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.

Clay Buchholz apologized to the Phillies for getting injured

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MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports that starter Clay Buchholz is at Citizens Bank Park for Wednesday night’s game against the Marlins. The right-hander recently underwent surgery to repair a partial tear of his flexor pronator mass. The timetable for his recovery is three to five months, but most are expecting him to miss the rest of the season since the Phillies aren’t legitimate contenders.

According to Zolecki, Buchholz apologized to GM Matt Klentak “and others” — presumably other front office staff and/or his teammates — for getting injured. Buchholz hopes to return to pitch in September.

It’s saddening to me, and indicative of the general anti-labor culture in sports, that a player feels obligated to apologize for getting injured on the job. Injuries are nothing new for Buchholz, which might have factored into his decision to apologize. Red Sox fans got on his case quite a bit over the years for his propensity to land on the disabled list. But it wasn’t like Buchholz was taking unnecessary risks; he simply did his job, which entails doing a lot of unhealthy movement with his arm. Buchholz owes no one an apology.

Buchholz isn’t the only player to have apologized for getting injured. Outfielder Hideki Matsui apologized to the Yankees in 2006. Starter Masahiro Tanaka apologized in 2014. Twins reliever Glen Perkins apologized last year. Even Madison Bumgarner sort of apologized for suffering injuries riding a dirt bike on an off-day, saying “It’s definitely not the most responsible decision I’ve made.” Because god forbid an athlete has interests and hobbies outside of his vocation.

Players are brought up in a sports culture that allows exorbitantly wealthy owners to bilk the players — laborers — at every possible turn. They’re mostly underpaid and poorly taken care of in the minors. If and when they reach the major leagues, their salaries are intentionally depressed for six years and their service time is toyed with (just ask Kris Bryant). Buchholz endured that and then endured the criticism that comes with having been a hyped prospect who mostly failed to live up to expectations. He’s gone above and beyond what he needed to do to have a successful career as a professional baseball player, even if it wasn’t as much as fans or front office personnel would have liked.

Eric Thames leaves game with apparent injury

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Update (5:22 PM ET): Thames is dealing with left hamstring tightness. Manager Craig Counsell says it’s “not a big deal,” Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

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Brewers first baseman Eric Thames left Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Reds in the top of the eighth inning with an apparent injury. Thames took his position to start the inning, but was replaced by Jesus Aguilar. Thames had flied out weakly to center field to end the previous inning, so perhaps something happened while he ran that out.

The Brewers should provide an update shortly on the exact nature of Thames’ early exit. Needless to say, losing Thames to the disabled list would be a huge blow to the 11-11 Brewers, as he entered Wednesday leading all of baseball in runs (25), home runs (11), slugging percentage (.929), and OPS (1.411). Thames was 1-for-3 with a single, a pair of walks, and two runs scored before leaving.