Jon Heyman reveals his Hall of Fame ballot, so once again we discuss Jack Morris and Bert Blyleven

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Jon Heyman just tweeted his Hall of Fame ballot: Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker and Tim Raines. I guess Jeff Bagwell does’t count for anything, but we’ll leave that to another post.

I wrote extensively on Heyman’s ballot last year, when he included Alomar, Andre Dawson, Larkin, Parker, Morris & Mattingly.  The first post in that series is here.  I won’t rehash every argument again, but I will raise this point once again: you can vote for Jack Morris for the Hall of Fame. You can vote for Bert Blyleven for the Hall of Fame. You can also keep both of them out if you’re a small-Hall kind of guy. You cannot, however, vote for Jack Morris and not vote for Bert Blyleven.

This is not about values and a simple difference of opinion. If it were, I’d leave this alone. This is a matter of intellectual consistency, because the contours of Morris and Blyleven’s cases for the Hall of Fame are basically the same, with Blyleven being superior in most respects.

Blyleven and Morris were both good, durable but rarely-considered-great pitchers. Neither won a Cy Young award.  Morris has three World Series rings, but he had a lot of help (Blyleven has two rings of his own, and he also had help, as all pitchers who get World Series rings do).  Blyleven had far stronger numbers in just about every other category.  Blyleven’s critics point to his winning percentage not being substantially higher than that of the teams for which he played.  He actually out-performed the teams on which he played more than Morris out-performed his teams. Bert’s career winning percentage was 38 percentage points higher than that of his teams. Morris’ was 30 percentage points higher. Each was dependent on their colleagues and neither was dominant in a way that higher-tiered pitchers like Seaver and Carlton and others were.

Morris supporters cite his win total, but Blyleven’s was superior. Morris supporters cite his playoff performances, but Blyleven had a lower postseason ERA and a higher postseason winning percentage than Morris did. Jack Morris was superior to Bert Blyleven in one single category: winning Game Seven of the 1991 World Series.  And really, I think that’s what it all comes down too.  But for a Lonnie Smith baserunning error we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Or am I missing something here?

I don’t deign to tell people who they should vote for on their Hall of Fame ballot. All I ask is an identifiable methodology and some semblance of consistency.  Voting for Morris and not voting for Blyleven exhibits neither as far as I can tell.

Minor League Baseball teams sold over $70 million in merchandise in 2017

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Every so often here, we discuss the criminally low pay of Minor League Baseball players. Most of them make less than $7,500 a year, which includes the regular season as well as spring training, playoffs, and offseason training. The abysmal pay forces minor leaguers to eat unhealthy food, live in cramped quarters, and forego consistent, quality sleep, among other things.

What makes this situation worse is that Minor League Baseball is a huge money-maker for their parent teams in Major League Baseball. Josh Norris of Baseball America reported yesterday that Minor League Baseball teams sold $70.8 million in merchandise in 2017. That represented a 3.6 percent increase over the previous record set in 2016. This is just merchandise. Now think about concession and ticket sales.

Minor League Baseball COO Brian Earle said, “Minor League Baseball team names and logos continue to be among the most popular in all of professional sports, and our teams have made promoting their brand a priority for their respective organizations. The teams have done a tremendous job of using their team marks and logos to build an identity that is appealing to fans not just locally, but in some cases, globally as well.”

You may recall that Major League Baseball had been lobbying Congress to pass legislation exempting minor league players from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Doing so classified baseball players as seasonal workers, which means they are not entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay. That legislation passed earlier this year. Minor League Baseball generates profits hand over fist and it is now legally protected from having to share that with the labor that produced it.

Many points of divergence led us to this point, but the question is how do we change it? Minor leaguers are routinely taken advantage of because they don’t have a union. Compare the minors in baseball to the minors in hockey, where minor leaguers have a union. As SB Nation’s Marc Normandin pointed out last month, the minimum salary for American Hockey League players is $45,000 and the average salary is $118,000. They receive a playoff share of around $20,000, and receive health insurance that covers themselves as well as their families. Furthermore, the minor league hockey players’ per diem is $74, about three times as much as minor league baseball players’ per diem of $25.

Major League Baseball and its 30 teams have shown no inclination towards treating minor league players simply out of moral obligation or good will, so the minor leaguers need union coverage to force their conditions to improve. This could be as simple as the MLBPA expanding its coverage to the minor leagues because, after all, some minor leaguers do become major leaguers, right? Or the minor leaguers could themselves create a union. It’s easy to say, but tougher to do, which is why they still don’t have a union.

At any rate, every fan of baseball should be enraged when they read that Minor League Baseball keeps setting records year after year when it comes to selling hats and t-shirts, then refuses to share any of that wealth with the labor responsible for it. It’s morally reprehensible.