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Jon Heyman defends his Hall of Fame ballot

Image (1) blyleven%20ap.jpg for post 3017

Last 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.