Jack Morris

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.

The Chicago Cubs: Spring training games, regular season prices

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Craig Calcaterra
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MESA, AZ — I’ve been covering spring training for eight years, and in just those eight years a lot has changed in the Cactus and Grapefruit League experiences. The parks are bigger and fancier and the vibe is far more akin to a regular season major league one than the intimate and laid back atmosphere most people think of when they picture February and March baseball.

Just imagine, however, how much has changed if you’ve been coming to Florida or Arizona for a really long time.

“When we first started coming, you could bring your own beer in,” says Don Harper, a lifelong Cubs fan from Kennewick, Washington who spends his winters in Arizona. “You couldn’t bring a cooler, but you could bring a case of beer and a bag of ice and you just set it down in between you and you just put the ice on it and keep it cold.”

I asked Don if the beer vendors complained.

“They didn’t sell beer,” he said.

That was three decades and two ballparks ago. They certainly sell beer at the Cubs’ gleaming new facility, Sloan Park. Cups of the stuff cost more than a couple of cases did back when Don first started coming to spring training.

The price of beer is not the only thing that has changed, of course. The price of tickets is not what it used to be either. Don told me that when he started coming to Cubs spring training games tickets ran about seven dollars. If that. It’s a bit pricer now. Face value for a single lawn ticket, where you’ll be sitting on a blanker on the outfield berm — can be as high as $47 depending on the day of the week and the opponent. Infield box seats run as high as $85.

The thing is, though, you’re not getting face value seats for Cubs spring training games. Half of the home games sold out within a week of tickets going on sale in January. Since then just about every other game has sold out or soon will. That will force you to get tickets on the secondary market. According to TickPick, the average — average! — Cubs spring training ticket on the secondary market is $106.30. For a single ticket. It’s easily the highest price for spring training tickets in all of baseball, and is $26 higher than secondary market tickets for the next highest team, the Red Sox:

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That may be shocking or even appalling to some, but as the automatic sellouts at Sloan Park and those high secondary market prices suggest, there are at least 15,000 people or so for each Cubs home game who don’t seem to mind. Supply meet demand meet the defending World Series champions.

I spoke with two younger Cubs fans, Corey Hayden and Eleanor Meloul, who traveled here from Salt Lake City. On Sunday they lucked out and got a couple of lawn seats for $28. On Saturday, however, they paid $100 a piece on StubHub to get some seats just beyond third base. I asked them if there is some price point that would keep them from coming.

“There isn’t one,” Hayden said. “I paid $4,500 for a World Series ticket, so . . .”

Don Harper wouldn’t do that, but he doesn’t really mind the higher prices he’s paying for his spring tickets. Of course, he’s a longtime season ticket holder so he gets access to the face value seats. I asked him whether his spring training habit would end if those prices got jacked up higher, as the market would seem to bear, or if he had to resort to the secondary market.

Don paused and sighed, suggesting it was a tough question. As he considered it, I put a hard number on it, asking him if he’d still go if he had to pay $50 per ticket. “Yeah, probably,” he said. “$75?” I asked. He paused again.

“As long as I got enough money.”

Don is a diehard who, one senses, will always find a way to make it work. Corey spent a wad of cash on that once-in-a-lifetime World Series ticket, but he and Eleanor seem content to bargain hunt for the most part and splurge strategically. If you’re a Cubs fan — and if you’re not rich — that’s what you’ll have to do. The ticket it just too hot.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.