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Monday, November 13, 2006

Joe Morgan

Eligible in 1990.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: November 13, 2006 at 07:14 PM | 36 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: November 13, 2006 at 07:21 PM (#2236506)
Yes, he gets a lot of grief for his broadcasting (which, for the most part, I enjoy), but as a player? Innner-circle. Greatest post-WWII second baseman, without a doubt. Terrific peak and career. How he could not be unanimous in '90 is beyond me. Hopefully, he will be.
   2. Rob Base Posted: November 13, 2006 at 07:25 PM (#2236510)
I never realized he had such an Alomaresque decline (his dead-cat bounce in SF notwithstanding).
   3. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: November 13, 2006 at 07:30 PM (#2236519)
I don't see where you're getting that, Rob, since Morgan was still able to post an OPS+ above the league average every season during that whole time. That's not Alomar.
   4. OCF Posted: November 13, 2006 at 07:36 PM (#2236522)
Copied from the 1990 ballot discussion thread; another one of my context-adjusted RCAA-based offense-only tables, cut off at 20 years.

Morgan   92  84 76 73 71 49 47 46 45 40 30 28 27 20 19 19 13 12  9  4
Hornsby 107 101 94 92 91 76 74 73 60 55 43 42 41 30 26 11  2  1  0  0
Collins  90  85 80 79 70 67 65 57 48 44 40 37 32 32 32 20 20 18 16 10
Lajoie  100  96 95 56 56 44 40 39 37 36 36 35 35 30 29 21 19  6  0
-10 


If you think Morgan is qualified for the HoM, signify by flapping your elbow in his honor.
   5. JPWF13 Posted: November 13, 2006 at 07:43 PM (#2236534)
How he could not be unanimous in '90 is beyond me. Hopefully, he will be.


I had an argument with a [definately non-stathead] co worker regarding Joe Morgan versus... jeff Kent

He thought I was absolutely nuts for suggesting that Morgan was better than Kent...

Bill James ranking of 2Bs in the New Historical Abstract was something of a "classic" to me- not in the sense James intended. His numbers (in the back of the section), appeared to have Hornsby #1- but James had Morgan #1, Eddie Collins #2 and Hornsby #3-
but James ranked Morgan #1, acted as if that couldn't be disputed, and insisted the numbers put Collins ahead of Hornsby (they didn't- but he cherry picked 1 season out of each man's career to [mis]make his point) all the while writing about how Hornsby was such a miserable SOB as a human being that he couldn't have been a great player- but that he didn't penalize him in the rankings for that--- sure Bill....


I love Bill James, his ability to point out the logical flaws in traditional basebnall thinking was almost unprecedented when he cam eout in the 70s/80s with the abstracts- but his stubborness in defending his position is quite worrisome- he'll change his mind- but only so long as he's not emotionally attached to a position- if he's emotionally attached to a position he'll defend it no matter how much the foundation's been eroded.

Any way- back to topic- Morgan had one hell of a peak from 72-76
it's still mind boggling that George Foster thought he should have won in 1976... Memo to George- you lead the laegue in ribbies because Little Joe (.444 OPBP), Pete Rose (.404 OBP, 215 hits, 86BB, and Griffey Sr. .401 OBP) all hit in front of you.
   6. Sam M. Posted: November 13, 2006 at 07:46 PM (#2236539)
I don't see where you're getting that, Rob, since Morgan was still able to post an OPS+ above the league average every season during that whole time. That's not Alomar.

Joe did have an abrupt drop in 1978 from being one of the elite players in the league. But John is entirely right: what distinguishes him from Alomar is that he remained a productive and very useful player for years thereafter. Truly phenomenal.

1975 and 1976. Back to back seasons to match anything I've ever seen. What a brilliant player at his peak.
   7. OCF Posted: November 13, 2006 at 07:48 PM (#2236541)
Personally, I would vote for Collins as the #1 2B of all time. He's got the whole package there - offense, defense, durability, longevity. (In the 1934 election, I had Collins in an "elect-me" spot ahead of Speaker, Lloyd, and Williams.) After that, I would probably have to go with Hornsby's incredible offensive peak/prime in the #2 spot. That leaves Morgan competing with Lajoie, but there are a few knocks on Lajoie - the time in the outfield, the weakness of the 1901 AL. So it's looking like Morgan gets the #3 spot.
   8. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: November 13, 2006 at 07:49 PM (#2236545)
Bill James ranking of 2Bs in the New Historical Abstract was something of a "classic" to me- not in the sense James intended. His numbers (in the back of the section), appeared to have Hornsby #1- but James had Morgan #1, Eddie Collins #2 and Hornsby #3-
but James ranked Morgan #1, acted as if that couldn't be disputed, and insisted the numbers put Collins ahead of Hornsby (they didn't- but he cherry picked 1 season out of each man's career to [mis]make his point) all the while writing about how Hornsby was such a miserable SOB as a human being that he couldn't have been a great player- but that he didn't penalize him in the rankings for that--- sure Bill....


Heh. It's not a question if James penalized him for his personality, but only the amount of the demerit.
   9. JPWF13 Posted: November 13, 2006 at 07:58 PM (#2236554)
Joe did have an abrupt drop in 1978 from being one of the elite players in the league. But John is entirely right: what distinguishes him from Alomar is that he remained a productive and very useful player for years thereafter. Truly phenomenal.


Alomar went from 149 (OPS+)at age 33 to 91 to 81 to 81 and out of the league by age 37
Morgan went from 187 at age 32 to 138, 105, 107, 115, 115, 135, 116 an d103 and out of teh league at age 41.

Morgan's peak ranged from 149-154-159-169-187 (average 164)
Alomar's went from 137-134-100-140-113-149 (excludng that 100 OPS outlier- he averaged 135)

You know, you're kind of right, Morgan's drop from his established peak level was as great as Alomar's drop from his, but Alomar started out lower so his drop sent his OPS+ below 100 for good, Little Joe remained comfortably above, and hence a productive player even as his defesne and durability eroded
- Alomar putting up an 81 OPS+ age age 35 was truly a miserable useless player. Morgan hitting at a 107 clip at age 35 (an equivalent drop from his peak) was still useful
   10. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: November 13, 2006 at 08:08 PM (#2236566)
Just to state this for the record. While Joe Morgan the announcer is not as bright as Joe Morgan the player, and while Joe Morgan the announcer is willfully ignorant of trends in thought in the game (paraphrasing but close: "I learned everything I need to know about baseball on the field") and even hostile to trends he chooses not to read about (he claims to have not read Moneyball), and while, as James points out, Morgan the announcer can be a bit too serious about ex-ballplayers, and while Morgan the announcer is well known for not doing his homework ("I haven't seen him play enough to say..."), I'd still always choose to listen to Joe Morgan over Tim McCarver any day of the week*. In fact, as much as I think Morgan is a deeply flawed (and at times unlistenable) broadcaster, he's made to actually look decent by guys like Rex Hudler and Thom Brenneman (though Brennemann isn't the analyst in the booth, I'll grant you). Which only goes to show you that being better than average is only as good as what the definition of average is. Which should further tell you how little I think of McCarver's act.

True story, in one segment about ballparks on ESPN radio this post-season, Morgan couldn't remember the name of Comerica Park and then referred to Shea Stadium as Mets Stadium. Heard it with my own ears.

*And anyway, you get Jon Miller in the deal, and while Miller's becoming a tad charicatured, he's still got it all over Joe Buck. In the end, I guess I like ESPN's Schulman/Campbell pairing the best of all the main major-network announcer groupings.
   11. sunnyday2 Posted: November 13, 2006 at 08:09 PM (#2236568)
>Personally, I would vote for Collins as the #1 2B of all time. He's got the whole package there - offense, defense, durability, longevity.

Which of those things is Joe missing again?
   12. Mike Webber Posted: November 13, 2006 at 09:02 PM (#2236654)
>Personally, I would vote for Collins as the #1 2B of all time. He's got the whole package there - offense, defense, durability, longevity.

Which of those things is Joe missing again?


Joe's not the power hitter Collins is. :)
   13. CraigK Posted: November 13, 2006 at 09:13 PM (#2236674)
Can't find it; anyone wanna give his quote on the \"############# curveball"?
   14. OCF Posted: November 13, 2006 at 09:39 PM (#2236725)
In that post #4, there's not much difference between Morgan and Collins, but what difference there is (shoulder-of-peak seasons, or extreme longevity) tends to point in Collins's direction. I think Collins was probably the best defender of the four.

Of course, Collins and Hornsby aren't on the 1990 ballot. If we're arguing Morgan vs. Collins vs. Hornsby, then we're not arguing about where Morgan places on this ballot.
   15. BDC Posted: November 13, 2006 at 10:32 PM (#2236814)
Morgan couldn't remember the name of Comerica Park and then referred to Shea Stadium as Mets Stadium

If you were an announcer now that they've started changing park names annually, you would forget them too, and use the safest default names whenever possible.
   16. Guapo Posted: November 13, 2006 at 10:33 PM (#2236816)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDeGQchM_Gs

Joe Morgan vs. Luis Tiant in the 1974 All-Star Game. Spot the HOM candidates (past and future)!
   17. Juan V Posted: November 13, 2006 at 10:35 PM (#2236818)
But.. forgetting about Shea? Considering he played there quite a number of times?
   18. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: November 13, 2006 at 11:09 PM (#2236859)
Can't find it; anyone wanna give his quote on the "############# curveball"?


Norm Miller: "Joe, Joe Morgan, may I have a word with you?"

Joe Morgan: "Sure, Norm, how's it going?"

Norm Miller: "Fine, Joe, fine. We wanted to ask you about that pitch you missed. What was it?"

Joe Morgan: "Norm, that was a ############# curve."

Norm Miller: "Can you tell our listeners, Joe, what's the difference between a regular curve and a ############# curve?"

Joe Morgan: "Well, Norm, your regular curve has a lot of spin on it and you can recognize it real early. It breaks down a little bit, and out. Now, your ############, that's different. It comes in harder, looks like a fastball. Then all of a sudden it rolls off the top of the table and before you know it, it's ############# strike three."

Norm Miller: "Thank you very much, Joe Morgan."
   19. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: November 14, 2006 at 02:23 AM (#2237072)
seriously, that happened? i'm really gullible, so you gotta tell me if that's true or if you're pulling my leg.
   20. OCF Posted: November 14, 2006 at 02:27 AM (#2237077)
Note that Norm Miller wasn't a broadcaster at the time - he was a starting outfielder for the the 1969 Astros. This is a locker-room episode - teammates joking via a mock interview. We have it because it was reported in Ball Four. Trust it as far as you Bouton as a reporter.
   21. Steve Treder Posted: November 14, 2006 at 02:43 AM (#2237089)
This is a locker-room episode

To be precise, it's a dugout episode, that took place immediately following a Morgan strikeout.
   22. The George Sherrill Selection Posted: November 14, 2006 at 03:01 AM (#2237103)
Joe should get in based on #18 alone.
   23. Steve Treder Posted: November 14, 2006 at 03:11 AM (#2237110)
It's a measure of my old-fartness, I guess, that I'm stunned that Morgan's ############# curveball routine isn't fully familiar to every regular habitue of a site such as this.

If you haven't read Ball Four, do yourself the immense favor of reading it.
   24. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: November 14, 2006 at 03:26 AM (#2237122)
I actually have read it, I just forgot all about the scene! Thanks, guys.
   25. jingoist Posted: November 14, 2006 at 08:03 AM (#2237311)
I met Joe and his wife sitting with another couple in an upscale restaurant in San Franciso back in the late 90's. He was the most gracious guy you'd ever want to meet. He didn't want to let me go so that he could eat his dinner when it came to the table. I was giving him grief about how his Reds used to come to Pittsburgh and throttle my Bucs; he was a real buddy of Stargell's; he was extolling Pops virtues at length. We must have talked for 20-30 minutes.
Anyway he's one of the nicest guys out there on top of being the best-ever all-around 2B-man I ever saw play the game.
True inner circle guy.
Never saw Collins; his stats scream "phenomenal" but then again, so was Joe.
   26. "Andruw for HoF" sure died down Posted: November 14, 2006 at 08:14 AM (#2237315)
Morgan's a hell of an announcer when it comes to the technical aspects of the game - no one better at explaining how to play the infield, and very few on par in terms of how to play the outfield. He also notices small things about pitchers real well. I don't hold it against him that he doesn't have the new lingo down yet, but I do fault him for refusing to learn.
   27. JPWF13 Posted: November 14, 2006 at 04:20 PM (#2237462)
Morgan's a hell of an announcer when it comes to the technical aspects of the game - no one better at explaining how to play the infield, and very few on par in terms of how to play the outfield. He also notices small things about pitchers real well.


All true, but then he'll gratuitously add crap that he has no clue about.
Once upon a time McCarver (believe it or not) was half decent, very good on technical aspects as well, but over time the crap started crowding out the good stuff, until finally we have the McCarver of 2006. Morgan appears to be holding steady, not getting any worse or better...
   28. DL from MN Posted: November 14, 2006 at 06:09 PM (#2237564)
> If you haven't read Ball Four, do yourself the immense favor of reading it.

I picked up the hardcover at the thrift store for 50 cents. It's on my winter reading list along with Summer of 49 which I bought at the same time.
   29. Steve Treder Posted: November 14, 2006 at 10:06 PM (#2237807)
I picked up the hardcover at the thrift store for 50 cents. It's on my winter reading list along with Summer of 49 which I bought at the same time.

I was a little disappointed by Summer of '49. I'm a big fan of Halberstam, but maybe it's because here he was writing about a subject upon which I know more than he does (as opposed to his writings about politics and such, where he knows more than I do), but I found a lot of his observations kind of trite.

Some really interesting looks at a lot of the key personalities, though. It's worth reading.

Ball Four, on the other hand, is one of the very small handful of best baseball books ever written.
   30. vortex of dissipation Posted: November 14, 2006 at 10:44 PM (#2237837)
I was a little disappointed by Summer of '49. I'm a big fan of Halberstam, but maybe it's because here he was writing about a subject upon which I know more than he does (as opposed to his writings about politics and such, where he knows more than I do), but I found a lot of his observations kind of trite.

In The Baseball Book 1991, Bill James wrote an article on Summer of '49 that ripped Halberstam to shreds for both the factual errors in the book, and Halberstam's interpretation of the events. He wondered if Halberstam is as careless about the facts in his books about war and politics, and concludes that,

"What seems more likely is that Halberstam, writing about baseball, just didn't take the subject matter seriously. He just didn't figure that it mattered whether he got the facts right or not, as long as he was just writing about baseball.

"And that, to me as a baseball fan, is just irritating as hell."
   31. Steve Treder Posted: November 14, 2006 at 10:57 PM (#2237848)
What seems more likely is that Halberstam, writing about baseball, just didn't take the subject matter seriously. He just didn't figure that it mattered whether he got the facts right or not, as long as he was just writing about baseball

Sounds rather like my review of Maraniss's Clemente bio.
   32. JPWF13 Posted: November 14, 2006 at 11:41 PM (#2237888)
Ball Four, on the other hand, is one of the very small handful of best baseball books ever written.


I think one of the keys to Ball Four was that it wasn't based on stale recollection- Bouton decided to write a book before the season (1969) began- and kept a diary with that in mind- essentially the book is his diary for that year with minimal editing after the fact.

His teammates were aware that Bouton said he was writing a book- many saw him writing in his diary/journal, some even joked about it- but the subsequyent firestorm made it clear that his teammates either
1: Didn't think he was really writing a book; or
2: Assumed he'd turn his notes over to a ghostwriter who'd drain all life (ie: anything interesting) from the book; or
3: Bouton was a has been- who would publish and who would read his book; or
4: all of the above

A few years later I read books [as told] by Sparky Lyle and Graig Nettles (Bronx Zoo and Balls)
which in many ways were written in concious imitation of Ball Four- and they missed by a mile. What they had in common with Ball Four was a willingness to divulge much of what went on in the locker room- absolutely taboo before Ball Four - what they were missing was heart

The Bronx Zoo was sometimes good, not as good as Ball Four, but decent. Balls was just vile, in large part because Graig Nettles was a complete A-hole (and to think he was one of my favorite players)- what an unpleasant book, screw this screw that... page after page of why Nettles thought someone was a jerk off... Why did Nettles once deck Reggie Jackson at a party? Nettles said Jackson was an A-hole who had it coming- nope Nettles was the A-Hole who really had it coming- that comes clear in the book- I shudder how much editing it took to make Nettles seem decent- what a miserable SOB.
   33. Steve Treder Posted: November 15, 2006 at 01:10 AM (#2237938)
essentially the book is his diary for that year with minimal editing after the fact.

It was fresh and spontaneous, and not a memoir. But it benefitted from excellent editing, by Len Shecter, who made sharp judgments about what to keep in and leave out, with a keen eye toward tone and pacing.

A few years later I read books [as told] by Sparky Lyle and Graig Nettles (Bronx Zoo and Balls) which in many ways were written in concious imitation of Ball Four- and they missed by a mile. What they had in common with Ball Four was a willingness to divulge much of what went on in the locker room- absolutely taboo before Ball Four - what they were missing was heart

Very true; Bouton's wit and decency shine through. But it's more than that: the fact that Bouton was struggling as a fringe player to salvage his career with a first-year expansion team could hardly be further than the typical jock autobiography from the star player with a champion team, such as Lyle or Nettles. Bouton's long-odds struggles and challenges (and those of most of his similarly rag-tag teammates) give the book's characters a vulnerability, an everyman identification, that's totally missing from the standard jock-hero-celebrity fare.
   34. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: November 15, 2006 at 01:37 AM (#2237953)
And frankly, Bouton's characterizations are wonderful. His collection of misfits (Marshall) and crazy coaches (Maglie and Crossetti) are the kind of brief sketches (some might say charicatures) that really help you understand how alienated he feels from aspects of baseball's culture and traditions.
   35. OCF Posted: November 15, 2006 at 02:44 AM (#2238000)
Bouton was traded in late August from the hapless Pilots to the Astros. At the time of the trade, the NL West was a wild 5-team scramble and the Astros were only 2 or 3 games out of the lead and 6 or 7 games over .500. They did ultimately collapse back to a .500 record for the season, while Atlanta surged forward to take the division at 24 games over .500 (which is 12 full games ahead of the 5th place Astros.) So it doesn't look close in the final standings, but for a moment there, it was close. The Astros were doing multiple deals with the Pilots and trying to scavenge up relief pitchers from anywhere. (Somehow they waited until November - long enough to make it the Brewers rather than the Pilots - to pick up Mike Marshall.)

Bouton talks about the electric effect of going from the helpless expansion team to a team in the thick of a pennant race.

Notice that in 1969 Joe Morgan wasn't JOE MORGAN yet. He was 25 years old and had three full seasons (1965-66-67) but had lost nearly the entire 1968 season to an injury. He may not have been fully recovered from the lingering effects of that injury (or at the very least, the disruption it caused to his development), and 1968 would prove to be one of the weaker years of his career. He was widely understood to be a very talented young player - but people at the time would have questioned whether he had accomplished all that much by that point in his career. Of course to say that, you have to not notice the walks, not notice the park effect, not notice the low league run environment; put everything in sabermetric retrospective context, and most us would know not to complain about a 2B with an OBP-rich 130 OPS+.

In conventional terms, Morgan's 1969 was a "disaster", with a .236 BA. (But with a .434 Secondary Average - remember that from your old Abstracts?) .236/.365/.372 for an OPS+ of 109, plus 49-14 as a basestealer.

The big gun for the offense of the '69 Astros was the Toy Cannon: .269/.436/.507 for an OPS+ of 167. And he stole bases, too.

Wynn was two years older than Morgan but they came up together: both on the roster in '63 and '64, both becoming regulars in '65. What a pair - and a pair to defy scout stereotypes and confound conventional expectations. Both unusually short for ballplayers (especially Wynn, for an outfielder). Both drawing walks at a spectacular rate. Both with more power than you expect a little guy to have. (Of course Wynn made that famous - Morgan had less power than Wynn, but you didn't want to groove a 3-1 fastball to him either). Both drew plenty of attention - but did Houston fans ever truly understand what they had there.

Wynn was probably a more valuable Astro than Morgan was. After they left Houston, their paths diverged sharply. A tiny bit of it is that Wynn was older, but his career wound down quicker than you would have forecast, and Morgan showed unusual late development. Had Wynn just hung on to what he had for a little longer, he might already have been elected to the HoM.
   36. JPWF13 Posted: November 17, 2006 at 04:34 PM (#2240342)
It was fresh and spontaneous, and not a memoir. But it benefitted from excellent editing, by Len Shecter, who made sharp judgments about what to keep in and leave out, with a keen eye toward tone and pacing.


You're right, I shouldn't have said minimal editing, rather it wasn't subjected to extensive re-writing.

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