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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: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.