05 January 2010

Jon Heyman's Wacky World of Hall of Fame "Logic"

Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman tweeted a couple of weeks ago that he voted for Andre Dawson, Jack Morris, Barry Larkin, Dave Parker, Don Mattingly, and Roberto Alomar. At the time it struck me as the kind of list you'd see from someone who had not really looked at the numbers very closely, or if he didn, hadn't really understood them. I didn't write about it because that sort of thing happens all the time, so it's not really news.

To Heyman's credit, he at least puts his votes out there for public consumption and then even defends them against his detractors, which is noble if not effective in swaying public opinion. The trouble is that heyman, like most people in his position, simply appears to have made his decisions and then looked for evidence to back them up, as opposed to the reverse of that, which would be better. Today, Rob Neyer has has highlighted Heyman's convoluted argument for refsing to vote for Bert Blyleven. As best as I can tell, Heyman's criteria go as follows:

  • Apparently, if you were some kind of icon in the 1980's for a while, he'll vote for you, especially if you won an MVP award. Unless you're Dale Murphy.
  • If you were an overrated, stats-compiling power hitter for more than 20 years, he'll vote for you, especially if you had some of your best years in Chicago. Unless you're Harold Baines.
  • If you were a really good middle infielder who hit for average and power, played great defense, stole bases and led teams to the playoffs and a World Series championship, he'll vote for you. Unless you're Alan Trammell.
  • If you won a couple of batting titles, made seven all star teams and hit for good but not great power for almost 20 years but had a couple of injury-plagued seasons in the prime of your career that kept your career totals down, he'll vote for you. Unless you're Edgar Martinez.
  • If you were a very good, sometimes great pitcher for a long time, he'll vote for you, especially if you helped your teams to win a couple of championships, even if you never won the Cy Young. Unless you're Bert Blyleven.
  • If you were the second greatest lead-off man and base stealer in history, he won't vote for you, Tim Raines. (Though he admits that he's "on the verge of being convinced.")
  • If you were a prolific, power hitting firstbaseman in the Steroid Era, he won't vote for you either, Mark McGwire, Fred McGriff, or Andres Galaragga, even if you have better career numbers than Mattingly and Parker. Which you do.

Honestly, I don't know what to make of Heyman's criteria, which are consistently inconsistent, as you can see. The best I can tell is that if he thought you were a Hall of Famer when you were playing, then he'll vote for you now. That explains Mattingly, Dawson, Parker and Morris, but the absence of Dale Murphy is curious.

He seems to appreciate that a guy doesn't have to get 3,000 hits to belong the Hall, and he votes for Alomar and Larkin who were both excellent hitters and defenders at two of the toughest positions on the field for a pretty long time. Both were better than Trammell, but not that much better. He clearly doesn't hold Parker's role in the early 1980's cocaine scandal against him, but then he doesn't vote for Raines either, and Raines was a much more valuable commodity over the course of his career.

In the article that Neyer refers to, Heyman compares Blyleven to Harold Baines, who we both agree does not belong in the Hall. On the coincidence that they both fell about 4% short of one of the magic numbers (3,000 hits or 300 Wins) Heyman declares them equal and therefore equally unworthy of induction, all the while ignoring piles of other useful information that suggests that they're really quite different. Without rehashing my old arguments, you can see what I think about Baines and Blyleven here and here, respectively.

I guess that players who hang on and try to contribute even when the skills of their youth have clearly eroded are less Hall-worthy than those who simply curl up and disappear around age 35 or so. And players who are really, really good for a short while are more desirable than players who are just really good for a really long time. Even that doesn't fully explain his votes, though, and I imagine that even Heyman's mind doesn't totally understand Heyman's mind on this subject, as his criteria must have to shift frequently depending on which vote (or lack of vote) he's defending.

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