Thursday, January 10, 2013


We need to do a little more work with the 2013 Hall of Fame voting results before releasing a combination post-mortem and "where do things go from here?" statement, but we can take a moment to briefly look at what might be the most important "fallout" from those results--namely, that Jack Morris did not make it across the 75% threshold and bring full Armageddon to the world of baseball.

The response in post-neo land was, predictably, more subdued than it would have been had the BBWAA managed to shut out all of the other candidates and enshrine Whisky Jack. With that inestimable calumny averted (for one more year, at least), it was possible for them to reflect on more long-term issues that stem from the collision of steroids and a logjammed candidate list.

The reaction to Morris' shortfall was subdued for a couple more reasons. First, Jack was stopped virtually in his tracks, gaining only three votes on the 2013 ballot over his 2012 performance (385 to 382). That probably brought a collective sense of relief to see Morris's momentum slow as dramatically as it had revved up in 2011 and 2012, when he'd moved from 42% to 67%.

Back by popular demand!!
Second, it's possible that the scientists decided that it might pay to keep a lower profile than had been the case in those years, just in case our pronouncements from a year ago were accurate (that the "stathead" desire to "take it to" the BBWAA, as manifested in the conflated clash over various components of the Hall of Fame selection process, had created a backlash that took its cue from the time honored practice of "flipping the bird" at those on the outside looking in).

While a portion of post-neo folk in the media (and across the blogosphere) couldn't really contain themselves as much as would have been prudent, the overall level of vitriol did take a noticeable dip (we'd attempt to quantify it, but we don't know if the "offensive" and "defensive" components can be reconciled).

Did that help to keep Jack from marching into the Hall in his General Sherman costume? Yes. No. Possibly. Who knows?

That there had been a concerted effort on the part of some BBWAA types to stick it to the neo-sabes did surface at last, though: columnist Jon Heyman, notorious for his reversal from agnosticism on the steroid issue to a full "mouth of foam" in less time than it takes to save 15% or more on your car insurance, was choking back tears during the MLB network's coverage of the ballot results when it sunk in that Morris was still on the outside looking in. Sources have indicated that Heyman was active in chatting up fellow writers over the past couple of years, leading one to conclude that there has in fact been a bandwagoning effort for Morris.

"Now warming up in the bullpen...Marcel
"Lapdancer" Duchamp."
Now, the question capable of launching a thousand H-bombs (or is that F-bombs?): has the effort to carry Whisky Jack over the goal line been pushed back for good? To move out of the realm of baseball for a moment, the Morris advocates find themselves in a fourth down and goal situation from the seven-yard line, needing that touchdown and extra point to pull things out of the fire just before the gun goes off.

(Come to think of it, framing a question such as this in non-baseball terms is immensely satisfying.)

The answer, I think, is a slightly guarded yes. As many have noted, there are three pitchers with more wins and better ERA+ values coming on the ballot in 2014 (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina). That's not going to help keep the voting bloc intact.

And it will make it harder for those already not on board to climb onto the bandwagon.

But since we seem to have become alarmingly in need of elections that involve a level of hypertension that's guaranteed to chew up and spit out the ventricles of ordinary citizens, and since we don't have a political skirmish scheduled until the fall of 2014, same time next year is a marker that has a peculiar resonance, a surreal charm, a skunky panache reminiscent of that piecemeal nude descending into a world of gawkers disguised as abstract shapes.

Why, anyone--even a sabermetrician--could take a look at that painting and see that our pole dancer's mechanics are all screwed up.

Anyway, as we like to say at times like this...