Dodgers’ offense despite their strategy of attempting bunts and taking big leads, knowing Lester has trouble throwing when it’s not from the pitching rubber. They managed just one run, coming around in the fourth inning to knot the game at 1-1 when Howie Kendrick doubled, stole third base, and scored on an Adrian Gonzalez ground out.

Ultimately, Lester lasted seven innings, holding the Dodgers to five hits and a walk with six strikeouts on 108 pitches. Addison Russell allowed him to leave with a lead, slugging a two-run home run off of reliever Joe Blanton in the sixth to break the 1-1 tie.

The Cubs tacked on plenty of insurance in the top of the eighth against reliever Pedro Baez, which proved to be rather necessary. Russell reached on an error by Baez, Willson Contreras singled, and Albert Almora, Jr. moved both runners up a base on a sacrifice bunt. Dexter Fowler then hit a single to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, but Baez didn’t break to cover first base. Gonzalez wasn’t able to beat Fowler to the bag, allowing the Cubs’ fourth run to score. Kris Bryant hit a weak grounder to third base and he was able to beat that out as well, pushing across another run in the process. Anthony Rizzo lined out, but Baez prolonged the inning by walking Ben Zobrist. Ross Stripling relieved Baez, but he served up a bases-clearing double to Javier Baez, making it an 8-1 ballgame. Jason Heyward, as has often been the case, popped up feebly, mercifully ending the inning with the Cubs having hung up a five-spot.

Pedro Strop took over for Lester in the bottom of the eighth. He gave up a double to Andrew Toles, then hit Justin Turner to begin the inning. Though Strop was able to induce a ground ball double play from Corey Seager, Carlos Ruiz followed up with a double to left-center to push in a run. Howie Kendrick flied out to send the game to the ninth.

Closer Aroldis Chapman took over with a six-run lead in the bottom of the ninth. He issued a leadoff walk to Gonzalez, then served up a single to Yasiel Puig. Joc Pederson grounded out, but Josh Reddick knocked in Gonzalez and moved Puig to third with a single to center. Toles plated Puig with a sacrifice fly, making it 8-4. Turner grounded out to shortstop to end the game, finalizing the victory for the Cubs.

The two clubs will take Friday off to travel back to Chicago. Game 6 will take place at Wrigley Field at 8:00 PM EDT. Clayton Kershaw will start for the Dodgers opposite the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks.