Hall of Fame: If you’re voting for Jack Morris, how do you not vote for Blyleven?
Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman set off an hours-long debate last night on Twitter when he revealed his Hall of Fame ballot:
At the outset, let me give Heyman some credit. After tweeting that, a cubic crap-ton of people like me came out of the woodwork to attack him, and he basically took on all comers. As I’ll note below, his arguments were weak, but he stood in the box all night and that’s worthy of some respect.
But with that out of the way, let’s be clear: there is all kinds of ugliness here. Among other things voting for Andre Dawson and Dave Parker while not voting for Tim Raines is more than curious. Voting for Don Mattingly at all is simply silly. What sparked the big debate, however, was his vote for Jack Morris and failure to vote for Bert Blyleven.
Don’t worry: this is not going to be a big Blyleven-for-the-Hall-of-Fame post. People have beat that to death, and if you’re looking for a comprehensive argument in his favor, there are better places to go for it, including from the man himself. Personally, I think Blyleven is a Hall of Famer. I understand that a lot of people disagree. They’re entitled to that opinion. Hall of Fame voting comes with a hefty dose of subjectivity, and with the majority of candidates -- including Blyleven, Dawson, Fred McGriff and many like them -- there are non-ridiculous arguments on both sides.
But the arguments from any given voter should at least be consistent, and here is where Heyman goes off the rails. Like Blyleven, Morris is something less than a shoe-in candidate. Personally I don’t think he belongs. Buf if you’re one of those people who do think he belongs -- if you’re a proponent of a larger, less exclusive Hall of Fame -- how can you vote for Morris and not Blyleven?
As many have noted, Blyleven has a large advantage in just about every possible statistic except for the random “wins in the 1980s” and “wins in Game Sevens of the 1991 World Series” categories. If you’re making a purely statistical case -- which I accept that voters do not, as a rule, do -- Blyleven is in and Morris is out.
But even if you’re making a broader, shape-of-career case -- which voters often do -- Blyleven and Morris profile rather similarly: they are good, durable but rarely-considered-great pitchers without Cy Young awards. Morris has the rings, but he had a lot of help and they are at the very least equaled in weight by Blyleven’s overall career value. I wouldn’t approach the matter this way, but for those who do, I can see voting for neither of them. I can also see voting for both of them. I can even see -- if voters go to big stats like wins and strikeouts as tiebreakers -- voting for Blyleven and not Morris. I cannot, however, fathom a vote for Morris and not Blyleven.
But that inconsistency is not the most galling. No, the most galling inconsistencies were volunteered by Heyman himself. First, in response to me lodging the objection from the last paragraph, Heyman said “regarding bert, 86% voted “no’’ his 2nd yr. unlike others, i’m consistent. he never led league in wins, ERA but led in HRs, earned runs, Ls”
This sort of cherry picking is so common I rarely get outraged anymore, but that doesn’t make it any less outrageous. Ignore all of Blyleven’s stats in his favor and dismiss him as merely a stathead’s pick as so many writers do, but then use the negative stats to hammer his candidacy. It’s simply not legitimate in my mind to look at the dingers he gave up and not even consider his 287 wins and 3701 strikeouts. You have to take his overall stats and weigh them, and guys like Heyman never do that. “Stats are overrated,” they often say when dismissing Blyleven, and then they use stats to twist the knife. And by the way: Jack Morris led the league in earned runs once. Steve Carlton led the league in homers, ERA and losses on occasion as well. What’s your point?
But the worst part of Heyman’s case comes in the “86% voted “no’’ his 2nd yr. unlike others, i’m consistent” comment. Setting aside what some smart people have said about such consistency, Heyman isn’t even consistent about his consistency. Later, in what became a wide-ranging debate among a good dozen or more people, Heyman said that he would (a) look at Tim Raines’ candidacy again; and (b) that he had voted “no” for Mattingly eight times before changing his mind. If you’re going to reevaluate for Mattingly and Raines, why not Blyleven? Why not just shorten the Hall of Fame voting window to one year per player?
Maybe Heyman was just joking with the consistency crack. Maybe he’s just so moonstruck with Game 7 of the 1991 World Series that no logical case against Jack Morris would ever dissuade him.
Then again, maybe he’s just shooting darts out there, making up his standards as he goes along.