FIRE JOE MORGAN: This is Going to be Annoying

FIRE JOE MORGAN

Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

 

This is Going to be Annoying

But I think I have to do it anyway.

Settle in.

Regarding this increasingly hard-to-get-into baseball shrine of ours:

[Super over-the-top sarcastic; leaning in as if transfixed] Uh huhhhhhh?!?!?!?!?

A monument to the greatest ballplayers who ever lived, it is about to bar its doors and deny admittance to baseball's all-time leader in hits (Pete Rose) and home runs (Barry Bonds), as well as to the third-best batting average in history (Joe Jackson's .356) and quite possibly to the gargantuan feats of Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.

Rose: cheated/lied
Bonds: cheated/lied
Jackson: cheated/maybe didn't/made an example of
Clemens: seems to have cheated/seems to have lied/not voted on yet
Sosa: cheated/lied
McGwire: cheated/lied/lied to Congress*

Let me give you a prime example of the absurdity of it all:

[so over-the-top sarcastic I now have a British accent] Would you please?!!?!

Harold Baines received a mere 28 votes in the recently tabulated Hall of Fame election. The former White Sox outfielder fell 380 shy of the 408 required for induction. Fourteen other players from this year's ballot alone received more than Baines did.

OK, are you ready?

Ready!

Harold Baines has more hits than Brooks Robinson, Charlie Gehringer, George Sisler, Luke Appling, Lou Gehrig … (keep going) … Billy Williams, Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Reggie Jackson, Ernie Banks … (don't stop now) … Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Richie Ashburn, Ozzie Smith, Lloyd Waner, Pie Traynor, Mickey Mantle … (tired yet?) … Ryne Sandberg, Carlton Fisk, Orlando Cepeda, Eddie Mathews, Kirby Puckett, Mike Schmidt …

Who on blog's green earth would evaluate HOF inductees solely by hits? What kind of insane cherry pick is that? Not any other stat. Not longevity or era...not even taking position into account. Just: hits. Hits! That's like evaluating pitchers based on saves and deciding Pedro Martinez doesn't get in because he only has three.

I guess the answer is: Mike Downey of the Trib. He would evaluate HOF inductees solely by hits.

So, here's where it gets annoying.

Baines: 120 OPS+

Gehringer: 124 OPS+ (as a 2bman)
Sisler: 124
Appling: 112 (as a SS. .399 career OBP)
Gehrig: 179 (4th all-time)
B. Williams: 133
Aparicio: 82. (I know he was a great fielder, but what the hell is he doing in the HOF? Look at his 1959 season. That must be the worst #2 finish in the MVP voting ever. Can someone who knows a lot about that guy please email me and explain it? I'm willing to learn.)
N. Fox: 93. Must have been a hell of a second baseman.
Foxx: 163
T. Williams: 191 (2nd all-time)
R. Jackson: 139
Banks: 122 (for a guy who played a lot of games at SS)
Morgan: 132 (2B)
Perez: 122 (and probably doesn't belong)
Ashburn: 111 (and probably doesn't belong)
O. Smith: 87, for maybe the best fielding SS ever.
L. Waner: only 99 for Little Poison. But he had like 2450 hits in 2200 fewer AB than Baines, and a .316 career average.
Traynor: 107, but he hit .320 career and had 2400+ hits in 7500 AB.
Mantle: 172
Sandberg: 114 as a very good-fielding 2Bman.
Fisk: 117 as a catcher
Cepeda: 133
Mathews: 143
Puckett: 124
Schmidt: 147

The few people he's named who have career OPS+s lower than Baines are either middle IF or C or something, and/or had far higher BA (and thus many more hits in far fewer AB).

And now he's going to name some more people.

(We're almost done now) … Joe DiMaggio, Kiki Cuyler, Joe Cronin, Joe Medwick, Bill Terry, Pee Wee Reese, Yogi Berra, Duke Snider, Harmon Killebrew, Willie McCovey, Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, George Kell, Bobby Doerr, Bill Mazeroski, Johnny Mize, Bill Dickey, Gabby Hartnett, Jackie Robinson and a couple of dozen other "immortals" whose busts are in the Hall of Fame.

I am so annoyed right now.

DiMaggio
: 155 OPS+
Cuyler: 125 (and a .386 OBP)
Cronin: 117 (.390 OBP primarily as a SS)
Medwick: 134
Terry: 136
Reese: 99 as a SS (and a .366 OBP)
Berra: 125
Snider: 140
Killebrew: 143
McCovey: 147
Bench: 126
G. Carter: 115 (might not belong)
Kell: 111 (.306 career, elected in by Veterans Committee)
Doerr: 115 as 2Bman. Voted in by VC.
Maz: 84. Voted in by VC. Probably doesn't belong.
Mize: 158
Dickey: 127
Hartnett: 126
J. Robinson: if you have to defend Jackie's inclusion by any measure into the HOF you're an idiot. But his OPS+ is 132.

So there you have it. Very few of the people Downey has listed had a lower adjusted OPS than Harold Baines. The ones that did either played a much tougher position, or racked up tons of hits in a much shorter amount of time, or were Wizards defensively, or were voted in by that big softie of a teddy bear the Veterans Committee, or probably shouldn't be there at all.

How could you begin to explain who is worthy and who is not?

By using something other than "career hits" to evaluate them. Do you really not know the answer to that question?

How do you justify to people why Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter are in Cooperstown, with their humble stats, whereas Lee Smith is not and Clemens with his colossal 354 victories might never be?

Sutter was a weak choice. Gossage was somewhat more defensible, and he had years where he threw like 134 innings. I'm not sure what the argument is against Lee Arthur -- he had roughly a K per inning, and his WHIP is just about the same as Gossage's, though Gossage threw like 600 more innings. And Clemens might not be voted in because he seems to have cheated, lied, and then lied again on 60 Minutes, and then (theoretically) lied to Congress. Did you not hear about that? It was in all the papers.

How do you point out to the public—or, for that matter, to the voters—that Baines stands 40th on the all-time hits list? That he had seven fewer hits than Babe Ruth?

Well...you could start by saying that Harold Baines was a very good, but not great, hitter, who is 27th on the all-time at-bats list with 9908. And if a guy is a very good, but not great, hitter who has 9908 AB, he will probably get a lot of hits, but that doesn't necessarily make him one of the greatest players every to play the game. You might cite Al Oliver (9049 AB, 2743 H) as another of these people. Or Craig Biggio (10876 AB, 3060 H).

And then someone might say "But Craig Biggio should be in the Hall of Fame!" and you might say, "I think I agree with you, because although he had a tremendous number of AB, which helped him get those 3060 hits, he played very tough positions -- catcher, 2B, CF -- which make his statistical accomplishments more impressive than Harold Baines's, since Baines played more than 60% of his games as a DH and the others as a corner OF."

And then -- your voice straining, your hands shaking from having to explain these incredibly simple concepts to a grown man -- you could also maybe say that Babe Ruth was the greatest fucking hitter in the history of baseball, that he hit more HR in 1921 than eight entire teams, that he is the all-time leader in OPS+, that he hit .342, that he had those seven more hits in 1600 fewer AB than Baines, that he hit 714 HR playing in an era where there was a HOFer whose nickname was "Home Run" who never hit more than twelve HR in a season, and that comparing Harold Baines favorably to Babe Ruth in anything except "months lived after the year 1948" is the biggest and most disingenuous waste of fucking time anyone could possibly fucking imagine.

Would that help explain it?

Couldn't they contend that Bill Buckner's 2,715 hits also are more than the likes of Ted and Billy Williams had, more than Reggie and Mickey, more than Fox and Foxx, more than Mr. Cub and Joe D and Yogi and the Duke? But that by no stretch of your imagination would Billy Buck strike you as worthy of the Hall?

Couldn't they say that Jose Guillen is a better baseball player than Barry Bonds because Guillen has more hit-by-pitches? Yes -- but they would be insane.

How do you argue with Ron Santo's rabid supporters that, good as he was, he ranks tied for 140th place in hits, 80th in home runs, 82nd in RBIs and that his .277 lifetime average was not exactly the stuff of legends?

You say: "He was really good, but not quite good enough." Or, you don't argue at all, but rather agree. Either way is valid.

Roger Maris is not in the Hall of Fame. As you well know, Maris not only broke the Babe's single-season home run record of 60, he did it on a diet that included beer and cigarettes, not human growth hormone.

What is the point? What are we even talking about? Did I die? Am I dead? This seems like hell.

More and more, you hear nostalgic baseball purists rue the fact that Maris never was deemed worthy of the Hall, the same way a lights-out hitter like Jim Rice repeatedly has been denied entry … this week for the 14th consecutive year.

Who hears this? No one seriously believes Roger Maris is one of the all-time greats, really. I think I'm dead.

Well, permit me to remind these folks something about Mr. Maris.

He had 1,325 hits. That ranks him in a tie for 731st place all-time.

Right. Doesn't deserve it. There's no argument here. (I'm definitely dead. Someone murdered me. And this is my penance. I am consigned to reading and commenting on this article for the rest of time.)

Players who already have more hits than Maris did in his entire career include these giants of the game: Jose Valentin, Tony Womack, Neifi Perez, Cliff Floyd, Juan Pierre, Rondell White, Royce Clayton, Ray Durham, Jason Kendall and Mark Grudzielanek.

No one fucking thinks Roger Maris should be in the Hall of Fame. If they do, they're wrong. You are not proving anything by just citing hit totals. (I think I know who did it. I think it was HatGuy. You know how no one's heard from HatGuy in a long time? He's been laying low and planning my murder.)

I see occasional references to "can't-miss" Hall of Famers among active players. Yet so many can't-missers have missed.

Luis Gonzalez, a fine individual, certainly no immortal, currently stands 85th on the all-time hits list. Did you know that? He has more hits than Mantle and DiMaggio did, more than Sandberg and Sosa and Frank Thomas, more than Rice, a guy Boston Red Sox fans continue to adore.

Who adores Luis Gonzalez? Anybody?

Not for the Hall of Fame, no, dummy, no one does.

Steve Finley has more hits than Gonzalez. Is anyone likely to vote for Finley a few years from now? Not many, if any.

So when those of us who cast ballots are asked to weigh every factor—total hits vs. average vs. power vs. fielding vs. durability vs. character—you can see how we might become discombobulated at times, trying to sort it all out.

You didn't do that. You cited their hit totals. You said nothing of average, power, fielding, durability, or character. Nothing. You talked about hits.

Bert Blyleven is not a Hall of Famer. That is a fact as well as an opinion. I have friends and colleagues who all but crusade for Blyleven's candidacy, year after year, citing his very impressive shutout and strikeout counts.

Yet I cannot bring myself to deem Blyleven any better or more worthy than Jim Kaat, Tommy John, Jack Morris and so many others who have failed to gain admission to the Hall. I can't find the discrepancy in their careers.

I just can't bring myself to do this again. Look at Blyleven's best ERA+ and WHIP seasons, his Ks, his shutout totals, his 15 seasons of 200+ Ks (Morris had 3), his postseason record, whatever you want. Then consider that if the teams he played for, or their bullpens, were just very slightly better, like 1% better, he would have won 300 games instead of 287 and no one would ever for one second consider not voting for him. Do you realize that? If he had won 300 games, he would have been a first-ballot guy. People would have said, "300 wins, 5th all-time in Ks, 13th in innings, awesome postseason pitcher -- he's a lock!" Instead, he has 287 wins and people fall all over themselves telling you why he is not in any way a HOFer. It's insane.

There are three kinds of professional baseball players: good, great and immortal. You need to be a good one simply to reach that level, no matter what kind of Mario Mendoza-like batting average you might have beside your name. Hundreds have been excellent, but how many have been truly legendary?

About 280 or so.

Gossage is the 61st pitcher to gain induction. He won 124 games. Clemens very well could be barred from the Hall because of performance-enhancing drug use that has not been proven. He has won 354 games.

Pay attention, people. A new low has been reached. A new god-damned all-time son of a bitching low, in the history of journalism. Not sports journalism -- journalism of any kind. This last paragraph is worse than the worst war reporting, the worst economic reporting, the worst paragraph from the worst article about the most inane party during the worst Hamptons season by the worst society reporter from the worst Hamptons-based magazine.

Mike Downey discussed Goose Gossage's HOF legitimacy by citing his win total.

Forget for the moment that wins are stupid for pitchers, because pitchers rely on at least 8 (and usually like 12-14) other people in order to be credited with a win. Also please forget for the moment that if a pitcher throws 5 innings and gives up 18 runs on 27 hits, but in those 5 innings his team scores 19 runs, he could get a win. Also, forget that a pitcher can come into a game in the seventh inning with a 3-run lead and the bases loaded, give up a triple that clears the bases, then get one out when his CF robs the next batter of a HR, then have his team score runs in the bottom of that inning and he gets credited with a win. Forget all of that and realize this:

Goose Gossage is a fucking relief pitcher.

He's a reliever.

Relievers don't usually gets wins.

Most people know this.

He's a reliever.

In the words of Jean-Paul Sartre: "Hell is -- other [sports journalists]."

Goose is an immortal but the Rocket is not? What kind of Hall of Fame is this going to be, anyhow? One that excludes the greats but includes the merely good?

1. Again, Gossage was a reliever, so his "immortality" has nothing to do with wins. (Although the fact that he had 124 wins is pretty incredible, when you think about it -- in fact, it probably serves to highlight how many innings the guy threw, and how good he was in those innings.)

2. The "Rocket" is quite cockfaceingly obviously one of the greatest pitchers of all time. The fact that he might not get in -- and of course you know this, you sniveling little muckraker -- has nothing to do with this win totals.

3. The Hall of Fame will include the very best players of all time who didn't cheat and/or lie about stuff.

See you in hell, Downey.

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posted by Ken Tremendous  # 4:38 PM
Comments:
Eric strengthens Downey's excellent argument:

Other Hall of Famers who have fewer hits than Harold Baines:

Grover Alexander
Chief Bender
Mordecai Brown
Jim Bunning
Steve Carlton
Jack Chesbro
John Clarkson
Stan Covelski
Dizzy Dean
Don Drysdale
Dennis Eckersley
Red Faber
Bob Feller
Rollie Fingers
Whitey Ford
Pud Galvin
Bob Gibson
Lefty Gomez
Burleigh Grimes
Lefty Grove
Jesse Haines
Waite Hoyt
Carl Hubbell
Catfish Hunter
Fergie Jenkins
Walter Johnson
Addie Joss
Tim Keefe
Sandy Koufax
Bob Lemon
Ted Lyons
Juan Marichal
Rube Marquard
Christy Mathewson
Joe McGinnity
Hal Newhouser
Kid Nichols
Phil Niekro
Jim Palmer
Herb Pennock
Gaylord Perry
Eddie Plank
Old Hoss Radbourn
Eppa Rixey
Robin Roberts
Red Ruffing
Amos Rusie
Nolan Ryan
Tom Seaver
Warren Spahn
Don Sutton
Dazzy Vance
Rube Waddell
Ed Walsh
Mickey Welch
Hoyt Wilhelm
Vic Willis
Early Wynn
Cy Young

 
* A few of you point out, correctly, that McGwire did not technically lie to Congress -- at least, not the way Raffy did. He did look like an ass, though. So pretend it says: "Kind of awkwardly dodged questions and looked like an ass in front of Congress."
 
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