FIRE JOE MORGAN: The Hall of Oh Buh-rother.


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Tuesday, January 08, 2008


The Hall of Oh Buh-rother.

Geez Louise.

What disturbs me about the Hall of Fame is that it appears to have morphed into a numbers honor. Benchmarks have been set for automatic entry: 3,000 hits, 500 homers, and 300 wins. Blogs allow more analysis from the world of sabermetrics. Pure statistical breakdowns are here to stay in baseball front offices. And they have earned their place. But the view here is their role in the Hall-of-Fame voting should be limited to clarifying one’s achievements, not defining the achievement.

I'm going to go ahead and agree with this. The Hall of Fame should not be just about numbers. But it should kind of be about numbers, right? Because, you know...they're numbers. They tell us things. In fact, it's numbers that should define a player's achievements, and anecdotal reporting that should clarify and elaborate on the numbers. So: you are exactly wrong, Ted Robinson.

Players must only be compared against their peers and within their eras. No number can be truly compared across generations for reasons so obvious they need not be offered here.

Except that there is ERA+. And OPS+, EqA+, and WARP3. And others. So, the reasons aren't so obvious to me.

If a deep study is needed to buttress a player’s case, it is most likely an unworthy argument.

First of all, nice use of "buttress," which is a fancy word that makes people sound smart. Second of all, saying that studying is lame is usually reserved for dumb jocks in John Hughes movies. So, good work aligning yourself with them.

Bottom line: the Hall of Fame is about quality, not quantity.

Why are these things mutually exclusive? Why not say: The Hall of Fame is about quality and quantity? What bad thing would happen if someone wrote that? Hell, I just wrote it and I seem to be -- my eyes!!! No!!! What is happening?!?!?!?1/?!?

Leonard Koppett, the late New York sportswriter who has been honored by the baseball and basketball Halls of Fame, told me repeatedly that his Hall-of-Fame voting standard was simple: if he had to think about the player’s candidacy, then the vote was no. To Leonard, a Hall of Famer was obvious.

Excellent. A new criterion for HOF induction: induce the right answer in a game of word association with Leonard Koppett.

I have immense respect for the passion displayed by those who analyze baseball in new ways. They often present fresh and compelling arguments on Hall of Fame candidates, Rob Neyer being the best of the group. But I hold firmly that my 22 years of traveling with MLB teams provided the best perspectives and judgments on players.

Quick diversion coming up.

Every beat writer/broadcaster has had the greatest education baseball can provide -- the daily intimacy through which we learn about the unique rhythms of the game, the people who play it, and what makes them succeed or fail. Dispassionate analysis can support but never replace or supersede that education. Is there emotion and subjectivity in such an approach? Most likely, but that’s a price well paid in determining an honor so important.

Some diversionary things:

This may neither be here nor there. But. It is, in my opinion, the utter lack of objectivity amongst the entire BBWAA that led to the biggest scandal in pro sports in decades -- widespread, in-plain-air doping amongst a significant portion of the players' union -- going unreported for more than a decade. Emotion and subjectivity are nice if you're you, Ted, and you get to hang out with baseball players who call you "Teddy" or "Slim" or "Thunder Boner" or something. But if you're me, and you rely on the BBWAA for news, information, and judgments about a sport you love, then emotion and subjectivity suck ass.

They are not charming or cool or things to be celebrated and valued. They are a shitty trump card that writers use to tell the world that you just don't understand. You had to be there. I know stuff you don't. You can look at all the numbers you want, but guess what, computer boy. I sat at Jack Morris's feet when he was soaking in the whirlpool before game 7 of the Series and held a plastic tobacco-juice cup to his mouth. And I asked him, "Jack, how do you feel?" And he leaned over and spat into the cup, and some of the juice got on my hand and shirt and stuff, and that juice smelled like...victory. And I stared into his eyes, and he had a look about him that said: I'm gonna throw a shutout. And that: that is the only piece of information I need to know that Jack Morris is a Hall of Famer.

So fuck you, guy who didn't do that.

(My guess is, he didn't hear the question, and the look in his eye was, "Why is this dude sitting so close to me when I'm naked?)

I like subjectivity and emotion. I am a Red Sox fan, and when I watch Red Sox games I get pretty effing subjective and emotional. Before 2004, I often accused Major League Baseball of planning and enacting a conspiracy to keep the Red Sox from winning a World Series -- a conspiracy that included the umpires' union, stadium construction firms, Fox TV, Curt Gowdy, whoever invented the Weather Machine that pushed Bucky Dent's ball over the Monster in 1978, and thousands of others, reaching into the upper tiers of our nation's government. Once, during a Sox-Yankees playoff game in 1999, I emotionally subjectified a glass duck through the window of my apartment. But when it comes to things like permanent enshrinement in the Hall of Fame, can't we tone down the emotional subjectivity? Can't the basis for enshrinement be career numbers, with emotional subjectivity serving as the final dash of icing on top of the delicious objective cake?

No? Okay. Keep going.

With that background, Tuesday can bring legitimacy to the electorate if Goose Gossage and Jack Morris are voted in to the Hall of Fame.

Uh oh.

Let me start by saying I have never met Gossage but he is being dealt a great wrong by not being in the Hall of Fame.

So: recap:

A. You can't really know whether someone is worthy of the Hall of Fame unless you cover baseball and travel with the teams...unless you hang out with the players during their careers...unless you lick the sweat off their foreheads after a game...unless you personally hand-wash their undershirts, deeply breathing in the pungent fumes left by their dirty, subjective bodies. That's the only way you can truly know a man well enough to determine whether he is a Hall of Famer.

B. I have never met Goose Gossage, but he is definitely a Hall of Famer.

Dennis Eckersley and Bruce Sutter belong, but so does Gossage -- the most feared reliever since the closer role developed.

Every time someone makes an argument about a player by saying that player was the "most feared," I barf a little on myself.

Here’s what I know. In 1980, I stood just outside the Oakland dugout as Gossage entered in the ninth inning with a one-run lead. Billy Martin, the A’s manager, turned to summon pinch-hitters but he couldn’t find any. The lefty hitters, most likely to be drafted, had scattered. No one wanted to face Gossage in his prime. Not one batter was anywhere near the bat rack. Martin’s coaches had to round up the available men. I have never seen a similar moment.

I'm calling bullshit here. When a team's closer comes in for the ninth, do you often find tons of guys lingering around the bat rack hoping to get a chance to jump into the game cold against a (usually) really good pitcher? That's a common sight in baseball? And what were the other circumstances? Had one of the A's pitchers hit a Yankee the day before? Was Gossage drunk?

Now, obviously, I wasn't there. Gossage was an awesome pitcher, and guys fear awesome pitchers with fu manchus. But: I just don't think the entire team was cowering under the bench and fainting like a bunch of Southern belles when Sherman's armies closed on Atlanta.

Here's where things get really good.

I spent many hours with Morris during the 1991 season and developed an intense admiration for his pitching as you’ll read below.

I was pleasantly stunned to read a glowing endorsement for Morris in the Sunday New York Times. All the sensible reasons that Morris should already be an inductee were presented. Simply, he was the best pitcher of his time (this seems to surprise some but wins and losses are the prime currency of baseball and Morris was the winningest pitcher of his full decade, the 1980s).

1. If he was the best pitcher of his time, why didn't the hallowed BBWAA -- the selfsame organization you seem to hold in such high esteem because they travel with the players -- ever vote him the best pitcher in his league? Ever? Once?

2. For that matter, why didn't they ever vote him second-best?

3. Morris started pitching in 1977. There were a lot of good pitchers hanging around at that time. Ron Guidry was pretty good in 1978. Bret Saberhagen debuted in 1984. Roger Clemens enters stage left in 1984 and kicks things into high gear in 1986. Maddux didn't show up until 1988, really, and Jim Palmer's last good year was 1982. So, Morris just happened to show up at the right time -- hitting his stride at the age of 25 in 1980 -- to have a very good 1980-1989.

He (-slash his team's batters and relief pitchers) won 162 games in the 1980s. Excellent job. Is your old buddy Jim Kaat a Hall of Famer, Ted? Because from 1966-1975 he won 162 games. That's a decade. From 1962 to 1971 he won 159. That's also a decade. Why aren't we hearing about how Jim Kaat won a ton of games from 1966-1975? Oh -- right. Because completely randomly, 1966-1975 isn't a stupidly arbitrary "clean decade."

Saying that Jack Morris should be in the Hall of Fame because he won the most games in the 1980s is like saying that lots of crazy shit is going to happen the second the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, 1999. Because it's the year 2000!! A round number!!! That is significant!!!!!

He was a good pitcher who won a lot of games = okay argument.

Those games are more meaningful as a group because they occurred during years that begin with 198 = irrelevant irrelevant irrelevant stupid stupid come on people we're better than this.

And his postseason exploits in a culture that reveres winners and humbles the runner-up (check on that with Fran Tarkenton, Bud Grant, Jim Kelly or Marv Levy) should be indisputable.


7-4 with a 3.80 ERA overall. 64 Ks and 32 BB in 92.1 innings. Not bad. 3-2 with a 4.87 ERA in LCS play. 0-1 with a 6.57 in the 1992 ALCS in 2 starts. (But he made up for it in the World Series, though, when he went 0-2 with an 8.44 ERA in two starts.)

Jack Morris pitched really really well in several postseason games, including one truly great 10-inning outing. But he also pitched crappily in several postseason games. His postseason exploits, therefore, are eminently disputable.

(Also, Fran Tarkenton, Bud Grant, Jim Kelly and Marv Levy were "humbled" to the tune of: all of them are in the Football Hall of Fame. Weird choices.)

Somehow the numbers folks have dissected Morris and point to his 3.90 career ERA (3.73 if you eliminate his final two over-the-hill years)

Do you get to do that now? It's like figure skating judging? You get rid of the two worst years? Then let's also get rid of his two best years. So, subtract 42 wins and like 450 Ks from his totals. Also, a minor drop in ERA from 3.90 to 3.73, when you get rid of his two highest year totals, highlights the fact that he was pretty consistently between the mid-upper 3's and 4's over his entire career.

or his 254 wins (the benchmark factor. [sic]

Not the benchmark factor if you are a thinking human being.

([sic] is for inexplicable lack of close parens.)

I often read pieces that degrade the presence of players already inducted to inflate another’s candidacy. That tact is distasteful. If you care, just compare Morris with his peers, including those already in the Hall of Fame. In every measure of quality, Morris is a no-brainer. In measures that are more significant to the analysts (ERA, WHIP, etc.), Morris can be tainted.


If you look at "every measure of quality" (or: wins, I guess) he gets in.

If you look at "measures that are more significant to the analysts" (or, by elimination, things that are not "measures of quality") he does not.

Thus: he does not.

Problem with that thinking is that Morris was the top dog on three World Series title teams. Find me a peer who matches that claim.

So, here's your plan: first, challenge me to find a man who was lucky (and skilled) enough to be on three teams that made the World Series. Hard to do, right? And then use that like a club to beat me over the head when I say that Jack Morris might not belong in the HOF.

Also, call Morris the "top dog" of the 1992 Blue Jays Postseason despite the fact that he lost both of his WS starts, including giving up 7 ER in 4.2 IP with a chance to close out the Series in Game Five.


Morris wasn’t a stat man’s lover, he just won. Let’s make sure everyone has that one more time. Morris was the number one guy on three World Series winners. And he pitched one of the two greatest postseason games in history.

Bert Blyleven's career postseason #'s: 5-1, 2.47 ERA, 38/8 K/BB ratio in 47 innings. Fuck him.

And if you're going to use that one awesome game 7 to bludgeon me with a pro-vote, I will use that one stinky Game 5 to bludgeon you with my anti-vote. He gave up 7 runs in 4 2/3 innings in a clinching game! He's one of the worst choke-artists in starting pitching history. He let his team down. He blew it. He's Jean Van de Velde. He's worse than Ralph Branca. He doesn't belong in the Hall of Anything. He sucks!!!!!

(Crazy, right? It's what you're doing, only from the opposition party. So cool it.)

But here’s what I remember: late September 1991 and Minnesota is trying to clinch the AL West. The Twins are in Toronto where the Jays are looking to finish off the East. Morris was in the throes of a divorce throughout the summer. Often his mind would wander and the pain that can only be known to those with like experiences would surface. That weekend in Toronto seemed to be a time when the cumulative weight of his personal life crashed down upon Morris. Yet, on a Saturday afternoon, he calmly went to the SkyDome mound and tossed a shutout at Toronto that clinched a division tie for the Twins.

Here's what I just looked up on a computer: Morris's 105 career ERA+ ties him for 460th all-time, with (among others) Zane Smith, Denny Naegle, and Paul Byrd.

After that, Game 7 of the World Series, one month later, was no surprise. And it’s why Morris passes the Leonard Koppett test --no thought needed. He is a Hall of Famer.

Even if I afford you the opportunity to apply the excellently-reasoned Leonard Koppet Test, Jack Morris demands a ton of thought. A fucking ton. He was a very good pitcher who did some great pitching things, but cold hard indisputable facts tell us that his career just does not measure up to "no-brainer" HOFers. Greg Maddux -- no thought. Tom Seaver, Walter Johnson, Steve Carlton, Pedro Martinez, Bob Gibson -- no thought.

Jack Morris? Are you kidding me? No thought?

And by the way, you started your argument with this:

If a deep study is needed to buttress a player’s case, it is most likely an unworthy argument.

Then you talked about Jack Morris's divorce, calculated his ERA if you drop his two worst seasons, referenced Fran Tarkenton, Bud Grant, Jim Kelly and Marv Levy, and cited a game Morris pitched on September 28, 1991. This isn't a deep study?

Congratulations to Goose Gossage, an excellent pitcher who probably deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. My condolences to Jim Rice, who probably does not belong in the Hall of Fame, and was not elected. My congratulations to the BBWAA for not stretching like crazy to elect Jack Morris into the Hall of Fame. And my "Fuck the Heck?" to the one dude who voted for Todd Stottlemyre.

Let's see that argument.

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posted by Anonymous  # 2:25 AM
Because this post isn't long enough, let's go to Steven for some follow up. This is from his site (link at bottom):

According to, there is only one game that matches Robinson's description (Gossage against the A's, 1980, 9th inning, one-run lead). The game in question took place on June 14, 1980. Gossage entered the game with two outs, runners on first and second.

I took a look at the A's roster in 1980. During that season, the A's had eight players who either batted left or switch-hit. Two of those eight were not on the roster at the time of the game in question. Five of the eight were already in the game, including Wayne Gross, a left-handed batter who was the player due up when Gossage entered. That left one player ... not quite the "lefty hitters" (plural) that Ted remembered "had scattered." No, just one guy. His name was Mike Davis.

On June 14, 1980, Mike Davis had been 21 years old for three days. Yep, if he celebrated the way many Americans do, he had his first legal drink three days before. I'll assume that Mike was already shaving ... don't want to tart up the anecdote too much. Point is, he was extremely young, especially for a major-league baseball player. He was so young, in fact, that at that point he had only compiled 30 at-bats in the majors, hitting .233 with no walks and one homerun (it would, in fact, be more than two years before he hit his second major-league homerun).

Now, let's pretend that Ted got his anecdote mostly right. OK, there weren't multiple lefty hitters crying like babies because the Goose was in town, but maybe he's right about Davis. Maybe Ted looked in the dugout and saw Mike Davis was nowhere near the bat rack. Maybe Ted is right, and Mike Davis was a little nervous about facing Gossage.

Let's pretend Ted's right. As far as I can figure, this is how Ted Robinson's thinking works. Because Goose Gossage could make a 21-year-old hitter nervous, he belongs in the Hall of Fame. Nice going, Ted!
Morris wasn’t a stat man’s lover, he just won. Let’s make sure everyone has that one more time. Morris was the number one guy on three World Series winners.

Hey, here's a funny thing:

1984 Detroit Tigers SP ERA+
121 Dan Petry
113 Juan Berenguer
109 Jack Morris

1991 Minnesota Twins SP ERA+
143 Kevin Tapani
134 Scott Erickson
124 Jack Morris

1992 Toronto Blue Jays SP ERA+
156 Juan Guzman
116 Jimmy Key
102 Jack Morris
and heck, David Cone pitched 8 games with a 161 ERA+ (and on the year he recorded a 128)

So let's rewrite the paragraph:

Morris wasn’t a stat man’s lover, he just won. Let’s make sure everyone has that one more time. Morris was no better than the number three guy on three World Series winners.
Many of you also pointed out that this:

Morris wasn’t a stat man’s lover...

is hilariously mal-conceived. He means: "Morris wasn't a stat-lover's man," or "Morris is not a guy who racked up stats" or "If you're a stat lover, Morris isn't your guy." Instead, he posited that Morris was not having a gay affair with a man who loves stats.

Ex-queeze me, bitch?! I beg to differ.

Oh, zip it, Gay Murbles!
From Jeff:

I thought I read somewhere that Bob Welch had some of the best numbers of the 80s.

Keeping it simple (from 1980 - 1990 to offset that strike year)

Welch: 164-99 W-L, 3.18 ERA, 1584 Ks (2.13 K/BB ratio ... 6.14 K/9) ... and two WS appearances (one ring ... still mad I lost $40 over that 1990 sweep ... )

Morris: 177-137, 3.73 ERA, 1791 Ks (1.87 K / BB ratio ... 5.98 K/9) ... and a ring.

Not sure "they" have me convinced about Morris's "best pitcher of the 80s argument." And, no one's clamouring for Bob Welch's induction.

Willie writes in with something that is more important than all of this HOF nonsense:

When I first read your post entitled "The Hall of Oh Buh-rother," there was a sentence, roughly a little before halfway through the article that read: "Can't the basis for enshrinement be career numbers, with emotional subjectivity serving as the final dash of icing on top of the delicious objective cake?"

Upon reading it, I assumed you wrote that as a lame excuse for using the food metaphors tag. After all, absolutely any reason to use that label usually works. But for some reason, there was no food metaphors tag, which was obviously very disappointing. I assumed that there would be emails flooding in regarding the need for a label addition, and I didn't want to be one of the douchebags who writes in demanding that a post gets labeled, so I figured that I would just sit back and let the FJM readers do what they do.

But not only did you miss that, but I'm assuming readers did as well, since to this day, almost two weeks since that article was posted, there is still no food metaphors tag. I'm extremely disappointed in both the FJM staff and readership for overlooking this.

Now, I had no choice but to write in. I didn't want to do it, but you left me no choice. A food metaphors tag must be added.

And so it has been.
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