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Jon Heyman defends his Hall of Fame ballot

Jan 4, 2010, 2:21 PM EDT

Blyleven AP.jpgLast week I mentioned the little tweet-storm Jon Heyman set off when he announced his Hall of Fame ballot.  To review, he had Robbie Alomar, Andrew Dawson, Barry Larkin, Dave Parker, Jack Morris and Don Mattingly
Many people took issue with this ballot, myself included. It’s a pretty
awful one all things considered. Parker? Morris? Mattingly? 

At
the time I gave kudos to Heyman for standing in the box and defending
his choices.  Maybe he should have quit while he was, well, stalemated.
Because today he wrote a column defending his choices in greater detail, and his case hasn’t been helped a bit. With apologies to Ken Tremendous, let’s run down this bad-boy, passage-by passage:

I consider impact more than stats. I like dominance over durability. I
prefer players who were great at some point to the ones who were merely
very good for a very long time. And I do recall it’s called the Hall of
Fame, not the Hall of Numbers.

Which
explains why he has voted for the dominant Jack Morris? (note: Jack
Morris was never dominant) and why he leaves out the famous Mark
McGwire?

The reason I haven’t yet voted for Raines is that while he was a star
in Montreal, he was merely a good player for the bulk of the rest his
career, spent mainly with the White Sox and Yankees.

Wait,
what happened to “great at some point” mattering and “good
for a long time” not being important?  He has completely reversed that
with Raines.

Every year, I take hits for my lack of support of Blyleven, and this
time on Twitter I was called “stupid,” a “moron” and “idiotic,” by
(at least) a trio of Blyleven supporters. No one player incites more
controversy or stirs more emotion over his candidacy, which is slightly
ironic after a career that was marked by solid attributes such as
consistency and durability but somewhat lacking in drama.

In
the Twitter exchanges Heyman refers to there were maybe three or four
people just calling names. There were a dozen or two making sober and
cogent arguments. Heyman never addresses those arguments. It’s all
about the crazies.

My contention regarding Blyleven is that almost no one viewed him as a
Hall of Famer during his playing career, and that is borne out by the
17 percent of the vote he received in his first year of eligibility in
1998, followed by 14 percent the next year.

Yet
he is a fan of Morris, who got 22.9% of the vote in his first year and
19.6% of the vote in his second. And he spent a paragraph talking about
how his mind is changing on Tim Raines, who got 24.3% in his first year
of eligibility, but not Heyman’s vote. And Don Mattingly, who was last
seen hovering at around 16%, and also did not previously get Heyman’s
vote.  And Dave Parker, who continues to get way less than 20% of the
vote (and who has a drug history unmatched in the game, which Heyman
says should disqualify McGwire).

Look, it’s completely
legitimate to change one’s vote over time. Heyman does it himself. But
to point to Blyleveln’s lackluster first year vote totals as evidence
against his Hall of Fame case is both disingenuous and tautologous.

After going on and on about how Blyleven never showed greatness as opposed to the ability to merely compile stats, Heyman says:

Some will say that Blyleven’s career was equal to Hall of Famer Don Sutton’s
but I say it is just short of Sutton’s. They both had big totals in
other categories but Sutton wound up with 37 more victories, going over
the magic 300 mark by 24.

Got that? Stat compilers suck, unless of course they compile long enough to reach some arbitrary number like 300.  And make no mistake: if Blyleven had gotten the 13 wins needed to make 300, Heyman would have no problem with his relative lack of “dominance” his winning percentage or the cut of his jib. He would have voted for him on the first ballot, because he just decided that he likes some numbers and doesn’t like others, no matter how important or unimportant they are.

Many stat people suggest wins are not important in evaluating careers.
But until wins don’t decide who’s in the playoffs and who’s out, who
makes the World Series and who doesn’t, I will continue to view them as
important. A pitcher’s goal for each game is to win the game, not to
strikeout the most batters. And until that changes, I will count wins
and losses.

OK, fine, you’ve changed course on your “compiling argument.” It’s your column. So let’s assume that counting wins does matter. Unless
Heyman has devised a different sort of counting than we’re used to, how
he fails to acknowledge that Blyleven, at 287, has more wins than
Morris, at 254 is beyond me.  And given that he votes for position
players who don’t get any wins credited to them, I assume he
appreciates that wins are team stats, not purely individual ones. Of
course if he concedes that Don Mattingly didn’t care about winning,
I’ll retract this point.

Heyman would, and often does, point to winning percentage as
a key factor, noting that while his supporters often cite the fact that
Blyleven pitched for bad teams, his career winning percentage — .534
— wasn’t that much better than the teams on which he pitched: .496. 
What he leaves out is that the difference between Morris’ career winning
percentage — .577 — and the teams on which he pitched — .547 — is
actually less than Blyleven’s. In other words, Blyleven outpitched his teams at a better clip than the supposedly dominant Morris did.

My basic philosophy
is to emphasis impact more than numbers . . . It is why I vote or Jack
Morris, a bulldog who was considered the best
pitcher of the ’80s, and who pitched the best game of the ’90s.

The
fact that anyone considers Jack Morris the best pitcher of the 80s is
curious at best. Sure, if you go by “wins between 1980 and 1990″ I suppose he
is, but Roger Clemens was a better pitcher every single season they
shared the league together outside of Clemens’ rookie year. Dave Stieb
was better than Morris over the entire decade. But even if you set
those guys aside, doesn’t one have to acknowledge that any of the top
5-10 pitchers of the 70s — a group to which Bert Blyleven belongs –
would have, in their prime, been the best pitcher of the 80s? Being the
best starter of the 80s is like being the best football team in Alaska.
Nice factoid, but it has nothing to do with greatness.

Jack Morris: Dominant bulldog received Cy Young votes seven times, won more games in
the ’80s than anyone and was a general force in the American League
(though his overall stats admittedly aren’t as good as Blyleven’s).

So
if the stats don’t matter, we take away the most wins in the 80s thing
and we’re left with, what? Morris was a “dominant bulldog” who won Game
7 of the 1991 World Series?  That’s the Hall of Fame case for Jack
Morris and the anti-case for Blyleven? 

Great. It’s Heyman’s
ballot and he can do what he’d like to it. I’d just like him to point
to one piece of objective evidence that establishes Jack Morris as
“dominant” before he expects me to even begin to agree with his vote.
Until that time, I’m going to continue to assume that Heyman, like many
other writers, simply decided at one point that Bert Blyleven isn’t a
Hall of Famer and continues his increasingly stubborn search for
evidence to back up that opinion with something approaching facts.

  1. Napoleon Kalawe - Feb 16, 2010 at 8:47 PM

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  2. Joe R - Feb 17, 2010 at 2:16 PM

    I highly enjoy how he believes in voting for guys who were stars rather than prolonged good players, and then immediately mentions that Raines was a star player but isn’t voting for him. What?
    And Blyleven, well, old assumptions die hard. He only made 2 ASG’s, he only received Cy Young votes in 4 seasons, he’s 10th of all time in Losses (FYI 8 of the 9 guys in front of Blyleven are Hall of Famers), buried way the heck down in 449th of all pitchers w/ 1000 IP or 100 decisions in W-L percentage, and a lot of his value was from longevity.
    But seriously, he AVERAGED 226 innings. Era-adjusting his stats to a 750 run climate on b-r gives him a career ERA of 3.90. The Davenport Translation found on his BP DT-card gives him a career ERA of 3.83 w/ a 3.44 K/BB rate. Eckersley, great pitcher, deserving of enshrinement, 3.80 ERA w/ a 4.64 K/BB rate. Fergie Jenkins, another great: 3.85 ERA, 4.34 K/BB. So same ERA (his HR/9 rates were better), more innings, no Hall? Makes no sense.

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