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Inducting Jack Morris would lower the bar for the Hall of Fame

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I’ve covered this territory before, and I realize I’m mostly preaching to the choir here. Still, it needs to be written again: Jack Morris did not have a Hall of Fame career.

The funny thing is that the writers once knew this. When Morris debuted on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2000, he received 22 percent of the vote. His support dipped to 20 percent in 2001, and he only reached 30 percent on his sixth try in 2005. Now he’s all of the way up to 66.7 percent, still for no good reason that I can see.

Morris’ backers say he was the best pitcher of the 1980s and that he pitched one of the greatest games of all-time to clinch the 1991 World Series for the Twins. I take no issue with the latter statement; Morris’ stellar duel with the Braves’ John Smoltz in which he went the distance for a 1-0, 10-inning victory was a true masterpiece and should never be forgotten. And it won’t be.

The rest of the case for Morris is weak.

Morris is only a candidate for “best pitcher of the 1980s” because it just so happens that no elite starters showed up during that 1975-1980 timeframe and had their peak years during the 1980s. No one would ever think of Morris as the top pitcher of the 1970s or 1990s had his 1980s happened in another decade.

Also, one can put together a pretty good argument that Dave Stieb was actually the best pitcher of the 1980s. Morris topped Stieb in wins 162-140, but it was closer in winning percentage (.577 to .562), even though Morris played for superior teams. Morris had a 3.66 ERA and a 109 ERA+ for the decade, while Stieb came in at 3.32 and 126.

Even if you still want to give Morris “best pitcher of the 1980s” honors, he certainly wasn’t the best pitcher of the first half of the decade (Steve Carlton, 88-47, 2.91 ERA; Morris 86-62, 3.66 ERA) or anywhere near the best pitcher of the second half of the decade (Roger Clemens 86-41, 2.92 ERA; Morris 76-57, 3.67 ERA).

And Morris wasn’t the best pitcher in any season of the decade. Not only did he never win a Cy Young Award, but he never even finished second.

It’s the Cy Young balloting that is particularly telling, in my opinion. Some of those who argue for Morris like to tell us that we weren’t there, that we didn’t see Morris when he was winning all of those big games.

Well, look at the people that were there. Morris pitched for 18 seasons, all of them in a 14-team American League. During that time, there were 504 ballots cast for the Cy Young Award. Morris received a first-place vote on five of those ballots. One percent. He got two first-place votes in 1983, when he finished third in the balloting behind the immortal LaMarr Hoyt and a reliever in Dan Quisenberry. He got the other three in 1991, when he finished fourth behind Clemens, Scott Erickson and Jim Abbott.

And while I wasn’t covering baseball in those years, I was there, at least for the latter half of Morris’ career. I think everyone respected Morris. I don’t think anyone was afraid of him. No opposing fan ever went to the ballpark and said “we’ve got no shot today, Morris is starting.” Morris was a workhorse, a battler. There’s no evidence to support the pitching to the score argument, but Morris worked deep into games and usually gave his team a chance to win. And his team did more often than not (it helped that those Tigers had two guys who really should be in the Hall of Fame in Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker).

Of course, having to be the game’s best pitcher shouldn’t be the standard for the Hall of Fame. Bert Blyleven and Don Sutton were never the best in their leagues. Tom Glavine and Curt Schilling weren’t either, yet both of them should be enshrined.

Morris, though, still doesn’t compare. His 3.90 ERA would be the worst in Cooperstown. Even in seemingly weak fields, his best AL ERA finish was fifth place. He led the league in wins twice; once in the strike-shortened 1981 season with 14 and later in 1992 when he went 21-6 with a 4.04 ERA. He led the league in innings and strikeouts once apiece. His win total of 254 is pretty good, but it’s still behind that of 41 other starters in history and it’s really the strong point of his case. Also, it should be noted that the AL was the weaker of the two leagues during Morris’ career. He was facing easier competition than his NL counterparts.

Jack Morris was a very good pitcher, one of the last to average 250 innings and 10 complete games per season in his prime. He turned in one of the greatest postseason starts in history. That’s how he should be remembered. He just doesn’t come all that close to meeting the current standards for Hall of Fame enshrinement, and voting him in would be a mistake.

MLB says there is no “Shoehi Otani exception”

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Yesterday, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reported that there were potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Otani, and that Otani would, in fact, be posted to play in the United States for the 2017 season.

Now, however, Major League Baseball is pouring cold water on that:

Which is to say that, because MLB owners wanted to save money on international prospects, they have willingly adopted a rule that will keep top international talent from coming here when possible. Baseball officials want to grow the game internationally, they say. They just don’t want to pay to do it.

Baseball’s Most Handsome Managers

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 23:  Manager Brad Ausmus #7 of the Detroit Tigers smiles after a two-run home run by Victor Martinez that also scored Rajai Davis during the first inning of a game against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park on September 23, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers won, 7-4. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
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OXON HILL, MD — This is the fourth year I have done these rankings (here’s last year’s). They started as a total lark, but I’m starting to worry that I have tapped into some sort of cosmic energy with them which somehow ties in with The Fate of Man.

I don’t presume that I have any power here. I’m just a conduit. All I know for sure is that, if I rank you in, say, the bottom ten on this list, bad things may very well happen to you. To wit:

I think the lesson here is obvious: be handsome. Everything else is secondary.

Which skipper is the most handsome this year? See below to find out. But first, the disclaimers:

  • No baseball manager is ugly. All of them have inner beauty, I’m sure.
  • This is a subjective list, obviously. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I will privately judge you for thinking unattractive managers are handsome, but that reflects poorly on me, not you. Let no one besides you dictate your feelings.
  • Finally, because some of you will inevitably offer a neanderthal comment about all of this, let me head it off by assuring you that this is merely a list of aesthetic handsomeness, not one of love or longing. I hate that even in 2016 I feel as though I have to say it, but I will say that I am a totally straight man making these judgments. If you find something wrong or amiss with that, I feel sorry for you. There is far too much beauty among people in the world for us to fail to acknowledge 50% of it merely because we’re worried about appearing less than traditionally masculine or feminine. Free your mind, the rest will follow.

The rankings:

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 04:  Manager Brad Ausmus #7 of the Detroit Tigers watches the action during the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Comerica Park on April 4, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Orioles 10-4. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

1. Brad Ausmus: Back on top after a one-year absence. I’m not gonna lie, I had no idea whether I’d put him here or give Mike Matheny a second year as my number one hunk. Two things happened last night, however, that helped me make up my mind.

First, just before going to dinner, I came across a late season photo of Matheny in which he was letting the mullet thing get out of hand (see below). Second, after getting back from dinner, I found myself standing next to Ausmus in the lobby of the Gaylord Hotel. He was with a group of friends, having a drink and chatting and, of course, was looking amazing. As I said above, I’m a perfectly straight dude, but even I can appreciate it when a man is in the 99th percentile of jeans-wearing. Indeed, the Tigers should change all coaches uniforms to jeans and a button down shirt next year and watch attendance soar.

But really, it wasn’t just the looks that put Ausmus back on top. It was how comfortable he is being a true Man of the People. A lot of the older managers hang out in the bars with the crowd at the Winter Meetings because they’ve seen it all and don’t give a crap. Bochy, Showalter, Leyland, Mackanin and those guys are always around. The younger set, who identify more with the front office types, are harder to find, presumably because they’re up in the suites with the suits, away from the hoi polloi.

Not Ausmus. He’s always down here with us plebes. He doesn’t give a crap, and there’s something dashing about that.

2. Mike Matheny: I’m gonna catch all kinds of hell from Cards fans for knocking Mathney down a notch after his first place finish last year, but I’m sorry, you gotta do something about that hair in the back, Mike:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Manager Mike Matheny #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on while the umpires review a call against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the third inning at AT&T Park on September 16, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Maybe that’s always been there, I don’t know. But I’m really noticing it now and, for as little standing I have to criticize anyone’s hair, I’m not prepared to make a mullet-wearing man my Most Handsome Manager. Don’t get me wrong: he’s still leaps and bounds more handsome than the 28 men below him. Ausmus and Matheny are in their own league. They should probably pull a John Laroquette and take themselves out of the future running in order to make it fair for the other guys. But you have to make distinctions somehow. Get a haircut and check back with me next December, Mike. Or maybe wait for Ausmus to get fired, which could totally happen in 2017. Then you can assume th top spot again.

3. Dave Roberts: A big leap from last year. As I’ve always said in these rankings how one carries oneself in the role of manager has a huge impact on one’s handsomeness, at least how I define it, so we had to see him in action before his ranking stabalized. Roberts came into a job with a stress level that made Don Mattingly look like this, often:

Ned Colletti, Don Mattingly

Roberts, however, dealt with the same stuff — the Yasiel Puig drama, the expectations that come with the Dodgers payroll AND he dealt with Clayton Kershaw getting injured — yet he always looked cooler than the other side of the pillow:

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 16: Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts reacts prior to game two of the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on October 16, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

That’s what handsome is.

4. A.J. Hinch: The chin dimple pretty much ensures that he’ll always be in the top five.

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 06: Manager A.J. Hinch #14 of the Houston Astros talks with the media before playing the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park on July 6, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

 

5. Joe Maddon:

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 04: Manager Joe Maddon of the Chicago Cubs speakds to the crowd during the Chicago Cubs victory celebration in Grant Park on November 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs won their first World Series championship in 108 years after defeating the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in Game 7. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

A big jump for Joe who, in recent years, I’ve held down a bit because I felt like he was trying too hard to be the cool dad which, as a dad, I can tell you is never a great look. But as I noted with Ned Yost the past couple of years, winning begets swagger which begets handsomeness and seeing Maddon walking around the Winter Meetings this week with a championship under his belt has allowed me to see him in a different light. He’s still trying too hard — he was wearing some sort of down vest that looks like it came from Pro Glamping Illustrated or something — but when you win a World Series, you can wear whatever the hell you want and still look good.

6. Bud Black: A top-10’er in the first two years of this list due to his status as the Gold Standard of the Silver Fox set but, sadly, AWOL last year as he was without a gig. He’s back now, baby, with a bullet. Just saw him yesterday too, as he gave his first Winter Meetings presser as the Rockies manager:

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Nice blazer, Bud. Lookin’ good as always.

7. Ned Yost: Yost takes a tumble as the winning swagger from the past two Winter Meetings just isn’t there:

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The glasses are sliding down the nose ever so slightly. The body language during his presser was more clenched and less expressive than we’ve seen in the past. None of us deal well with adversity, but going from World Series champ to missing the playoffs has taken a subtle but perceptible toll on his Ned’s hunkiness.

8. Pete Mackanin: Pete has been hanging out in the bar here every evening with a group of people, one of whom I presume is his wife. They’re a happy bunch. Laughing and enjoying themselves, sitting at a table with some food as opposed to walking around with drinks. He dresses smartly. From what I’ve observed, he talks some, but doesn’t dominate the conversation. He may be the smoothest manager for a 90+ loss team I’ve ever seen.

9. John Farrell: Still looking good, even if he’s down a few notches.

10. Torey Lovullo: New kid on the block:

FORT MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Torey Lovullo #17 of the Boston Red Sox poses for a portrait on February 28, 2016 at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

It’s an open question if he’ll keep that smile on his face after being in charge of the Diamondbacks. That job probably takes a toll.

11. Terry Francona: He remains the Most Handsome Bald Manager in Baseball. At least I think so. I haven’t seen a pic of Lovullo with his hat off lately. If I remember correctly he’s receeding, but I don’t think he’s truly and fully bald yet in the way Tito proudly is.

12. Brian Snitker: Since he took over in May this is his first time in the rankings. As with any new guy, this could go in a lot of different directions going forward. On the one hand: piercing eyes and rugged jaw:

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 20: Manager Brian Snitker #43 of the Atlanta Braves looks on from the dugout before a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on May 20, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

On the other hand, he doesn’t really wear anger well:

ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 23: Brian Snitker #43 of the Atlanta Braves reacts after being ejected by third base umpire Mike Everitt #57 from arguing the call on the video review initiated from Emilio Bonifacio #64 being called out at homeplate against Travis d'Arnaud #7 of the New York Mets to end the seventh inning at Turner Field on June 23, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

However:

KISSIMMEE, FL - FEBRUARY 25: Brian Snitker #43 of the Atlanta Braves poses during Photo Day on February 25, 2008 at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Kissimmee, Florida. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

If Snitker brings back that soup strainer one day, he may be a darkhorse top-five’er.

13. Andy Green: A guy with the cheekbones and jawline he sported a year ago. . .


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. . . should not be hiding it behind this much facial hair:

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 16: Manager Andy Green #14 of the San Diego Padres looks on from the bench in the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays on August 16, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Cliff McBride/Getty Images)

Clean it up, Andy.

14. Paul Molitor: He didn’t get uglier. Some guys just moved ahead. Even if he did get uglier, the memory of Young Paul Molitor will likely buoy him for years:

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15. Jeff Bannister: Many of you tell me that I’ve been underrating him:

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 02: Manager Jeff Banister #28 of the Texas Rangers looks on as the Rangers take on the Tampa Bay Rays at Globe Life Park in Arlington on October 2, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Fair. People underrate the Rangers every year too.

16. Joe Girardi: Holding steady with his intimidatingly strong arms.

17. Dusty Baker: Dusty can’t help being one of baseball’s oldest managers and time, of course, is undefeated, but he’s so damn comfortable and relaxed all the of the time that he’s way higher on this list than anyone his age has a right to be.

18. Craig Counsell: I suppose he is far more conventionally handsome than I give him credit for, but something about Counsell doesn’t sit right with me:

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 3: Manager Craig Counsell #30 of the Milwaukee Brewers spitswhile watching the game against the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth inning at Busch Stadium on July 3, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

He turns 47 next season yet he still looks like that kid who hangs out in front of the drug store, opening Donruss packs and yelling “sweet!” after finding a Mark Grace Rated Rookie before peddling off on his Mongoose.

19. Bob Melvin: I feel like he’ll be the Oakland manager until he dies of old age, so it’ll be interesting to see him slide down the list as time takes its inevitable toll. Heck, given how the A’s seem to be tied to Melvin forever, maybe they’ll pull a Jeremy Benthem kind of deal with him and let him manage as a corpse in, like, 2059 or something. That would certainly impact his rating here. Though whether he’d go up or down I have no idea.

20. Kevin Cash:

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JULY 1: Manger Kevin Cash #16 of the Tampa Bay Rays yells from the dugout during the third inning of game against the Detroit Tigers on July 1, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

I’ve never gotten the appeal. People tell me I’m so wrong on him and that I should have him in the top 10 — and I suppose there’s a “Mark Ruffalo avec Mail Pouch Tobacco” vibe to all of this — but I just don’t see it.

21. Don Mattingly: It was a rough year in Miami, especially at the end of it, for obvious reasons. Matingly has seemed to have his seasons end with some level of stress and tumult every single year. He hasn’t made his appearance at the Winter Meetings pressers yet, but I’m hoping he’s relaxed and recharging.

22. Bryan Price: I feel like this is the last year he’ll be on this list. Then again, I’ve been saying this for years.

23. Scott Servais:

scott-servais

“What is it going to take to get you into a new Buick? My manager says I can throw in the all-weather floor mats at cost!”

24. Buck Showalter: Showalter was poised to be way higher on this list and all he had to do was put that killer outfit he just picked up and he would’ve been gold. For reasons only he can explain, however, he left it in the drawer. Baffling.

25. Terry Collins: He already has gray hair, but at the moment it looks like a past-his-defensive-prime Curtis Granderson is going to be his everyday center fielder this season. If so, his gray hair may get gray hair.

26. John Gibbons: He’s not at the Winter Meetings this week due to dealing with a flu. This is what he looked like late in the season when he was healthy:

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 3: Manager John Gibbons #5 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on from the dugout during the first inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 3, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

Imagine what Gibbons looks like sick.

27. Rick Renteria: Welcome back to the managing ranks, Rick. Baseball always needs a manager in your particular mold.

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 02: Rick Renteria #17 of the Chicago White Sox in the dugout before the game against the Minnesota Twins on October 2, 2016 at U. S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

28. Bruce Bochy: Given the health scare last spring, allow me to say that I think Bochy is one of the most handsome men baseball has ever seen and the only reason he is listed at 28 right now is a computer glitch that is preventing me from changing it. Bad, computer! Bad! Bruce Bochy is an adonis! (no one tell him about this, OK?)

29. Clint Hurdle: Hurdle’s handsomeness is directly proportinal to his happiness. He has a very pleasant smile and gives off an admirable rugged charm when things are going well. But we all remember what happens when he’s angry:

Clint Hurdle red face.bmp

With the Pirates reportedly dealing Andrew McCutchen, one can only assume Hurdle is going to be angry more in 2017.

30. Mike Scioscia: All of these pictures came via the Getty Images search. When you use it, a search field comes up with all sorts of image options. This is one of the options:

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You may not like everything I do on this website, but you had better thank me for not unclicking that box and looking for Mike Scioscia nudes. That would definitely make a person . . . feel something.

TORONTO, CANADA - AUGUST 23: Manager Mike Scioscia #14 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim reacts during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays on August 23, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)