If You Read Just One Jon Heyman Column, Make it This One
I am going to take a stab, FJM style, at tackling what really is the quintessential Jon Heyman piece. It combines two elements that are featured in so much of his work; his disdain for (some) numbers and his continued, shameless PR work for Scott Boras Corp.
You might recall his commentary from the MLB Network studios the day the Hall of Fame results were announced. From Rich Lederer's January 13 piece.
"I never thought [Bert Blyleven] was a Hall of Famer when he was playing, and I saw him play his entire career."
"[His popularity] is based on a lot of younger people on the Internet who never saw him play."
"It's not about stats...it's about impact."
You might also recall Rich's trip through the Heyman/SBC archives.
While Boras is no fool, Heyman is a tool for the Scott Boras Corporation. Boras knows how to game the system to get the best deals for his clients and will gladly use Heyman as long as the latter plays along or until the market realizes what is going on. As it stands now, it's almost as if Heyman, who is no stranger to the Boras suites during the winter meetings, is on the SBC payroll.
Anyway, Heyman is back today with a scatterbrained defense of Curt Schilling's Hall case, as well as more gratuitous Manny Ramirez praise.
Let's have a look (Heyman's writing in bold).
Curt Schilling has to be in the Hall of Fame.
No, he doesn’t. If you think he belongs in the Hall of Fame, then that’s a different matter. Just make your case.
I write that without any hesitation, reservation or research. I don't need to look at his stats. I know what he's done.
Oh, never mind. You’re not interested in making the case. Because if you were, you would need to look at his stats. It would allow you to assess how he performed throughout his career.
The Hall of Fame should be about impact, not statistics. Numbers are nice, but they don't necessarily make the player.
"Impact, not statistics." And how exactly do you suggest we measure “impact”?
For instance, in 2001, Curt Schilling threw over 256 innings, struck out 293 batters, walked just 39 and had a 2.98 ERA. He threw another 48 innings in the post-season, giving up six earned runs, striking out 56 and walking six.
Some might say that those statistics offer a good indication of Schilling’s “impact” for that season.
Some Hall of Fame cases are being built on a pile of numbers now, and I can see how in rare cases a player's career can be re-evaluated by dissecting the latest data.
Ooooh. A not-so thinly veiled reference aimed at Rich over his Blyleven case. Well played, Heyman. Here’s Rich “dissecting the latest data" as it relates to Blyleven:
5th all time in strikeouts, 8th all time in shutouts, 19th in wins.
Pretty cutting edge stuff.
But in general, I think that's a funny way to get into Cooperstown. Conversely, Schilling is maybe the perfect example of a pitcher who had great impact but whose career regular-year numbers are merely excellent but not among the all-time best.
Yes, evaluating a player’s performance sure is a peculiar thing.
The Hall of Fame should be for players who did great things, staged big moments and affected things the way Schilling did.
Stats measure all of these things.
Like him or hate (and I can't say I fall into the former category there, as I consider him a cyber and in-person annoyance), Schilling had a tremendous impact on most games he pitched, and on the game itself. He was a star who pitched his team into four World Series, and to three titles. In 2001 and 2004 in particular, it was his pitching that made the difference.
1) It’s not in any way relevant to Schilling’s Hall case how you feel about him, Jon. No need for the caveats.
2) Most pitchers impact games they pitch. Mark Hendrickson impacts games he pitches. Stats help to measure what kind of impact.
I ran into Schilling's former Phillies teammate Dave Hollins the day Schilling announced his retirement, and after one of us joked about whether Schilling would follow through on his announcement or stage some dramatic comeback, Hollins offered the long-held view of Schilling, but in a nicer way. "You love to have him on your side every fifth day,'' Hollins said.
Former Phillies GM Ed Wade expressed a variation of that statement (only said much harsher) many years ago. It went something along the lines of, "He was a horse once every five days and a horse's ass the other four days.''
More character references. Terrific.
Although I never spent four consecutive days with Schilling, I don't doubt that. He always came off as a guy who thought he was an expert in everything simply because he had more pitching talent than just about anyone else. He still blows hard on his 38Pitches, a Web site I religiously avoid.
I don't particularly like Curt Schilling. I generally don't agree with his politics, I do think he is something of a grand-stander and I think he is perpetually conscious of his image in a way that puts me off. But he's a thoughtful guy, and I appreciate that a Big League player takes the time to write as much as does and directly engage fans of the game. Heyman thinks he's a blowhard because he is bypassing him and talking directly to us. He is threatened.
But anyway, here’s something I encourage everyone to do. Go read some of 38Pitches. Then read some of Heyman’s work. You can then judge for yourself who’s the blowhard.
Anyway, Schilling still gets credit for that fifth day, not demerits for the other four. Schilling was often great on that fifth day, and he was almost always great when it mattered most.
It takes a big man to look past those four days he never once had to spend with Schilling and evaluate him on his pitching. Or his impact. Or his moments...or however it is Jon Heyman evaluates baseball players.
There are people who believe that he played the famed "bloody sock'' game for all it was worth, that he purposely made it look good, or at least did nothing to stem the flow of blood. I wouldn't put much past Schilling, but I am convinced that he was hurt, and that he was bleeding, and that he should get credit for pitching heroically that day, for beating the Yankees and the jinx, and for helping the Red Sox win the World Series for the first time in 86 years
The bloody sock has nothing to do with how Curt Schilling performed.
He called a championship for Boston -- saying that was his intention the moment the Diamondbacks traded him there -- then he delivered. That's almost Namath-like. Joe Namath's career football numbers aren't so perfect, either, and nobody doubted his Hall of Fame qualifications.
Round and round we go. Joe Namath was probably not a Canton-worthy performer but he guaranteed a victory while playing in America's biggest media market so he became a big star. The media made him that. When it came time to vote him for the Hall, many of the same media members, Hall voters, referenced the guarantee in building his case.
So here you have Heyman citing a football player's Super Bowl guarantee, famous only because the media made it such, in helping to build his case for Schilling. It's all very, very stupid.
Championships are what it's all about…
I don’t know. Ty Cobb, Barry Bonds, Ted Williams and Willie McCovey were all pretty good.
…and Schilling played as great a role in winning championships as just about any player of his generation except Mariano Rivera.
Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, David Cone and Roberto Alomar might disagree.
That Schilling won "only'' 216 games shouldn't be counted against him. That he had "only'' maybe seven or eight great seasons shouldn't either. If it's about numbers, it shouldn't only be about total numbers. He had three 300-strikeout seasons, three 20-win seasons. He struck 3,116 batters while only walking 711.
He had all-time stuff. And as much as I hate to admit this, he had all-time heart. He was 10-2 with a 2.23 ERA in the postseason. He and Randy Johnson were the two biggest keys to the Diamondbacks winning the thrilling 2001 World Series, and he and Manny Ramirez were the keys to the Red Sox winning the historic 2004 Series.
This is my favorite part about these columns - the part where the writer rails against statistics, only to then cite statistics just paragraphs later.
So anyway, now we’re talking statistics. Which is it, Jon?
It's safe to say Schilling is about the last person I'd want to spend any appreciable time with. But if I had a game on the line I had to win, and if Sandy Koufax wasn't available that day, I'd give John Smoltz or Schilling the ball.
Oh, Schilling is the last person you’d want to spend time with? I think I know who the first is…might it be Manny Ramirez’s agent?
There is plenty of offensive firepower in the San Francisco Giants clubhouse. Or there was on the day I visited. Willie Mays was sitting at a table in the clubhouse, Willie McCovey was resting in the dugout, and Will Clark was chatting with current players. The Giants' starting pitching looks so good, it's truly a shame they don't have at least one active player anywhere near as good as any of those guys in their prime.
Among active players, Manny Ramirez would have made a nice addition to the Giants. He could have replicated the years of Barry Bonds, with comparable productivity, less controversy and more good cheer.
No, Manny Ramirez could not have replicated the years of Barry Bonds. And good grief, Jon. Please give us a break. With Stephen Strasburg looming, we don't even get to wait until next off-season for you to start shilling for Boras again.
Let us enjoy the start of the baseball season in peace.