Monday, January 4, 2010

Is There A "Curse of Some Boston Sportswriter Who Moved To New York Dooming All Subsequent Boston Sportswriters To Epic Failure"?

Sports. Illustrated. A fantastic, if antiquated concept for a magazine in which a picture told 1000 words. I’ll always have a soft spot for that magazine. I’ll always remember the cover of Mark Eaton defending Kareem with the caption “look who’s looking up now?” The way that SI made Jordan seem even larger than he already was. The amazing shots of running backs so close the camera man must have been involved in the tackle.

If a picture is worth 1000 words, this column from Dan Shaughnessy is worth a half torn 5th series Garbage Pail Kid. One of the commons, not one of the rare ones.

Baseball's 2010 Hall of Fame class will be announced on Wednesday, and I'm betting that Edgar Martinez comes up short in his first year of eligibility for Cooperstown.

I would like to start by stating that I do not think it is idiotic to vote against Edgar Martinez. Defense is an important part of baseball, and Edgar simply didn’t play any. So yes, if you don’t want Edgar in the Hall, I’ve got no problem with that. What I have a problem with is guys not taking this whole voting thing seriously, because no one with an actual vote should take voting less seriously than I, a 32-year-old man with an almost completely unread, infrequently updated sports blog, do.

Edgar presents voters with a unique choice because he is the first candidate who compiled virtually all of his resume as a designated hitter.

This is true, and I look forward to Dan’s nuanced look back at Edgar’s fine career.

In 18 seasons, all with the Seattle Mariners, Edgar batted .312 with an on-base percentage of .418 and a slugging percentage of .515. This makes him one of 20 players in hardball history with lifetime numbers over .300, .400 and .500, respectively. He has a higher on-base percentage than Stan Musial, Wade Boggs and Mel Ott. He is one of only eight players with 300 homers, 500 doubles and the aforementioned .300/.400/.500 line. He won a couple of batting titles and was an All-Star seven times. He stayed with the same team for his entire career, so there would be no controversy regarding which logo to put on his Hall cap.

Those are some pretty phenomenal numbers actually. One of 20 players with a .300/.400/.500 line? I think that’s quite an accomplishment. Consistently putting up a .400+ OBP without massive scary power shows fantastic plate discipline, and Edgar DID put up good power numbers, especially given that he played a good chunk of his career before the people routinely hit 50 HRs every year.

The Mariners have campaigned madly for Edgar and it pains me to withhold my vote, but I just can't bring myself to put him in Cooperstown alongside Ted Williams, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

And Jim Rice and Dave Bancroft and Red Faber and Rick Farrell and Jesse Haines and Tony Perez. Truly, legends.

I have been a Hall voter for more than 25 years and it's the most important task assigned to the baseball writers of America. In recent years the Hall ballot has become heavier as voters are asked to make character judgments regarding players who may have padded their statistics with illegal and/or banned substances.

What? Was Edgar on roids? That’s huge news if true, I mean…

There's no problem with Edgar in this area. He was never tainted by the scourge of steroids, and he retired with an impeccable reputation, on and off the field.

Uhm, OK. So why mention it at all. And isn’t this another reason to vote FOR Edgar right in the middle of the anti-Edgar part of the column? A bit awkward, don’t you think? I like my columns to have some flow to them. Now let’s discuss Brett Favre’s tractor collection.

I just don't think he's a Hall of Famer, and that doesn't make him less than great.

It is true that Dan Shaughnessy’s opinion of Edgar has no bearing on the objective value of Edgar as a baseball player. It is not true that “I just don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer” is a solid argument for anything, other than taking Dan’s column away from him.

It doesn't take away his numbers.

Shouldn’t this sentence read “It doesn’t take away from his numbers”? As in, “Dan’s subjective opinion of Edgar Martinez does not detract from the greatness that we can see by analyzing his numbers”? The way he wrote it makes it sound like Edgar’s numbers could be stolen by the Numburglar. Robble Robble.

I like Dwight Evans, Dale Murphy, Alan Trammell and Andre Dawson, but I don't think they're Hall of Famers, either.

I like Trammell, don’t like Dawson, and have to look harder at Murphy and Evans, but I have reasons for those opinions, which I would be happy to share with everyone if given a well-compensated sports column in a major magazine. Unless it’s company policy to keep it a secret, I guess. Seems like a bad policy though. Maybe Dan is saving his reasons for Magazine Sweeps Week. Do they have that?



So he just doesn’t have any reasons then.

Each Hall voter applies his own standards, and mine often references the famous line that Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart applied to pornography. Stewart argued that he might not be able to define what was pornographic, "but I know it when I see it.''

In my non-sports-journalism-criticism life I’m actually an attorney. The referenced quote from Potter Stewart is well known amongst you lay people, but there are a few extra things you should know about this:

1. The full quote ends with “and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.” Stewart did NOT find the movie in question (the French film “Les Amants”) to be obscene.

2. Stewart wrote this phrase in the concurrence, not in the majority opinion.

3. The case in which he made this statement is no longer good law.

4. The statement itself isn’t a good argument. In fact, it’s a bit lazy.

Stewart later said that his statement was basically useless as an argument, and in fact the idea that some government body would be deciding what is and isn’t protected by the First Amendment on an Ad Hoc basis really flies in the face of the First Amendment, at least in my humble opinion. Anyway, quoting this as an example of sound reasoning is simply terrible, especially with regard to baseball players. Pornography may be hard to define, but good baseball players are not.

For me, it's the same with Hall of Famers. Some guys just strike you as Cooperstown-worthy and others do not.

Again, any reasons? What “strikes you” as Cooperstown worthy? Is it their dapper evening-wear perhaps? The sheen of a bowler cap? The twinkle in his eye? The way he jumps to make the throw from short even though it’s completely unnecessary?


Edgar Martinez was a very fine hitter, but I never said to myself, "The Mariners are coming to Fenway this weekend. I wonder how the Sox are going to pitch to Edgar Martinez?''

This is more of a testament to Dan Shaughnessy than it is to Edgar Martinez. Check out how Edgar stacked up to his Mariner lineup mates:

1995 AL West Winning Seattle Mariners, by OPS+

1. Edgar Martinez – 185
2. Tino Martinez – 135
3. Jay Buhner – 131
4. Ken Griffey, Jr. – 122
5. Mike Blowers – 108

1996 2nd Place Seattle Mariners by OPS+

1. Edgar Martinez – 166
2. Alex Rodriguez – 160
3. Ken Griffey, Jr. – 153
4. Jay Buhner – 130
5. Paul Sorrento – 120

1997 AL West Winning Seattle Mariner by OPS+

1. Edgar Martinez - 165
2. Ken Griffey, Jr. – 165
3. Jay Buhner – 132
4. Paul Sorrento – 123
5. Alex Rodriguez – 120

2001 Seattle Mariners that won 116 games, by OPS+

1. Edgar Martinez – 160
2. Brett Boone – 153
3. John Olerud – 136
4. Ichiro – 126
5. Mike Cameron – 123

But hey, he wasn’t as “feared” as Jim Rice.

It was different with players like Eddie Murray and Jim Rice. They were feared.

I look forward to Gilbert Arenas’s induction into the basketball Hall of Fame.

Murray got into Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility (thanks to 500 homers, no doubt), while it took Rice 15 years to finally get the required 75 percent of votes. Both were feared sluggers who spent a lot of time in the field before becoming DHs as elder statesmen.

Elder Statesmen? Let’s see…Ah! According to the Brewed Sports Dictionary of Bad Sports Journalism Clichés (4th Ed, Copyright 2003), an “Elder Statesman is a player who used to be good, was kept around by his team because he was an icon of sorts, and eventually saw his slugging dip into the low .400s. The term is used in an attempt to convey value added by said player in the realms of such nebulous concepts as team chemistry and positive attitude to compensate for a dissipating skill set in their later years. Frequently accompanied by a bad contract.”

The lack of fielding is a good point though.

This year I voted for Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris.
Alomar goes down as one of the greatest second basemen of all time and was the best at his position for just about the entire time he played. This is his first year on the ballot and I think he'll be the top vote-getter in the class of 2010.

I haven’t looked at Alomar’s numbers, but I suspect I’m OK with this, but…

Blyleven has been on the ballot for 13 years and may come up short again, but he won 287 games, ranks fifth all-time in strikeouts and compiled a 3.31 ERA over 22 seasons, pitching for a lot of bad ball clubs.

I’m fine with Bert too. No problem, but…

Morris won 254 games in 18 seasons

No, no, no. Jack Morris is not a Hall of Famer. First of all, Wins are stupid. We all know Wins are stupid. I’m not going to explain why anymore, you have Google, you can figure it out. Unless you write for

Second, Morris wasn’t bad, but for pitching in a time when runs were tough to come by, he just wasn’t that good. His ERA+ bounced between 90 and 120 throughout his prime, and his WHIP was between 1.15 and 1.4. Jack Morris is always overrated because of the current baseball era, and because he pitched a ton of innings and put up some decent counting stats. Oh, and he had this:

and pitched one of the greatest World Series games of all time, a 10-inning, 1-0 Game 7 victory over the Braves in 1991.

Yes, Morris pitched a dandy on this one day in October, but it was just one game. One game does not a career make. I mean, Jeff Suppan once pitched an outstanding World Series. A bunch of Mediocre pitchers for the White Sox pitched a World Series of all complete games a few years ago. If all you have to do to get in the Hall of Fame is to play in the World Series with a bloody sock…

There's already support for Boston blowhard Curt Schilling, who won't be on the ballot for another three years, but Morris has to get in before Schilling gets in. Morris was better.

So…you didn’t find the bloody sock game compelling then? Now, keeping in mind that Jack Morris started his career in 1977 and played throughout the 80s when no one hit for much power and the PED of choice was cocaine (in what I think are pitchers parks in the old Tigers’ Stadium and the Metrodome) while Schilling started in 1988 and pitched brilliantly through the “Barry Bonds has a giant swollen head” era in Arizona and in Fenway:

Career WHIP
Morris – 1.296
Schilling – 1.137

Morris – 1.78
Schilling – 4.38

Strike Outs
Morris – 2478 (in 3824 innings)
Schilling – 3116 (in 3261 innings)

Morris – 3.90
Schilling – 3.46

Morris – 105
Schilling – 127

Curt Schilling is so much better than Jack Morris it’s barely even worth talking about. If you think Jack Morris is better than Curt Schilling, you should lose your HOF vote.

The toughest omissions this year were Dawson, Barry Larkin, Fred McGriff ... and Edgar.

A lifetime .312 average is impressive and Edgar's OPS puts him in an elite class. But he wasn't a home run hitter (309), he couldn't carry a team, he didn't scare you, and (sorry) he rarely played defense. Edgar spent a couple of years at third for the M's in the early 1990s before taking over as full-time DH.

You picked his batting average? Really? We're not past this yet? And 309 HRs doesn’t impress you? How about 514 doubles? Quick, who has a higher slugging percentage, Andre Dawson, Fred McGriff, or Edgar Martinez?

Edgar - .515
Crime Dog - .509
The Hawk - .482

And Dan, you apologized for the one legitimate criticism. He didn’t “scare” you because he played on the West Coast and you didn’t see him that much. No single player (except maybe a roided up Barry Bonds) can carry an entire offense, but Martinez was usually the best hitter in a lineup filled with good hitters. His hitting stats are great. If he was a poor-fielding position player I think he gets in with those numbers.

The stat geeks, those get-a-lifers who are sucking all the joy out of our national pastime,

Yeah! Those loser stat guys with their slide rules and their pocket protectors are just trying to ruin our fun. They don’t understand green grass and pine tar and hot dogs, only spreadsheets and ugly pants and that live-action role playing thing like in that Role Models movie with McLovin. I don’t need know data to know that Jack Morris was great! I done seen him wif my own two peepers, consarnit.

no doubt will be able to demonstrate that Edgar was better than Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby.

Well, no. Jim Rice though.

I'm not buying. Stats don't tell the whole story. A man can drown in three feet of water.

I’m pretty sure a man can drown in just a few inches of water. Three feet of water is pretty substantial, especially if you’re lying down. But I suspect what Dan is doing here is trying to convey the idea that focusing on one thing is dangerous. I think. It's a pretty shitty metaphor so I'm kind of just guessing. Anyway, this is stupid because stats aren’t "one thing." Different stats tell you different things, and while you should use your eyes, if your eyes tell you that someone is “feared” but the stats tell you that Greg Luzinski, Ron Cey, Dale Murphy and Jack Clark were intentionally walked more than Jim Rice, maybe your eyes were lying to you.

Edgar Martinez was a fine hitter and got on base a lot. But he was a corner infielder who didn't hit a lot of homers and then he became a guy who spent the majority of every game watching from the bench.

Had there been no DH in baseball, Edgar’s bat probably would have kept him in the lineup anyway, even if he was a complete butcher in the field, and in that situation, I think he’s probably a Hall of Famer. Assuming he is a butcher in the field (and honestly, I’ve never seen Edgar play in the field), playing him at DH actually INCREASES his value to the team. I like Edgar. I think he belongs in the Hall because is offense was outstanding. I understand if you think defense should be mandatory, but don’t spend an entire column bashing his offense and then mention as an aside that he didn’t play defense.

No Hall for Edgar.

Dan Shaughnessy shouldn’t be allowed to vote for American Idol.

If you feel the need to smarten up a bit after reading this, Joe Posnanski can help.


Anonymous said...

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eric said...

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Jon said...

Haha, at first i thought you were being nit-picky just cause he didnt agree with you about Edgar, but my god that article got very horrible very quickly. Everything i've ever heard or read from that guy says total douchebag, why the f would sports illustrated give him a column? Can we give these voters IQ tests before giving them access to MVP/HOF votes? That Jack Morris/Curt Schilling thing is the funniest thing ever - is there a single per-inning stat that Morris comes within miles of Schilling on? The only conceivable edge for Morris is that he was more durable. Meh i'm sure its just b/c curly hair got into some tiffs with Schilling when he was in Boston and Schilling made fun of him, very professional of him to allow that to influence his voting.

PaulNoonan said...

My favorite is the strikeout/walk ratio. Good lord.

I'm actually not sure that I would vote for Edgar for the HOF, but reading this made me more likely to support him.

Rubie Q said...

Maybe it's a Boston thing. I seem to recall Simmons making a similar, "I wouldn't pay to see him" argument about Cal Ripken, Jr. a few years back.

Great job, Paul.

PaulNoonan said...

Thanks Q.

DannyNoonan said...

Kudos bar for this. I really don't understand the anti-stat sports fan.

DannyNoonan said...

Kudos bar for this. I really don't understand the anti-stat sports fan.

Anonymous said...

Heads I win, Tails you lose.