Validation feels so good.
When we inducted Jon Heyman into the PCHA Sportswriting Hall of Shame, we may have had a couple creeping doubts that we’d picked the right guy. After all, there are so many terrible sports journalists out there, and Heyman admittedly wasn’t as much of a slam dunk as our first inductee, Rick Reilly. We moved ahead though, confident that we had picked the best available nominee.
And Lord, were we right. In a wonderful confluence of events, the PCHA Sportswriting Hall of Shame is forming a Venn diagram with the Baseball Hall of Fame’s shameful voting practices, and Mr. Heyman occupies the center circle.
Heyman published his Hall of Fame ballot yesterday, complete with some of the most illogical, irrational, strawman-filled, irrelevant, cherry-picking arguments this side of a Republican primary debate. Even when Heyman supports worthy players or correctly dismisses also-rans, his reasons for doing so are often inane. Shall we count down his most ludicrous arguments? Shall we?
10. “None of us can be too happy about a ballot that feels like more plight than task. Filling out the ballot is supposed to be a privilege. For this first time, it felt like a burden.”
OK, this isn’t really an argument, but it’s so asinine it had to be included. Poor, poor Jon Heyman. Poor, poor baseball writers. How do they sleep at night? How do they get through their days dragging Jacob Marley’s chain around? Voting has become a plight and a burden because you have fucking made it a plight and a burden. It should be pretty simple: vote the best players in. But you, Jon Heyman, and your ilk, have appointed yourselves moral arbiters of baseball and society because it makes you feel important. Voting for the Hall of Fame should indeed be a privilege, and it’s a privilege you’re squandering year after year.
9. We should all wonder about the authenticity of the numbers, too. How real are the numbers of the steroid guys? And how do we know?
This one’s pretty easy. THE NUMBERS ARE REAL. They exist. They’re in the record books and everything. Barry Bonds didn’t hit an imaginary number of home runs. He hit 762 home runs, not the square root of -9 home runs.
I can’t even believe we have to go through this again, but we do: numbers put up by accused and proven PED users are no more or less real than numbers put up by players in the deadball area, the segregated era, the amphetamine era, or the coked-up ’80s. We can try to put them into context but we can’t dismiss them out of hand.
8. (Re: Lee Smith) “There’s a reason relievers, even closers, make a lot less than starters.”
Jon Heyman is obsessed with money and contracts so it stands to reason he places that filter on his voting decisions. To be clear, he’s absolutely right that relievers generally aren’t nearly as valuable as starters, but contract size has nothing to do with it. Is Barry Zito more valuable and Hall-worthy than Felix Hernandez because a team was dumb enough to give him a massive contract? Salary is only an indicator of market appeal (or one GM’s lunacy), it’s not a true metric of value. Duh.
7. (Re: Bernie Williams) “He had many great moments, almost all of them in October.”
OK, so this is just semantics, but come on, man. Bernie Williams played in 2,076 regular season games and 121 postseason games. Seven percent of his career home runs came in the playoffs. So I think it’s safe to say that “almost all” of his great moments did not come in October, even if you count the handful of regular season games he played on October 1-2 throughout his career. Why not just write “a lot of them in October”? Oh, because that would be a correct thing to say and you’re allergic to correctness? Cool.
6. (Re: Mike Piazza) “As with Sosa, I delayed my ‘yes’ vote on the greatest hitting catcher of all-time to await more evidence. It has been reported he’s writing a book, so perhaps he will shed some light.” (and re: Jeff Bagwell) “Deserving on the numbers, but as with Sosa and Piazza, I delayed my ‘yes’ vote until further proof/word.”
Holy fucking shit. No evidence exists implicating Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell of taking PEDs. But because they’re two burly men who hit a bunch of home runs, Jon Heyman is still going to cluck at them and wag his finger. I have no earthly idea whether Piazza of Bagwell ever juiced. It wouldn’t shock me to find out they did. But to keep them out of the Hall of Fame based on back-alley whispers and bacne reports is criminal. Heyman is basically announcing that he won’t vote for Piazza or Bagwell until they are proven innocent, something that is impossible to do. Because steroid tests did not exist for most of their career. This is McCarthyism at its finest.
5. (Re: Don Mattingly) “Also am not going to let a retroactive range guess dissuade me from believing he was one of the very best defensively at first.”
Look, Don Mattingly was the best fielding first baseman I ever saw. And there remains a lot of dispute about advanced fielding metrics. But Heyman is essentially saying, “I’m not going to let facts sway my uninformed opinions.”
4. (Re: Curt Schilling) “Pitched to a lot of steroid guys, and while he might not seem all that credible on some other issues, there’s no evidence he juiced.”
Interesting. There’s no evidence that Bagwell or Piazza used, either. I see something of a double standard developing here. Heyyyy Jon…pitchers used steroids too. Even fat ones.
3. (Re: Larry Walker) “But he did most of his damage in Coors Field’s pre-humidifier days. Hard to know how to judge, but doesn’t quite make it here.”
Except that some of his most valuable seasons came with the Expos. Except that he produced seven seasons of a 112 or higher OPS+ playing for teams other than the Rockies. Except that he had a career .281/.362/.494 slash line away from Coors Field. Except that he added significant value with his defense and baserunning. Other than that, an airtight argument.
2. (Re: Fred McGriff) “His home run total of 493 would look a lot better if so many around him weren’t juicing.”
Unless McGriff was juicing. Which we can’t possibly know. As with Schilling, Heyman makes a massive mistake by assuming he knows every single player that took PEDs and every single player that didn’t. “Well,” you can see Heyman thinking, “McGriff doesn’t look as buff as Jeff Bagwell, so he was obviously clean.”
1. The Jack Morris argument:
“He defined workhorse and ace in the ’80s and early ’90s, yet he remains as controversial a non-steroid candidate as there is. He made 14 Opening Day starts, tied with Steve Carlton, Randy Johnson, Walter Johnson and Cy Young for second most ever, behind only Tom Seaver, and was also the No. 1 pitcher of three World Series winners, clear evidence of his reputation and impact in his day. Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated had the stat that defines him: in 14 consecutive seasons, he pitched eight innings or more in 52 percent of his starts. Detractors point to a less-than-glowing career 3.90 ERA, but his career is better summarized by a great decade (most wins of the ’80s) and great moments (his Game 7 performance in 1991 for his hometown Minnesota Twins was maybe the best pitching performance under the circumstances in decades). He was good enough to receive Cy Young votes in seven seasons. I can’t allow his vast accomplishments to be re-evaluated downward by a new emphasis on different numbers.”
…and that’s leaving out the worst part, in which Heyman claimed Morris was teammates with Bert Blyleven. (He wasn’t.)
First of all, “defining workhorse” is a really good argument against someone being in the hall of fame. Boy, that Bronson Arroyo really defined workhorse in the ’00s, didn’t he?
Heyman falls into the common voter trap here of caring more about how a player was perceived than about actual value. It makes sense, because it makes media members feel important to give players MVPs and Cy Youngs, and then use those awards to determine if a player should reach the Hall of Fame. It’s a daisy-chain of ignorance. Any time you see a voter citing opening day starts, All-Star appearances, post-season awards, or using phrasing like “most feared hitter of his time” or “true ace,” that’s a clear sign that said voter has his head up his own ass and doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about.
What should matter less in determining whether or not Jack Morris is a Hall of Famer: that he compiled the most wins (a virtually meaningless stat) in the 1980s (a random number of years defined by random beginning and end points) or how many times he pitched 8 innings or more in his starts. Trick question! It’s a tie, because both are utterly irrelevant to his candidacy.
Heyman’s claim that Morris was the #1 pitcher of three World Series winners is beside the point even if true. But let’s take a closer look and those three teams:
- In 1984, Morris was indeed the #1 starter in a rotation that included luminaries Dan Petry and Milt Wilcox as the second and third guys. And Petry outpitched him that year.
- In 1991, Morris pitched well for the Twins. Scott Erickson pitched better.
- In 1992, Morris was a league average pitcher for the Blue Jays who won 21 games because wins are stupid. He was the fourth best starter in the Jays’ rotation.
Finally, we come to the most cretinous sentence in this entire column: “I can’t allow his vast accomplishments to be re-evaluated downward by a new emphasis on different numbers.”
Oh my word.
The egotism inherent in that statement! Heyman can’t allow Morris’s vast [sic] accomplishments to be re-evaluated? Really? Because I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have a choice. Time and progress march on and don’t wait for the likes of Jon Heyman. We’re not dealing with a new emphasis on different numbers. We’re dealing with better numbers that bring performance into sharper focus. On-base percentage tells us more about a hitter than batting average. ERA+ tells us more about a pitcher than wins. Those are indisputable facts. Thank the heavens that we have heroes like Jon Heyman to stand at the gates of Cooperstown and keep that idyllic, quaint little New York town in the dark, like the titular hamlet in The Village. Heyman won’t let us in. He can’t allow it!
“I can’t allow centuries of drawings and scripture to be made obsolete by a new emphasis on scientific theories.” — Pope Urban VIII at Galileo’s trial for heresy.
“I can’t allow grand traditions to be re-evaluated downward by a new emphasis on rights and equality.” — Jefferson Davis
“I can’t allow the vast accomplishment of American exceptionalism to be re-evaluated downward by a new emphasis on genocide and war crimes.” — George W. Bush