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Friday, December 20, 2013

Razzball 2014 Hall of Fame Ballot & Musings on Voting + Jack Morris

Why Do Smart Writers Vote For Jack Morris?

And then there’s Jack Morris – he of the 3.90 ERA that was only 5% better than league average (Glavine, by comparison, was 18% better and most HOFs are 20+% better).  The debate on Morris has been ranging in print+online for several years now and I am clearly in the camp of “He was a good but not great pitcher”.  The fascinating part of the debate for me isn’t the arguments against Jack Morris (it begins/ends with a 3.90 ERA, 105+ ERA) – it is in trying to understand why so many informed voters continue to support him.

Here are some recent pro-HOF Morris articles from writers whom I think are well-informed (if not Brian Kenny-esque zealots) regarding statistics:

Tom Verducci –
Joel Sherman –
Buster Olney – ESPN
Bob Ryan – Boston Globe

So why would these knowledgeable writers support a candidate that clearly is below HOF standards based on the most fundamental stats.  Bill James reverse engineered this divide between voting and player value with his Hall of Fame Monitor – e.g., Jack Morris has a much higher ‘score’ than Dennis Martinez despite their career values being very similar.  Some of that can be explained by the lack of advanced stats available in the past – but why is it still occurring?

Here is my theory:  narrative bias.  I define this as “a strong, potentially unconscious preference towards conclusions that satisfactorily conclude an accepted storyline.”  For Morris, the generally accepted narrative is:

  Perceived as an ‘ace’ during his playing career
  HOF should reward someone who is the best in his era (aka, the most wins argument)
  Demonstrated superior intangibles with a 10 inning shutout in a Game 7


Repoz Posted: December 20, 2013 at 12:17 PM | 18 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hof

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Joey B. is being stalked by a (Gonfa) loon Posted: December 20, 2013 at 12:38 PM (#4621664)
Is there an echo in here?
   2. Bitter Calculus Instructor Posted: December 20, 2013 at 01:11 PM (#4621700)
Well, you kind of made this the thread by posting on this one instead of the other. I approve as this one utilizes the blockquote.
   3. Bitter Calculus Instructor Posted: December 20, 2013 at 01:14 PM (#4621702)
The actual ballot was not quoted, however: Bonds, Clemens, Maddux, Bagwell, Piazza, Thomas, Raines, Biggio, Trammel and Glavine.
   4. Bitter Calculus Instructor Posted: December 20, 2013 at 01:30 PM (#4621720)
Too late to edit my previous post: Reading more carefully, the first paragraph (which I hadn't looked at) implies that he doesn't have a real Hall of Fame vote. So never mind.
   5. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: December 20, 2013 at 01:59 PM (#4621748)
Here is my theory: narrative bias.

No ####, huh?
   6. Mickey Henry Mays Posted: December 21, 2013 at 03:51 PM (#4622228)
My wife thinks jackmorris is a verb.
   7. Athletic Supporter can feel the slow rot Posted: December 21, 2013 at 05:19 PM (#4622253)
I hope your name is Morris.
   8. Howie Menckel Posted: December 21, 2013 at 06:36 PM (#4622272)
Narrative bias is a reasonable description of it.

Plus as I've noted before, the innumeracy of sportswriters is not terribly surprising. There's a lot of left-brain, right-ight-brain issues there.

And the specific "real job" they have requires a very different skillset from mathematical analysis of baseball players. They need to be quite socially adept, very competitive, able to communicate concisely to the public on deadline, and so on.

If the Baseball Hall of Fame was really supposed to robotically emit only the exact players best loved by the latest stat, then obviously these are not good candidates to vote. But as dopey as a vote for Morris is, even with the current guidelines, it's amazing how many here seem to think Catfish Hunter was some sort of "joke selection."

He's not, based on the existence of an actual museum and the actual influence of Hunter on those 1972-73-74 A's champs and his historic FA signing with the Yankees. Hunter is part of the fabric of his era, more than Morris ever was of his.

But reasonable people can still differ.

I think.

   9. DanG Posted: December 21, 2013 at 09:30 PM (#4622314)
Hunter is part of the fabric of his era which you didn't have to be a hall of famer to pitch like he did. Hunter is a peak candidate, not career or prime. Taking his very best stretch, 1972-75, he's credited with 22.4 pitching WAR, an average of 5.6 per year. Here's who else had 20+ in that same stretch:

Rk           Player  WAR ERA+     IP  W  L
1     Gaylord Perry 33.3  132 1314.2 82 65 H
2        Tom Seaver 29.7  135 1068.1 73 42 H
3     Bert Blyleven 28.8  137 1169.0 69 61 H
4       Wilbur Wood 27.5  110 1347.2 84 76
5       Phil Niekro 24.3  129 1105.1 64 50 H
6    Catfish Hunter 22.4  131 1198.0 90 38 H
7        Luis Tiant 22.4  123 1022.1 75 46
8        Nolan Ryan 22.4  118 1140.2 76 60 H
9        Jim Palmer 21.4  146 1072.1 73 42 H
10    Steve Carlton 21.2  120 1186.0 71 57 H
11      Jon Matlack 21.2  125  980.0 58 53
12   Fergie Jenkins 20.1  109 1158.2 76 58 H
13    Mickey Lolich 20.1  105 1184.2 66 68 

Catfish is cut from the same cloth as Morris: look at all my wins! (Don't look at the incredibly strong support my teams gave me.)
   10. Howie Menckel Posted: December 21, 2013 at 10:53 PM (#4622338)

while it's true that some players didn't get postseason chances, Hunter added major value to his team in that very same stretch with those performances. it's hardly irrelevant.

and if we're switching over to a Hall of WAR, I'm out. The myth of the perfect stat - even in terms of nothing but nuts and bolts - is just that. Throw in the fact of human athletes playing games enjoyed by breathing fans, and there's more to that story.

   11. Srul Itza Posted: December 21, 2013 at 11:36 PM (#4622352)
Actually, looking at DanG's chart, Catfish's performance was right in line with the other Hall of Famers, and better than all the non-HOFers other than Wilbur Wood.

Not that this makes him a HOFer.

The nickname "Catfish", THAT is what makes him a Hall of Famer.
   12. Peter Farted Posted: December 21, 2013 at 11:52 PM (#4622360)
The nickname "Catfish", THAT is what makes him a Hall of Famer.

Ol' Wilbur would have made it too, if he had just come up with a catchy alt-moniker. Such as "Norwegian" or "Morning."
   13. bobm Posted: December 22, 2013 at 12:26 AM (#4622375)
From Wikipedia:

[Athletics owner Charles O.] Finley gave Hunter the nickname "Catfish" in 1965 because he thought his 19-year old pitcher needed a flashy nickname.[1][3] A story circulated that Hunter's family gave him the nickname as a child when he went missing and was later found with a string of catfish; there seems to be no truth to that explanation
   14. cardsfanboy Posted: December 22, 2013 at 12:38 AM (#4622379)
I cannot think of a reason that a reasonable person would vote for Jack Morris. I'm sorry but his candidacy is a joke. Always a simple question, "How much would his enshrinement water down the standards set for the hof?" and Jack would make it a travesty that much more deserving candidates had missed out...from Luis Tiant to Dave Stieb to Kevin Brown (and yes it would require about 2 minutes of research for me to find 15+ candidates who arguably don't belong in the hof, who aren't in, and are clearly better than Morris)
   15. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: December 22, 2013 at 11:01 AM (#4622435)
I cannot think of a reason that a reasonable person would vote for Jack Morris.

His playing ability, playing record, and place in the narrative fabric of the sport.
   16. Morty Causa Posted: December 22, 2013 at 01:37 PM (#4622501)
Another "I know what, kids, let's put on a show" argument.
   17. cardsfanboy Posted: December 22, 2013 at 07:48 PM (#4622644)
His playing ability, playing record, and place in the narrative fabric of the sport.

His playing ability? I guess if we are giving it to Jack Morris, we should give it to everyone. Playing record? that pretty much precludes him from being a hofer. Narrative? Uggh.... really you can name narratives for every single person to ever play the game you need more than having a narrative.

There is no reasonable, reason for Jack Morris to get a vote. You allow Morris into the hof, you open the door for 50 more, clearly better deserving pitchers. Morris was a number two pitcher who got lucky enough to be on a great offensive team, which never bothered to get a legitimate ace. His going to the hof is a vote for the Tigers, not really a vote for Morris, and if you want to vote for the Tigers, give Trammell some love instead. Basically he's Frank Tanana with one less Cy Young quality season(1-0).

   18. Squash Posted: December 22, 2013 at 10:13 PM (#4622681)
There is no reasonable, reason for Jack Morris to get a vote.

You forgot \"#### Moneyball, we still run the show around here and we're going to prove it to you".

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