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In which we pore over Jon Heyman’s Hall of Fame column

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Jon Heyman has posted his Hall of Fame column in which he explains his votes.  Keeping in mind this morning’s thoughts on the Hall of Fame — and trying hard to be a little more charitable than I have been in the past to Mr. Heyman — I will say that I am glad that he writes a lengthy and thorough column explaining his votes each year. I will further say that I am glad how the tone he has taken this year — particularly with his long introduction — is a positive one.  Unlike some past things has he written or tweeted on the subject, I really do get the sense that Heyman has put a lot of consideration into this.

That’s especially true when it comes to Bert Blyleven. He’s respectful of the folks who support his candidacy and takes pains to note that he respects Blyleven as a truly great pitcher. He just disagrees that he’s a Hall of Famer.  Fair enough. Though I support him, I’m not going to pretend that he’s Tom Seaver here.

I think the biggest source of disagreement on the subject comes when he gets into Jack Morris. Setting aside the whole “if you vote for Morris you have to vote for Blyleven” thing which I have beaten into the ground lately, I just can’t come to terms with an argument that begins with “to some degree, you had to be there,” which is a direct quote from Heyman’s piece.

When it comes to Jack Morris, I was there. I may not have been a professional sports writer then, but Morris was the ace for the team I watched over 100 times a year. Tigers fans at the time appreciated Morris for the excellent pitcher that he was, but everyone acknowledged that, at times, Dan Petry or Milt Wilcox pitched better. Even as kids we knew or at least felt that the generation of pitchers that was winding down as Morris was cranking up was far, far superior to him. So superior to where a second-tier guy of the Seaver/Carlton generation — like Blyleven — was better in many important ways.  Even as kids we knew that the generation immediately following Morris had guys who were better than him. Guys like that Roger Clemens kid who struck out 21 Seattle Mariners in ’86 or that fellow in New York they were calling Dr. K.

In this morning’s thread, commenter ChurchOfThePerpetuallyOutraged posted his favorite quote from the movie “Memento.”  It’s more than apt here:

Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation, they’re not a record, and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.

Ultimately, Heyman’s reliance on memory and the general vibe that surrounded Jack Morris misleads him. The facts disprove the notion that Morris was better than Blyleven in any appreciable way. They show that the competition against whom Morris competed for those Cy Young votes and All-Star starts Heyman cites was vastly inferior to that which Blyleven faced.  The facts likewise show that the final argument Heyman makes for Morris — the oft-cited “he pitched to the score” argument — is simply not true. And even if it is true, the same measure, applied to Blyleven, shows that he did it better.

But that’s said and done. Like I said earlier today: I respect his vote. I don’t agree with it. At times I think he is inconsistent in his standards. But I respect it.  Moving on to other highlights:

  • I agree with him 100% that Roberto Alomar should have been in last year. It’s a near-crime that he didn’t make it. He should this year;
  • Ditto on Barry Larkin;
  • He says yes on Dave Parker. I say no, but I don’t begrudge his vote here. He’s always supported Parker and I believe he supported Jim Rice and other hard-hitting corner outfielders like them;
  • Big props to Heyman for reassessing his position on Tim Raines. He did not support him in the past. He does support him now. I would too;
  • He says yes on Mattingly. One of the reasons: ” he has career stats very similar to Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett.”  A Puckett comparison is highly misleading, however, given that he was forced out of the game in his prime due to a freak malady that was otherwise divorced from the normal baseball durability concerns. If he had continued to play and was allowed to decline like normal players, he would have clearly out-shined Mattingly, and that’s before adjusting for the fact that Puckett played one of the most valuable positions on the diamond while Donnie Baseball was a first baseman;
  • He says yes On Dale Murphy. Again, I disagree , but this is merely a difference of opinion.  If you’re a big-Hall guy, I could see Murphy fitting. Of course, if you’re a big-Hall guy I’d say Blyleven has to make it too, but we’ve already beaten that to death. The point is, I’m not aware of Heyman being inconsistent on an apples-to-apples basis with other CF/RFs like Murphy;
  • Among his no votes, I get the sense that he’s open-minded on Alan Trammell. He doesn’t explain his vote on Fred McGriff, but he notes how good he was, so I assume he and I are of the same mind on the Crime Dog (i.e. close, but maybe not).
  • His no on Jeff Bagwell is still rather astounding to me. He doesn’t explain here beyond saying that he’s a close call and wants more time to consider.  I’d really like to know what’s holding him up, though, because I think Bagwell should be a first-ballot guy.
  • All of the rest of his no votes don’t require a ton of explanation, I don’t think.

No, I’m not going to take this approach with every Hall of Fame voter who publishes an explanatory column. I do feel I owed it to Heyman, though, as I am often critical of him and because he has been the focal point of the Morris-Blyleven debate.

Overall:  though one may agree or disagree with him, good show by Heyman for being so transparent with his thought process. I wish every voter would do so.

Report: Cardinals are scouting Cuban outfielder Luis Robert

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Baseballs sit in the St. Louis Cardinals dugout prior to a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 25, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by David Welker/Getty Images)
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According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.

There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.

Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.

Cubs extend Pedro Strop through 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Pedro Strop #46 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.

Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.

The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.

Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.