Let’s Welcome Special Guest Bill Conlin As He Helps Me Criticize Bill Conlin

Illustration for article titled Let’s Welcome Special Guest Bill Conlin As He Helps Me Criticize Bill Conlin

Junior: Ladies and gentlemen, this is a Fire Joe Morgan first.

I am very excited to announce that Philadelphia Daily News columnist, Baseball Writers of Association member, and 2009 Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame inductee Bill Conlin has agreed to help us critique a piece written by Philadelphia Daily News columnist, Baseball Writers of Association member, and 2009 Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame inductee Bill Conlin.


Bill Conlin: Glad to be here. Just want people to know that I'm a reasonable guy with a good sense of humor.

Junior: All right, here's how this is going to work. I'm going to copy and paste pieces of this column that you wrote, Bill, and give my thoughts. You can feel free to chime in whenever.

Bill Conlin: Sounds great.

Junior: Here we go. Here's the headline.

Jamie Moyer a Hall of Famer?

Junior: Now Bill, I don't mean to be rude, but it seems to me that Jamie Moyer is pretty emphatically not a Hall of Famer. What were you thinking when you came up with this column idea?

Bill Conlin: Well, you know, I like to be provocative. What's the point of sportswriting if not to start some conversation around the water cooler? I think I give some pretty solid arguments for Jamie later in the piece.

Junior: Fair enough. Let's keep going.

Bert Blyleven, the Flinging Dutchman, missed Cooperstown last winter by five votes. It was his 13th chance to nail the required 75 percent of the BBWAA vote. He got 74.2. So, the author of a 287-250 record over a 22-year career should be on the Hall of Fame podium next summer. It is a game of inches — and fractions.


Junior: Bert Blyleven is going to get into the Hall of Fame because he deserves to get into the Hall of Fame. Are you saying Jamie Moyer is as good as Bert Blyleven?

Bill Conlin: In those words, no, but again, just starting the conversation. It's sports. It's supposed to be fun.


Junior: What does "It is a game of inches — and fractions" mean?

Bill Conlin: ...

Junior: I think I really hate that sentence. I mean, really hate it.

In the latest chapter of his 24-season pursuit of Methuselah and title of oldest pitcher to ever (add your own category), Jamie Moyer left the mound Sunday after working a scoreless seventh inning against the Blue Jays, soon to be 9-6. He left behind 4,005 innings pitched and more home runs, 506, than any man who ever hung a curve or grooved a fastball to Chris Wheeler's Land of Middle In. His 267-201 record is a body of work in progress.


Junior: Has anyone ever told you that judging the quality of a pitcher by the number of wins he has is equivalent to judging the quality of a movie by how many lines Bill Paxton has in it?

Bill Conlin: Not in those words.

Junior: I feel like someone should express that idea to you, in those exact words, via a bullhorn through your bedroom window every morning from the hours of 5 to 7 a.m.


Bill Conlin: Who's Bill Paxton?

Junior: Perfect. Let's keep going.

Moyer is only 33 wins short of what used to be the HOF automatic total of 300. But giving the 47-year-old marvel a conservative six more W's this season, bringing him to 273, it probably would take Jamie until age 50 to edge into the shadow of 300. That becomes a variable dependent on health and having a job in somebody's rotation.


Junior: I mean, seriously. Wins? Still with this shit? Sorry. Apologize for saying "shit." Meant to say "fucking piece of garbage mother-shitting nonsense-shit-sical watery elephant shit."

Bill Conlin: Well said. But isn't baseball about wins and losses?



Bill Conlin: Jamie Moyer won 21 games in 2003. How 'bout that?

This is the final year of the free-agent contract GM Pat Gillick gave him in 2008. He will make $6.5 million as history's highest-paid 47-year-old ballplayer. It seems unlikely the Phillies would offer him anything close to that. Clubs were not lined up to sign him after the 2008 season, so the contract appeared to be more out of reward than urgency. Despite the incessant bleating of the forum posters and commenters, the contract has turned out to be a steal. Approaching the season's midpoint, Moyer's return has been a 21-16 record. At today's obscene rates for starting pitching, he represents a tremendous bargain.


Junior: Let's play a game: Every time you mention wins, Bill Gates will donate 50 cents to malaria research.

Bill Conlin: That's very funny —

Junior: Oh wait you just bankrupted Bill Gates are you happy? God. Bill Conlin just eliminated malaria from the face of the earth because he cited wins so goddamn much.


By comparison, Mets ace Johan Santana will earn $39 million over the same period for an 18-14 record. Is there even an argument?

Junior: That's great. That's really fucking great. This is a perfect example of why wins should be flushed down the stat-toilet along with toilet paper made of batting average and used condoms filled with RBIs.


Bill Conlin: That is horrifying.

Junior: Yes, I'm a terrible person. Where was I? Oh right — you just compared Johan Santana to Jamie Moyer and the reason you can even do that and not seem batshit insane is because of wins. Yes, Jamie Moyer has 21 wins the past two seasons. He also has an ERA+ of 86 for both years. Johan Santana has 24 wins the past two years. His ERA+s: 132 and 135. Wins are the devil and you, Bill Conlin, worship at the altar of the devil. You are a devil-worshiper.


Bill Conlin: That seems a little unfai—


Bill Conlin: Okay.

There is an argument that Jamie has been a rotation back-ender —

Junior: Hahahahaha back-ender.

Bill Conlin: [chuckles] Yes, that is funny. "Back-ender."

Junior: [laughs]

Bill Conlin: [laughs]

— his entire career, a 4 or 5. That is not completely true, of course. In 2001, when the Seattle Mariners won a major league record-tying 116 games, Moyer was the No. 3 starter behind our old pal Freddy Garcia and Aaron Sele.


Junior: Just real quick — you're making an argument for Jamie Moyer for the Hall of Fame, and one of your pieces of evidence is that he was once a number three starter.

Bill Conlin: That's right. Yeah.

But when that amazing season collapsed into an ALCS loss to the Yankees, Moyer had the best record at 20-6. He also earned Seattle's lone victory in the ALCS.


Junior: Wins. WINS. W i n s. "Wins"-ie Cooper from The Wonder Years. "Win"-ton Marsalis. Win "Win" Butler. Winston Church-"win."

Bill Conlin: You still want me to keep doing this or what?

Junior: SHUT UP OR YOU DON'T GET YOUR BOTTLECAP OF WATER AND I'LL NEVER UNTIE YOU FROM YOUR CHAIR. Nancy Bot-"wins." (This is Mary-Louise Parker's character from Weeds. Anybody? Weeds is a television program!)


In 2003, he was the Mariners' No. 1 and responded at age 40 with a 21-7 record. Jamie has not always been catching crumbs swept from the end of the banquet table.

Junior: Did you know that in 1971, Dave Roberts recorded the second-lowest ERA in the league and finished 14-17? In his 17 losses, he posted an ERA of 3.12. 3.12. In his losses. Think about that while you drink the nutrient-poor gruel I serve you to keep you just alive enough to participate in this meta-meta-commentary on your own piece of sportswriting.


Bill Conlin: [drools]


Here's another argument one hears for keeping him out of the Hall of Fame. In the 24 seasons, he has won an average of just 11.125 games. You're going to get nailed using that argument.


Junior: Who the fuck would use that argument?! It's Jamie Moyer. Jamie Stupid Moyer. Here's the argument for keeping Jamie Moyer out of the Hall of Fame: He's Jamie Moyer.

Bill Conlin: Is it possible to get bedsores from a chair you've been strapped to for 16 days?


Junior: Fine, here are two more arguments: 1. He has a career ERA+ of 104. 2. He would have the highest ERA of anyone in the entire fucking Hall of Fame. (And second-lowest ERA+.)

Bill Conlin: [vague sounds of dementia]

The great Nolan Ryan, who has 324 victories and more strikeouts and no-hitters than anybody has had or ever will have pitched 27 years. He finally hung them up at age 46.


And for those 27 seasons, Ryan won an average of exactly 12 games a year.

That's Jamie Moyer, 11.125. Nolan Ryan, 12. Aside from about 18 mph in fastball velocity, it appears that over the plateaus and canyons of two incredibly long careers, the bottom line is deceptively the same. Meanwhile, Moyer sounds as if he will keep chipping away until either he or hell freezes over. Don't bet on hell.


Junior: "He's" going to freeze over? What does that even mean?

Bill Conlin: Look, man —

Junior: "The bottom line is deceptively the same" if you're a human being of early-caveman-pre-agriculture-like-intelligence who believes that the bottom line begins and ends with wins. Look, Nolan Ryan is hilariously, abominably overrated (second-highest voting percentage ever for the Hall of Fame, are you shitting me?), but he was Abbey Road to Moyer's Oasis' Heathen Chemistry (1.2 on Pitchfork hahahahahaha [Abbey Road would have gotten like at least a 6.3 on Pitchfork]). Nolan Ryan struck out 3,300 more guys than Jamie Moyer. 3,300! That difference is more than all but 11 guys' career strikeout totals.


Bill Conlin: I am perfectly healthy and in no way in physical jeopardy. I am as un-kidnapped as a man could possibly be. No one alert the authorities. [whispered] Please, please alert the authorities.

Junior: Did you hear what I said about Heathen Chemistry? Pretty funny, huh?

Bill Conlin: Yeah.

Junior: I like you, Bill. Have another 1/16th of a tiny wheel of Babybel cheese.

Bill Conlin: You're the best, Junior. [whispered] Please. Help me. Anyone. I don't know where I am, but there's a blinking light in my peripheral vision, and I can hear a train go by every 40 minutes or so...sounds like it might be elevated.


The other possibly false assumption is that Moyer enjoys the same adulation throughout baseball he enjoys here during his improbable midlife renaissance. Nor is election to the Hall of Fame in the hands of the daily Greek chorus that bethumps cyberspace.

Junior: Terrible. Just terrible.

Bill Conlin: [suddenly lucid] That's fair.

It is in the hands of baseball writers arrayed from sea to shining sea and Canada with 10 or more years covering the pastime. The ball writers are a cranky bunch that once wielded considerable clout. They no longer control press-box access they now share with MLB.com feature writers and various dot.coms. They even have to pay for their press-room meals. There has been no free booze for more than a decade.


Junior: This is an article about Jamie Moyer.

Most of the old boys, like New York's Dick Young — who opposed women in press boxes and locker rooms and who sometimes physically attempted to keep TV cameras and radio reporters like the early Howard Cosell out of their sacrosanct interview space — are long gone.


Junior: So much to unpack here. Are you seriously reminiscing about a guy who opposed women in press boxes?

Bill Conlin: Okay, yeah, that was pretty dumb.

Junior: Dick Young died 23 years ago.

Bill Conlin: I just miss him, is all.

Junior: All right, I understand that. But are you really, seriously angry that people who write for websites — I'm sorry, "dot.coms" — get to sit in the press box? They're writers too, Bill. It's not even that different a medium. It's kind of the same thing, like a painting in a different frame.


Bill Conlin: I know.

Junior: You're aware that your very own columns are published on "dot.coms," and I'm betting that a lot of your fans read you on the "dot.com" and not in the newspaper.


Bill Conlin: Those are all good points.

Junior: Look, you're an ornery son of a bitch, you're dead wrong about a lot of baseball stuff, you have no idea which baseball statistics are important, you said the good thing about Hitler is that he would've wiped out bloggers, and you emailed pictures of your condo to some random guy on the internet just to show off, but I can empathize with you, Bill. You're still getting paid to churn out columns, you're well into your 70s, the landscape of sportswriting is changing, and that's scary to you. You only know what you know. This is the kind of writing you've done your whole life. It's won you awards, gotten your books published, garnered you praise, and earned you (according to you) a lot of money. I'm asking you now, though, as one reasonable human being to another: Would you at least consider being open to the possibility that there have been advances in how we rate the value of baseball players?


Bill Conlin: [long pause] Junior, you're a passionate man. And to all my fans out there, I want to assure you that at no point did Junior from Fire Joe Morgan actually kidnap me and strap me to a rough-hewn Adirondack chair in his mother's basement (where he blogs) and keep me awake with splashes of cold water and strategic interrogation methods he learned from the Israeli Special Forces. This was all part of an elaborate comedy make-'em-up that he and I agreed on in principle beforehand. Junior, to you I say, I've thought about your question, I've taken a whole night to ruminate on it, and this is my answer: no. No, I am not open to that possibility. I am old, I am set in my ways, and you can suck my old-ass dick. A dick which, by the way, has personally written more prizewinning sports columns than your entire body ever will.

Junior: Ladies and gentlemen, Bill Conlin.

Bill Conlin: Read the last fucking sentence of the column, you shithead.

Jamie Moyer might not make it to Cooperstown. But it appears Cy Old is solidly in the conversation.


Bill Conlin: Boom. You like what I did there? Instead of Cy "Young," I wrote Cy "Old." Because Jamie Moyer is old. Still got it, Conlin. Fuck yeah.