How Jack Morris came to be known as the best pitcher of the 1980s

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Larry Granillo of Wezen-Ball fame writes for The Hardball Times now. Two great things that go great together.  Today lar has a great post up in which traces the history of the “Jack Morris was the best pitcher of the 80s” meme.  Given that, at the time, most people when asked would have said that Steve Carlton or Doc Gooden or Roger Clemens was the best of the 80s, I had figured someone came up with that once Morris started appearing on Hall of Fame ballots.

Nope, it started in the 1986-87 offseason, when the owners were shamefully colluding against Morris and other free agents:

Looking through newspaper reports from the late-1980s, the discussion of Morris as the “pitcher of the ‘80s” or “the decade’s best pitcher” seemed to begin in earnest in the winter following the 1986 season. Morris was a free-agent that year and, as of mid-December, had broken off the arbitration process with the Tigers in favor of four other clubs (the Angels, Yankees, Twins, and Phillies). The offers did not come in and, as the dreaded “c-word” came into play, writers were left trying to figure out what was happening.

lar then cites a number of newspaper articles from the time in which the meme begins to take hold.

Interesting stuff, as almost everything lar does is interesting.  Well worth your time today.

Yankees trade Sonny Gray to the Reds

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The deal was much talked about all weekend and now the deal is done: The Cincinnati Reds gave acquired starter Sonny Gray and lefty Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees in exchange for second base prospect Shed Long and a 2019 competitive balance pick.

The key to making the deal happen: Gray agreeing to a a three-year, $30.5 million contract extension. The Reds will likewise hold a $12 million club option for 2023. The deal had been struck and a window granted through close of business today to get Gray to agree to the extension and, obviously, he has.

The Reds will get a pitcher coming off of a bad season in which he posted a disappointing 4.90 ERA in 23 starts and seven relief appearances. He was hammered particularly hard in Yankee Stadium but pitched better on the road. Great American Ballpark is not a great pitcher’s park itself but any change of scenery would be nice for Gray, who had become much unwanted and unloved in New York. In Cincinnati he has the assurance of a spot in the rotation and, even better for him, he will be reunited with his college pitching coach, Derek Johnson, who joined new manager David Bell’s Reds staff earlier this offseason. If he bounces back even a little bit, the Reds will have a useful starter at a below market price for four years. If he doesn’t, well, they haven’t exactly gone bankrupt taking the chance.

The Reds will also get Reiver Sanmartin, 22, who started in the Rangers system before being traded to the Yankees. He’s a soft-tosser who figures to be a reliever if he makes the big leagues. He played at four different levels last season, with one game at Double-A and the rest below that, posting a composite 2.80 ERA in 10 starts and 13 overall appearances while striking out 7.8 batters per nine.

The Yankees will get Shed Long, who is ranked as the Reds’ seventh best prospect. The 23-year old second baseman hit .261/.353/.412 at Double-A in 2018 and has hit very close to that overall line for his entire six-year minor league career. He strikes out a bit and may not stick at second base long term, shifting to a corner outfield slot perhaps, but he’s a legitimate prospect.

The Reds get another starter with some upside. The Yankees get rid of a problem and gain a prospect and a draft pick. Sonny Gray gets some job and financial security at a time when it is not at all clear what his future holds. Not a bad baseball trade.

UPDATE: Welp, the Yankees don’t have a prospect anymore. They just traded long to the Mariners for outfielder Josh Stowers. Stowers was a second-round pick in last year’s draft. He’s 21 and batted .260/.380/.410 with five homers and 20 steals over 58 games in Short-Season ball in 2018. He’s ranked by MLB.com as the Mariners’ No. 10 prospect, but now he’s New York bound.