Normally it’s sound policy not to link to an article you find infuriating, because so often the point of such articles is to infuriate, and thereby drive up their hit counts. However, when it’s the best way to prove that someone is being an idiot, then I think it’s allowable. Here then, is Jon Heyman’s piece for Sports Illustrated on why he did not vote for Bert Blyleven Hall of Fame candidacy.
I think I finally understand the reason they’re generally referred to as “sportswriters” and not, say, “sportsreporters”. Where else but the sports pages would you find someone who presumably considers himself a journalist telling his readers to ignore the facts and just accept his pre-certified “wisdom”? That’s basically what Heyman is asking you do, especially when he uses that noxious phrase “I was there.”
Heyman derides statistics in favor of a nebulous concept he refers to as impact. After reading his piece it seems that impact can be defined as playing on winning teams, especially those located in New York or Los Angeles. Oh, and being liked by sportswriters. Heyman never really refers to Blyleven’s strikeouts, complete games, innings pitched, or any quantifiable statistic. Instead he chooses to harp on the fact that Blyleven rarely finished high in the voting for Cy Young and never did for MVP.
The very reason that statistics are compiled is to compensate for the unreliability of human observation. Sportswriters are often susceptible to heart-warming stories of gritty team-leaders inspiring their team to win, or other such malarkey. Statistics are there for investigation, for support, and quite often, to contradict such claims.
Heyman’s idiocy hits its heights when he admits that Blyleven has better stats than Jack Morris, whom he has voted for plenty of times. The fact that he even resorts to the ridiculous and disproved “he pitched to the score” canard is all the more reason to never again take seriously anything Jon Heyman says about baseball.
I looked at Blyleven’s numbers today and I don’t think he’s a definite Hall of Famer. I don’t think the Hall is tarnished by his absence nor would it be diminished by his presence (Heyman himself admits this, curiously). But he has a case, and it deserves better than the cursory examination Heyman is apparently comfortable with.