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

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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.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.