Jon Heyman defends his Hall of Fame ballot

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Blyleven AP.jpgLast week I mentioned the little tweet-storm Jon Heyman set off when he announced his Hall of Fame ballot.  To review, he had Robbie Alomar, Andrew Dawson, Barry Larkin, Dave Parker, Jack Morris and Don Mattingly
Many people took issue with this ballot, myself included. It’s a pretty
awful one all things considered. Parker? Morris? Mattingly? 

At
the time I gave kudos to Heyman for standing in the box and defending
his choices.  Maybe he should have quit while he was, well, stalemated.
Because today he wrote a column defending his choices in greater detail, and his case hasn’t been helped a bit. With apologies to Ken Tremendous, let’s run down this bad-boy, passage-by passage:

I consider impact more than stats. I like dominance over durability. I
prefer players who were great at some point to the ones who were merely
very good for a very long time. And I do recall it’s called the Hall of
Fame, not the Hall of Numbers.

Which
explains why he has voted for the dominant Jack Morris? (note: Jack
Morris was never dominant) and why he leaves out the famous Mark
McGwire?

The reason I haven’t yet voted for Raines is that while he was a star
in Montreal, he was merely a good player for the bulk of the rest his
career, spent mainly with the White Sox and Yankees.

Wait,
what happened to “great at some point” mattering and “good
for a long time” not being important?  He has completely reversed that
with Raines.

Every year, I take hits for my lack of support of Blyleven, and this
time on Twitter I was called “stupid,” a “moron” and “idiotic,” by
(at least) a trio of Blyleven supporters. No one player incites more
controversy or stirs more emotion over his candidacy, which is slightly
ironic after a career that was marked by solid attributes such as
consistency and durability but somewhat lacking in drama.

In
the Twitter exchanges Heyman refers to there were maybe three or four
people just calling names. There were a dozen or two making sober and
cogent arguments. Heyman never addresses those arguments. It’s all
about the crazies.

My contention regarding Blyleven is that almost no one viewed him as a
Hall of Famer during his playing career, and that is borne out by the
17 percent of the vote he received in his first year of eligibility in
1998, followed by 14 percent the next year.

Yet
he is a fan of Morris, who got 22.9% of the vote in his first year and
19.6% of the vote in his second. And he spent a paragraph talking about
how his mind is changing on Tim Raines, who got 24.3% in his first year
of eligibility, but not Heyman’s vote. And Don Mattingly, who was last
seen hovering at around 16%, and also did not previously get Heyman’s
vote.  And Dave Parker, who continues to get way less than 20% of the
vote (and who has a drug history unmatched in the game, which Heyman
says should disqualify McGwire).

Look, it’s completely
legitimate to change one’s vote over time. Heyman does it himself. But
to point to Blyleveln’s lackluster first year vote totals as evidence
against his Hall of Fame case is both disingenuous and tautologous.

After going on and on about how Blyleven never showed greatness as opposed to the ability to merely compile stats, Heyman says:

Some will say that Blyleven’s career was equal to Hall of Famer Don Sutton’s
but I say it is just short of Sutton’s. They both had big totals in
other categories but Sutton wound up with 37 more victories, going over
the magic 300 mark by 24.

Got that? Stat compilers suck, unless of course they compile long enough to reach some arbitrary number like 300.  And make no mistake: if Blyleven had gotten the 13 wins needed to make 300, Heyman would have no problem with his relative lack of “dominance” his winning percentage or the cut of his jib. He would have voted for him on the first ballot, because he just decided that he likes some numbers and doesn’t like others, no matter how important or unimportant they are.

Many stat people suggest wins are not important in evaluating careers.
But until wins don’t decide who’s in the playoffs and who’s out, who
makes the World Series and who doesn’t, I will continue to view them as
important. A pitcher’s goal for each game is to win the game, not to
strikeout the most batters. And until that changes, I will count wins
and losses.

OK, fine, you’ve changed course on your “compiling argument.” It’s your column. So let’s assume that counting wins does matter. Unless
Heyman has devised a different sort of counting than we’re used to, how
he fails to acknowledge that Blyleven, at 287, has more wins than
Morris, at 254 is beyond me.  And given that he votes for position
players who don’t get any wins credited to them, I assume he
appreciates that wins are team stats, not purely individual ones. Of
course if he concedes that Don Mattingly didn’t care about winning,
I’ll retract this point.

Heyman would, and often does, point to winning percentage as
a key factor, noting that while his supporters often cite the fact that
Blyleven pitched for bad teams, his career winning percentage — .534
— wasn’t that much better than the teams on which he pitched: .496. 
What he leaves out is that the difference between Morris’ career winning
percentage — .577 — and the teams on which he pitched — .547 — is
actually less than Blyleven’s. In other words, Blyleven outpitched his teams at a better clip than the supposedly dominant Morris did.

My basic philosophy
is to emphasis impact more than numbers . . . It is why I vote or Jack
Morris, a bulldog who was considered the best
pitcher of the ’80s, and who pitched the best game of the ’90s.

The
fact that anyone considers Jack Morris the best pitcher of the 80s is
curious at best. Sure, if you go by “wins between 1980 and 1990” I suppose he
is, but Roger Clemens was a better pitcher every single season they
shared the league together outside of Clemens’ rookie year. Dave Stieb
was better than Morris over the entire decade. But even if you set
those guys aside, doesn’t one have to acknowledge that any of the top
5-10 pitchers of the 70s — a group to which Bert Blyleven belongs —
would have, in their prime, been the best pitcher of the 80s? Being the
best starter of the 80s is like being the best football team in Alaska.
Nice factoid, but it has nothing to do with greatness.

Jack Morris: Dominant bulldog received Cy Young votes seven times, won more games in
the ’80s than anyone and was a general force in the American League
(though his overall stats admittedly aren’t as good as Blyleven’s).

So
if the stats don’t matter, we take away the most wins in the 80s thing
and we’re left with, what? Morris was a “dominant bulldog” who won Game
7 of the 1991 World Series?  That’s the Hall of Fame case for Jack
Morris and the anti-case for Blyleven? 

Great. It’s Heyman’s
ballot and he can do what he’d like to it. I’d just like him to point
to one piece of objective evidence that establishes Jack Morris as
“dominant” before he expects me to even begin to agree with his vote.
Until that time, I’m going to continue to assume that Heyman, like many
other writers, simply decided at one point that Bert Blyleven isn’t a
Hall of Famer and continues his increasingly stubborn search for
evidence to back up that opinion with something approaching facts.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the excaption because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed,  I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.