Lou Whitaker does not endorse former teammate Jack Morris for the Hall of Fame

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Former Tiger Jack Morris is up for election into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his 15th and final year. Morris has made a surge in popularity among voters in the Baseball Writers Association of America, and as a result, has become a proxy in the ongoing debates between fans of traditional baseball statistics and fans of Sabermetrics.

Lou Whitaker, who played second base behind Morris on the Tigers from 1977 to 1990 (and is not a known Saberist), doesn’t think the right-hander is Hall of Fame-worthy, at least not ahead of himself and shortstop Alan Trammell, per Tony Paul of The Detroit News.

“Jack Morris was no better than Alan Trammell-Lou Whitaker,” Whitaker said during the interview, audio of which was posted on DetroitSportsRag.com and confirmed by MLB Network Radio co-host Jim Bowden. “If we didn’t make the plays, and we didn’t come up with the big hits, Jack Morris wouldn’t be where he was, or where he is.”

[…]

“If Jack deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, Alan Trammell deserves to be in the Hall of Fame,” said Whitaker […]

Whitaker received only 2.9 percent of the vote in 2001, knocking him off the ballot for good after just one year. Trammell is in his 13th year on the ballot, but has never exceeded 36.8 percent. Morris got 67.7 percent last year, just shy of the 75 percent threshold.

According to Baseball Reference, Whitaker’s career 74.8 WAR would be the fifth-highest among Hall of Fame second basemen (min. 75% games at 2B), behind Eddie Collins, Joe Morgan, Nap Lajoie, and Charlie Gehringer.

Trammell’s 70.3 career WAR would tie for the sixth-most among Hall of Fame shortstops (min. 75% games at SS), behind Honus Wagner, Cal Ripken Jr., Ozzie Smith, Luke Appling, and Arky Vaughan, and tied with Barry Larkin.

Morris, at 43.8 career WAR, would rank 37th among 46 Hall of Fame starting pitchers (min.75% games started). The only pitchers he would best that did not pitch in the Dead Ball Era are Lefty Gomez, Bob Lemon, and Catfish Hunter.

Whitaker has a point.

Nick Markakis: ‘I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?’

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Earlier today, the Braves inked veteran outfielder Nick Markakis to a one-year deal worth $4 million with a club option for the 2020 season worth $6 million with a $2 million buyout. Though Markakis is 35 years old, he’s coming off of a terrific season in which he played in all 162 games and hit .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 705 trips to the plate. Markakis had just completed a four-year, $44 million contract, so he took a substantial pay cut.

Per David O’Brien of The Athletic, Markakis asked his kids where they wanted him to play and they said Atlanta. O’Brien also asked Markakis about the pay cut. The outfielder said, “I’m not mad at all. I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?”

This seemingly innocuous comment by Markakis is actually damaging for his peers and for the union. Baseball as a game is indeed a “kids’ game,” but Major League Baseball is a billion-dollar business that has been setting revenue records year over year. The players have seen a smaller and smaller percentage of the money MLB makes since the beginning of the 2000’s. Furthermore, Markakis only gets paid “a lot of money” relative to, say, a first-year teacher or a clerk at a convenience store. Relative to the value of Liberty Media, which owns the Braves, and relative to the value of Major League Baseball itself, Markakis’s salary is a drop in the ocean.

That Markakis is happy to take a pay cut is totally fine, but it’s harmful for him to publicly justify that because it creates the expectation that his peers should feel the same way and creates leverage for ownership. His comments mirror those who sympathize first and foremost with billionaire team owners. They are common arguments used to justify paying players less, giving them a smaller and smaller cut of the pie. Because Markakis not only took a pay cut but defended it, front office members of the Braves as well as the 29 other teams can point to him and guilt or shame other players for asking for more money.

“Look at Nick, he’s a team player,” I envision a GM saying to younger Braves player who is seeking a contract extension, or a free agent looking to finally find a home before spring training. “Nick’s stats are as good as yours, so why should you make more money than him?”

Contrast Markakis’s approach with Yasmani Grandal‘s. Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million contract offer from the Mets early in the offseason and settled for a one-year, $18.25 million contract with the Brewers. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Grandal said on MLB Network, “I felt like part of my responsibility as a player was to respect the guys that went through this process before I did. Guys like Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, These are guys who established markets and pay levels for upper-tier catchers like me. I felt like I was doing a disservice if I were to take some of the deals that were being thrown around. I wanted to keep the line moving especially for some of the younger guys that are coming up … to let them know, if you’re worthy, then you should get paid what you’re worth. That’s where I was coming from.”

Grandal’s comments are exactly what a member of a union should be saying, unapologetically. The MLBPA needs to get all of its members on the same page when it comes to discussing contracts or labor situations in general publicly. What Markakis said seems selfless and innocent — and I have no doubt he is being genuine without malice — but it could reduce the bargaining power players have across the table from ownership, which means less money. They are already being bamboozled, at least until the next collective bargaining agreement. They don’t need to be bamboozled any more.