Jack Morris

Giving up the anti-Jack Morris crusade


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.

Playoff Reset: The Cards and Dodgers have their backs against the wall

Clayton Kershaw

Historically speaking, the Cardinals and Dodgers are the class of the National League. A couple of organizations which have won a ton, have had a lot of classy alpha-types running their respective shows over the years, no shortage of glory, no shortage of history and enough evocative and grand footage in the can to make Ken Burns sepia with envy.

Meanwhile, the Cubs and Mets, while they’ve won some and have some wonderful history too, are far better known for their failures. For dubious achievements and fan bases which have, collectively, spent far more time smacking their own foreheads than high-fiving the guy in the seat next to them. Nevertheless, by the time we go to bed tonight it’s quite possible that the classy organizations with the long resumes of winning baseball will have been eliminated by the sad sacks and that we’re going to be treated to a Mets-Cubs NLCS.

In short: today’s NLDS contests are “the big game” sequences in any late-70s-mid-90s “slobs vs. snobs” comedy movie. Camp Mohawk vs. Camp Northstar. Lane Meyer vs. Roy Stalin skiing the K-12. Thornton Mellon vs. Chas in the diving meet. Once these things are over don’t be surprised to see someone on the Mets or Cubs kissing some girl way out of their league and to be asking yourself, “wait, why are there cheerleaders at a diving meet?”

Of course baseball isn’t as scripted as all of that and William Zabka is, according to IMDb, in pre-production on some Civil War project, so he can’t make it. I have no idea what that’s about. I can only assume he’s playing some stuck-up Confederate General who will lose to Curtis Armstrong’s disheveled Union general in The Big Battle, after which we cut to credits over some tossed-off Dave Edmunds song he wrote for the soundtrack just for the money.

Which is to say: we have to watch these games to see what happens:

The Game: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs
The Time: 4:37 p.m. ET
The Place: Wrigley Field
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: John Lackey vs. Jason Hammel
The Upshot: Wow, those were a lot of dingers given up by Michael Wacha and his friends last night, huh? The god news is that they’re running Lackey out there this afternoon and Lackey has owned the Cubs of late, going 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in four starts against them, including his gem in Game 1 on Friday night. The bad news: even a half dozen recent starts aren’t great predictively speaking, and Lackey is on short rest. TBS will show highlights of Lackey pitching on short rest in the 2002 World Series today, but think about what you were doing in 2002 and whether you’d be just as good at it today as then. Hammel has the ball for the Cubs. He has not fared well against the Cardinals this season (5.37 ERA) but the same small sample stuff applies.

Injuries could be a key consideration here, as Addison Russell may be on the shelf for the Cubs following his hamstring tweak in last night’s game. Likewise Yadier Molina left early, apparently having aggravated his thumb injury. Otherwise: wear a helmet if you’re in the Bleachers at Wrigley this afternoon. Balls may be flying out your way.

The Game: Los Angels Dodgers vs. New York Mets
The Time: 8:07 p.m. ET
The Place: Citi Field
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Clayton Kershaw vs. Steven Matz
The Upshot: The Clayton Kershaw Legacy Game. It’s not fair to Kershaw that, after eight years of completely dominating Major League Baseball people will deem him worthy or unworthy of, well, whatever, based on his 10th postseason start, but they will. If he falters today on short rest, with no reliable bullpen to bail him out, people will call him some sort of choke artist. If he dominates he’ll be considered redeemed, though he’s never been a guy in need of redemption. I don’t care much for that game, but it’s inevitable it will be played so let’s just silently roll our eyes and go with it. The Mets may have a bigger question mark on the mound in Steven Matz, who hasn’t pitched in a couple of weeks thanks to a tweak in his back in the last week of the season.

This should feel like a totally different game. The Utley drama has to subside now, especially given that he’s unlikely to get the start against a tough lefty. And that tough lefty is, with all due respect, no Brett Anderson. You can bet against Clayton Kershaw and win, but it’s not the sort of thing I’d make a habit of.

In any event, the Cubs and Mets should play this on a loop in the Clubhouse before today’s games. Because . . . it just doesn’t matter!

Yoenis Cespedes and his bat flip say good morning

Yoenis Cespedes

It was a late night last night. Especially for old farts like me. I turned on my TV at 12:30 yesterday afternoon and there was baseball on it for just about 12 hours straight. Not too shabby unless you happen to root for the Astros, Rangers, Cardinals or Dodgers. Oh well, today is another day. Or tomorrow if today is a travel day.

In the meantime, we have Yoenis Cespedes to keep us happy, alert and occupied. Again, unless you’re a Dodgers fan. Of course, if you are a Dodgers fan you got absolutely no right to be upset at a bat flip following a homer. And if I catch you complaining, you’re getting a time out.

The Mets break out the whuppin’ sticks, rout the Dodgers 13-7

Cespedes d'Arnaud

So often in life the anticipation of something outpaces its reality. For Mets fans tonight, it was the exact opposite. They had a grand old time. The Mets broke out the lumber and overwhelmed the Dodgers 13-4 to take a 2-1 lead in NLDS.

So much of that anticipation was about revenge, really. Hitting Chase Utley if he was in the lineup, perhaps, or at the very least sending some sort of retaliatory message the Dodgers’ way in response to Utley breaking Ruben Tejada‘s leg on Saturday. But with Utley out of the lineup — and the notion that base runners matter a whole heck of a lot in a playoff game — Matt Harvey just set out to pitch, not plunk. And Mets hitters set out to beat the living heck out of Brett Anderson and a couple Dodgers relievers. Living well is the best revenge, and for a major league team, winning baseball games is living well.

It didn’t start out so well for Harvey, as Yasmani Grandal singled in two runs in the top of the second with a third run scoring on a Curtis Granderson error on the same play. It was 3-0 Dodgers early and Mets’ fans sphincters’ clenched. But only momentarily.

The Mets came right back in the bottom of the second with four runs with a Travis d'Arnaud single and a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double from Curtis Granderson. In the next inning d’Arnaud hit a two-run shot. In the fourth Daniel Murphy singled in a run and Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run bomb to left to make it 10-3. The Dodgers got one back in the top of the seventh but New York scored three more of their own in the bottom half. It was never a ballgame after the third inning.

Brett Anderson was the author of the damage through three, Alex Wood gave up the four runs in the fourth and hung on in the fifth in what became mop-up duty. Harvey was done after five and took the win. He wasn’t necessarily sharp, but he did strike out seven and was good enough. Some late damage from the Dodgers, including a three-run homer in the ninth from Howie Kendrick, was too little, too late. Granderson and d’Arnaud did the damage for New York, driving in five and three runs, respectively.

Once the competitive portion of this game was over, the Mets’ crowd turned to more important matters. Chanting things like “We want Utley!” Don Mattingly didn’t give him to ’em, probably because there was no downside to smacking him after the game got out of hand. But no upside either. Because of that stuff about living well, remember?

Now it’s on Clayton Kershaw to save the Dodgers from elimination [looks at watch] tonight, technically. If he doesn’t, his detractors will write another page in their Big Book of Clayton Kershaw Playoff Failures. If he does, we get a Game 5 back in Los Angeles.

Maybe Chase Utley gets into one of those.