Giving up the anti-Jack Morris crusade

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Brace yourselves: Jack Morris For The Hall of Fame/Jack Morris Is Not A Hall of Famer season is coming. It’ll be the last season for it, as this is Morris’ final season of eligibility, so I assume the rhetoric will be particularly pitched. And particularly stupid at times too.

Here’s stupid for you: Jack Morris himself was quoted over the weekend saying that his ERA may have been high for a Hall of Famer, but that’s just because no one ever told him he needed to have a low ERA. Really. He actually said that. He said if his general manager or his manager told him that they wanted him to have a lower earned run average then “I probably would have led the league.” Jack Morris is a professional baseball analyst these days and he actually said that. And some people with Hall of Fame votes actually believe him. Just let that sink in for a bit.

But I don’t offer that little link and that little shake of my damn head as a means of firing up the engines on the Keep Jack Morris Out Of The Hall of Fame Outrage Express again.  I think I’m done manning any part of the controls of that beast. I’ve written a ton of stuff over the years on the Jack Morris Hall of Fame debate, and I’m kinda tired of it, actually. And though my position hasn’t changed — I wouldn’t vote for Morris if I had a vote — I have come around on one point that those who support his candidacy sometimes make: spending inordinate amounts of energy to argue that so-and-so shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame to the point it becomes a proxy war in some larger crusade is a negative experience.

Not that all Hall of Fame crusades are like that. The pro-Bert Blyleven thing of a few years ago was useful because it helped a lot of folks realize how overlooked the guy was. It may have educated some folks a bit about certain modes of baseball analysis. And, in the end, it was aimed at doing a good thing: honoring someone.

The Morris stuff? Also enlightening at times, yes, but when your argument is anti-something rather than pro-something, you’re going to end up in a negative place if you get too carried away with it. You have to remember after all that in those cases a “win” is a guy being told “no, you weren’t good enough.” Which, yes, is obviously the result of any process that seeks to elevate some over others, but it can be a drag. Best to state your case and get on with life rather than slog back into it again and again.

I liked Jack Morris as a pitcher when I was a kid. I’ve said all I feel like I need to have said about his case in the past — and, in hindsight, I’ve probably said way too much about it — so at this point I’m content to link that old stuff rather than rehash it all again because I’m simply not in the place now, as I may have been a year or two ago, where I feel like hating on the guy to make a political point leads to any positive returns. I’m content to live with a Jack Morris legacy that is not so tied to the black-or-white views the Hall of Fame debate forces us to have. To say that Jack Morris was a really good pitcher without feeling compelled to spend ten times more effort to say why he wasn’t a Hall of Famer. In my mind he wasn’t. If your mind is different about it I can think you’re wrong. But I am not obligated to think too hard about it.

As for the larger Hall of Fame case for Jack Morris? Well, no one’s mind is going to change on Morris based on any cogent analytical argument on the one hand or any emotional appeal to Game 7 and Morris’ winning quality on the other hand at this late date. If votes shift around it’ll be either because of some attention-seeking political reaction by a voter or else because other candidates on the ballot — like Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine — require people who may have once supported Morris to pull their support due to there being too many better choices. There is still technically one more Jack Morris battle to be fought in the form of this year’s balloting, but the shooting part of the war is essentially over.

If Jack Morris gets in I feel like it will be one of the poorer Hall of Fame choices in recent years, but the world won’t end. And at this point I don’t feel like arguing to prevent him from getting in is worth the added negativity.

Yoenis Cespedes should be ready for Tuesday’s game

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The Mets are off today, and that day off may be just enough to get outfielder Yoenis Cespedes ready to start their next game, on Tuesday, against the Braves. At least that’s what he’s telling Mets manager Terry Collins.

Cespedes did not play in the weekend series against the Nationals, but was available as a pinch hitter yesterday. He was even on the on-deck circle at the end of last night’s game.

Cespedes, who tweaked his hammy running to second base on Thursday, is hitting .255/.364/.636 with six homers and 10 RBI in 15 games on the young season.

Marcus Stroman was called for an illegal quick pitch for some reason

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A “quick pitch” is an illegal action in which the pitcher pitches the ball before the batter is prepared. What makes a quick pitch a quick pitch? According to Rule 6.02(a)(5), it’s this:

 . . . Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted.

There are a couple of reasons why you don’t want quick pitches in baseball. In one respect, it’s about safety, as mentioned specifically in the rule. You don’t want a pitcher throwing a 90 m.p.h. fastball in the batter’s general direction if he’s not ready for it, because if it goes off course the batter will have no ability to defend himself and bail. But there’s also a spirit-of-the-game reason for it. The essence of baseball is the face-off between batter and pitcher. While everyone wants the game to move along promptly, the game isn’t really the game if the batter isn’t ready.

There is more art than science to all of this, of course, as all batters and pitchers have different pre-pitch routines, but when you watch a game, there’s a rhythm to all of that. You know the batter is gonna take a couple of practice swings and settle in. The pitcher tends to respect that. The quick pitch rule is rarely invoked for this reason.

It was used in yesterday’s Angels-Blue Jays game, however. And used badly in my view. Watch Marcus Stroman pitch to Kole Calhoun. The ump is Ramon DeJesus. The count was 3-1, so the automatic ball resulted in Calhoun being awarded first base:

Calhoun was obviously upset about something, calling time after Stroman is into his motion (which is not allowed) throwing his hands up and stuff after the pitch. But tell me, in what way was he not “reasonably ready” for that pitch, to use the language of the rule? He’s facing Stroman, looking at him. He’s done with his warmup swings, his bat is up and cocked and he’s standing in hitting position. I understand that it’s a judgment call by the umpire, but it seems to me like the umpire just called time too late because Calhoun didn’t feel ideally comfortable or something.

Either way, it set off Stroman and manager John Gibbons. Gibbons was ejected arguing the call. Stroman, who was otherwise excellent yesterday, was rattled for a bit, giving up a couple of hits and a run afterward. It was Calhoun who scored, natch.

It didn’t affect the outcome, but it certainly seemed like a bad call. And possibly a bad precedent, as batters may now try to lobby harder for quick pitch calls, given its success yesterday. Or, if umpires tend to think that was a bad call too, maybe they’ll overcompensate for it and be less likely to call quick pitches? You never know how this stuff will play out.

Whatever happens, I’ve been against Major League Baseball’s habit of increasingly taking judgment calls away from umpires, trying to make the subjective objective and making a flawed instant replay system the Supreme Court of Baseball Calls. But jeez, it’s hard to argue for allowing umps to hold on to judgment calls when they blow ’em like this.