FIRE JOE MORGAN

FIRE JOE MORGAN

Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

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Friday, December 28, 2007

 

Jack and Bert and a Hallway Where Famous People Go

It's the most wonderful time of the year -- the time when sportswriters spell out their mostly embarrassing Hall of Fame selections in their columns and pre-emptively get defensive about them, as if they know deep down inside that they're wrong, but they just can't help themselves. With the way some serial FJM offenders have started peppering their work with more nerd-baiting barbs than ever before, I'm beginning to think that they want to be caught -- maybe the traffic they get from our site is, perversely, helping them keep their jobs. Take Jon Heyman.

Enshrinement in Cooperstown shouldn't be about numbers.

It should be about guessing. Waving your hands in the air and shouting baseball players' names. Loud. Getting piss-drunk on Schlitzes, beating up some Finnish guy for looking gay, putting more Schlitzes in your gut and then using that gut to remember who was great. Because who remembers better, guts or numbers? Guts. Guts remember.

If anyone thinks so, let's trash tradition and have a computer select the honorees.

You know who a computer would probably pick? All of his computer friends. Hope you like a Hall of Fame full of Commodore 64's, ENIACs and vacuum tubes, you number-loving asshole.

The Hall of Fame should be about who starred and who dominated. And about who made an impact.

It should be about greatness.


And how do we determine these things? Simple. Jon Heyman's brain matter. It's a little-known fact, but Jon Heyman's brain matter has been scientifically determined to be the most infallible substance on the planet Earth. Jon Heyman's brain matter has retained every scrap of information it has ever received through Jon Heyman's sensory organs. Jon Heyman's brain matter can tell you the number of hairs on the skin of a Lhasa Apso Jon Heyman's eyes saw in 1974, though of course it would prefer not to, because that would be a number, and numbers are insignificant to Jon Heyman's brain matter. Jon Heyman's brain matter specializes in the recognition of domination, star power, impact and greatness. It does not need numbers to aid it. It simply knows. We must trust it.

I know my annual ballot would be rejected by stat aficionados, number crunchers and many Moneyball disciples. I have one player with a .323 on-base percentage on my ballot, and another even lower, at .322. But numbers don't tell everyone's story.

I believe guys should be given some extra credit for miraculous games, postseason heroics, historical performances that become part of baseball lore. They better be pretty damn miraculous to outweigh a .322 OBP, though.

Nobody's ballot is perfect. Like Roger Clemens' overzealous lawyer, I am conducting my own investigation.

This investigation, at least according to the first sentence of your column, "shouldn't be about numbers." So what would it entail? My guess: Jon Heyman, magic mushrooms, a MIDI keyboard and GarageBand.

Also, sure, you say that nobody's ballot is perfect. But what better way to absolutely assure imperfection than to ignore swaths of readily available information? This is like Clarence Thomas blithely throwing reams of legal documents into an In-Sink-Erator while happily chattering "No one's judicial opinions are perfect! La la la la dorp!" I believe this happened in 1998.

It's an inexact science, to be sure, and part of the imprecision involves the few idiots who get to vote.

Again, it's a science made especially inexact when you throw out all of the data before you even begin. I love, of course, the irony of Heyman calling some other voters idiots -- I think this irony isn't even lost on him.

Some may call me an idiot, as well.

You saying that doesn't mean you aren't one.

But one thing I have going for me is that I am old enough to have seen and followed the entire careers of 24 of 25 players on this year's ballot (I was two when Tommy John broke in so I missed some of the pre-surgery John).

I think this is relevant. Watching all these guys can only help augment your careful research of their playing records --

That in mind, I don't feel the need to study the stat sheets too hard. I look, but I don't obsess.

I think I know who was great, who was close to great and who doesn't even belong on the ballot.


Oh. So you're saying you can remember off the top of your head exactly how great 24 of the 25 guys are. How dominant. How starry. How impactful. No obsessing for you! Just sleeping in a hammock, playing the harmonica. Hall of Fame, here we come! No need to study. You just know! Whee!

Bert Blyleven is one Cooperstown candidate who stirs a lot of emotion, sometimes from folks who barely saw him pitch and instead spent the past 10 years with their heads buried in a stat book.

Barely saw him pitch. Wasn't born yet. Then was too busy drawing dinosaurs in crayon. Have spent the past 10 years living and sleeping inside a giant copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula, not a stat book.

Blyleven did some great things in his career, and he pitched a lot of dominating games. Yet he never had a truly dominating season.

158 ERA+, 2.52 ERA, 1.117 WHIP, 258 Ks, 325 IP. Even 20 (bleah) wins. He was 22 years old.

142 ERA+, 2.66 ERA, 1.142 WHIP, 249 Ks. The very next year.

I'll stop boring you, since all numbers should be thrown out. But Bert went on to have four more years of ERA+s over 133. Jack Morris, a man of whom Heyman says "it's an abomination he may never get in," had exactly zero seasons that good. And if ERA+ is breaking your brain with its unbelievable complexity, Morris also never had an ERA under 3. Blyleven did. Nine times.

He threw 60 shutouts --

Wow, that's good!

-- but won 20 games only once in an era when 20-game winners weren't nearly so rare as they are today.

Let me use your own words against you, Jon. "Enshrinement in Cooperstown shouldn't be about numbers -- especially not numbers that are exceedingly arbitrary and almost completely divorced with actual quality (e.g. winning 20 games in a season)."

Your hero, Nobel Prize and Peabody Award winner Jack Morris won 21 games in 1992. His ERA+ was 102 and his plain ol' ERA was 4.04.

I do admire Blyleven's talent, and his longevity as well. But I still think Blyleven falls into that group of great compilers who weren't quite great enough players to make Cooperstown. Lee Smith, Harold Baines and John also fit that category -- though Blyleven's the closest of that group to making my ballot.

Add "compilers" to the list of "words people use when they don't have a substantive argument when talking about the Hall of Fame." I think there is probably some useful way to use the word -- a guy might be a compiler if he is good over a very long career and doesn't have a peak period of sustained greatness. But Blyleven was better than Morris in so many ways for so much longer...it just doesn't make sense here. Bert Blyleven was so much better than Harold Baines, the comparison is almost absurd.

Heyman will go on to spit out the word "compiler" several more times in the article with contempt, as if these guys selfishly chalked up statistics without even playing the games. This also doesn't make sense. Playing is playing. If Bert could've played on better teams, I'm sure he would've. As it was, he did win two World Series and recorded a 2.57 postseason ERA, compared to vaunted playoff performer Morris' 3.80.

Skipping ahead now:

THE CHOSEN

2. Jack Morris. The ace of three World Series teams, it's an abomination he may never get in. Morris made 14 Opening Day starts, tied with Steve Carlton, Randy Johnson, Walter Johnson and Cy Young, behind only Tom Seaver's 16 (the others already are or will be in Cooperstown).


Saying that you hate numbers and then using the number of Opening Day starts made as a criterion is like eschewing movie reviews...except for this one IMDb commenter, SandlerFan1993 -- he has such insightful opinions! Jack Morris made the Opening Day start for the Blue Jays in 1993. He went on to post a 6.19 ERA and a WHIP of 1.664. Inexplicably, he again was named the Opening Day starter the following year, this time for the Indians. At the end of the season, he could look back on a sweet 5.60 ERA and 1.627 WHIP. And we're giving him Hall of Fame credit for these meaningless Opening Day nods?

The only two reasons I can think of for him not making it are: 1) he got hit hard his final couple years and finished with a 3.90 ERA, and 2) he was no charmer. Neither is a good enough reason to omit him. His impact was great.

Well, look, you sort of glossed over the main reason, and that's his ERA, which is a halfway-decent measure of how many runs a guy tends to give up. Shouldn't that sort of be important when you're determining how great, impactful, dominant, or starry a pitcher was? Idly, I'd like to casually suggest some more reasons why Jack Morris might not be the best Hall of Fame candidate (don't take these too seriously -- like you, I don't obsess over these things!):

1. 3.90 career ERA (okay, the first one's yours)
2. 105 career ERA+ (100 is average! Not average Hall of Famer. Average! Jamie Moyer's career ERA+ is 105.)
3. Never finished in the top 4 in ERA in his league. (So undominant!)
4. Never ever ever had an ERA under 3.
5. Zero seasons with a WHIP below 1.16 (an arbitrary cutoff point; Blyleven had nine such seasons)
6. 3.80 postseason ERA (not exciting anyone)
7. 4.87 LCS ERA (6 games, who cares, but if you're going to give him credit for his World Series performance...)

You get the picture.

Moving along...

10. Blyleven. Stat gurus love this guy, and it's understandable. One of the great compilers of his generation, he's fifth all-time in strikeouts, ninth in shutouts and 25th in wins. There's no doubt he was a superb talent who played a long time. But he was rarely among the ultra-elite in his 22-year career.

That's right. Jon Heyman thinks Bert Blyleven is 10th most worthy of the guys on the Hall of Fame ballot this year. And there's "compiler" again. This guy didn't play baseball! All he did was compile! What a jerkbutt. Not voting for this ass-toucan.

Really, though, fifth all-time in strikeouts. Wow. Out of the top 17 guys, I bet all of them except Bert and maybe Curt Schillseph make the Hall. And Bert outpitched the strikeout leader, one Mr. Nolan R., to the tune of seven points of ERA+.

There's more in this article -- Dawson, Rice, Parker, Concepcion (!). Maybe KT will read it and go berzerk later.

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posted by Junior  # 5:21 PM
Comments:
I've always wanted to write this:

"Circle Me Bert!!!!!!"
 
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