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.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.