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

37 Comments

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.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
19 Comments

It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Getty Images
2 Comments

Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.