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It’s not Jack Morris hunting season, but the meat is still tasty

May 1, 2012, 1:00 PM EDT

Jack Morris

Denigrating Jack Morris’ Hall of Fame case is a winter tradition unmatched by anything this side of Christmas. Oh, the warmth I have been provided by hours of “pitching to the score” arguments in those dark late December and early January days!

But, surprisingly, it’s just as nice in May too.  Because I got a nice little feeling of happiness reading Rany Jazayerli’s latest column over at Grantland — about the current Detroit Tigers — which found the time to drop the following aside about the 1984 Detroit Tigers:

That team wasn’t built around superstars, though — 28 years later, not one member of the 1984 Tigers is in the Hall of Fame.

Then the footnote:

The good news is that one of the 1984 Tigers may be inducted in the next year or two. The bad news is that it will be Jack Morris, who was maybe the fifth-best player on the team.

For what it’s worth, three of those better players are clearly Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker and Darrell Evans, all of whom should be in the Hall of Fame before Jack Morris.  The fourth may be open for debate. Chet Lemon was pretty great even though no one remembers him now. Kirk Gibson was on that team and had a great year. I’m not exactly sure who Rany is referencing as the fourth, but there are multiple candidates.

Anyway, I know it’s not Hall of Fame season, but it’s always worth reminding ourselves of Jack Morris’ place in the universe.

  1. lardin - May 1, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    Its Called the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Very good/

    In a Jack Morris average season, he was 16-12 with a 3.90 ERA with 157 Strike Outs and 88 walks with an ERA+ of 105.

    That’s the definition of Average.

    • schrutebeetfarms - May 1, 2012 at 1:22 PM

      He was pitching to the score!

      I kid.

    • akismet-e6748cca3a16ea6e8283008d25583adc - May 1, 2012 at 1:27 PM

      For me, hall of fame means more than just looking at an ERA+ value. Morris has some qualities that transcend his career numbers that keep his vote totals high with the current HoF voter base (number of all star apperances, career highlight moments, consecutive opening day starts, legendary durability, etc).

      But an interesting test case for those that abhor Morris may be Johnny Damon if he reaches 3,000 hits. He has a career 105 OPS+ (the rough equivalent of ERA+ for hitters). Would you vote for Damon if he reaches this magical number? Damon has almost no MVP support and a grand total of 2 all star appearances, which means relative to his peers he was almost never considered one of the great players of his generation. Contrast that Morris’ 5 all star appearances and 5 top-5 CY Young seasons. Older voters “remember” Morris being considered one of the greats and keep voting for him. I wonder if voters will “remember” Damon in a different light.

      • lardin - May 1, 2012 at 1:40 PM

        3000 hits is one of those automatic numbers along with 500 HR or 300 wins or 3000 strikeouts. With one exception every hitter with 3000 hits is either in or going to the HOF, Palmiero being the exception.

        Jack Morris was a very good pitcher and had some big moments in his Career, but this does not mean hes a Hall of famer. Sorry but 254 wins and 2478 strikeouts, is not a Hall of fame pitcher with and average ERA is not a Hall of Famer.

        I dont know if I would vote for Damon, but I am much more likely to vote someone who has done something that only 28 players in the history of MLB have done.

      • danrizzle - May 1, 2012 at 2:32 PM

        Those special items that you offer in juxtaposition to statistics like ERA+ are, themselves, statistics–consecutive opening day starts, all star appearances, durability (if measured in IP, I assume). Maybe not career highlight moments, but by that I assume you mean moment in the singular, because apart from the 10 inning WS shutout, I’m not sure what else would catapult him into a HOF debate. Anyway, the opening day starts, allstar appearances, etc. in fact are statistics themselves–just really crappy ones for evaluating a player’s career.

      • Tim's Neighbor - May 1, 2012 at 3:07 PM

        ERA+ is not directly comparable to OPS+. A 105 OPS+ is above average for some positions and below average for others.

    • braddavery - May 1, 2012 at 2:17 PM

      You are correct, it IS called the Hall of Fame… not the Hall of Amazing Statistics. Morris is clearly a fringe candidate who’s, along with very good stats, “fame” could get him in. Is he Nolan Ryan, no. Is he Tom Seaver, no. Is he a very popular player who was dominant for around 10 years, yes. If he does get in, it’s not all about his stats. Stat heads don’t understand the HOF and what it is meant to be.

      • lardin - May 1, 2012 at 3:06 PM

        Getting a bronze plaque and the ability to write HOF after you name is about being the best to play the game. Without stats how do you measure that. Morris is not one of the best to ever play the game, period end of discussion.

      • braddavery - May 1, 2012 at 4:33 PM

        What do you not understand? It’s not called the Hall of Statistical Achievement. Borderline players like Morris get in because they WERE very good players with very good stats, but it’s their “fame” that pushes them over the edge into the Hall. Just because a player doesn’t have flashy stats doesn’t mean they can’t or shouldn’t be HOFers. It’s not ALL about stats, which is what you and many like you can’t seem to grasp. Just run that through your head. It’s not ALL about stats. It’s not ALL about stats. It’s not ALL about stats…

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 1, 2012 at 5:06 PM

        WERE very good players with very good stats

        Curious how you define him as a very good player. He had one season over 5 rWAR, four over 4 fWAR. Guys like Andy Petttitte (1 over 7.5, 2 over 5), Mike Mussina (one 7.4, two over 6, four over 5) and Kevin Brown (one over 8, one over 7, two over 6 and two over 5) all have better career and peak performances than Morris and no one is writing articles every year about how they should be enshrined.

      • braddavery - May 1, 2012 at 5:42 PM

        Curious how you can believe Morris WASN’T a very good player. Funny how you think a player that wasn’t even very good could be so close to making the Hall of Fame. Since WAR seems to be your end-all be-all, you do realize that only 23 pitchers in baseball history have a higher career WAR than Morris?

      • jrdx - May 1, 2012 at 7:31 PM

        “Since WAR seems to be your end-all be-all, you do realize that only 23 pitchers in baseball history have a higher career WAR than Morris?”

        Uh, that’s clearly not true.

        Morris is something like 140th for baseball reference’s career pitcher WAR.

        Maybe you’re looking at fangraphs but their WAR calculations only go back to the mid-70′s so guys who pitched before that have 0 WAR.

    • purnellmeagrejr - May 1, 2012 at 2:51 PM

      yeah, but everybody knows him and recognizes his competitive qualities as a pitcher – - in other words FAME it’s not called the Hall of above average stasitics – it’s the halll of fame! Other wise make rooom for Harold Baines

    • dink53 - May 1, 2012 at 3:03 PM

      And only two World Series rings. Very average.

      • Kevin S. - May 1, 2012 at 4:22 PM

        Luis Sojo has five World Series rings. Inner circle, amirite?

      • braddavery - May 1, 2012 at 4:35 PM

        But Sojo doesn’t have the stats to back it up. Just like it’s not ALL about stats, it’s not ALL about awards, trophies and accolades. It’s a balance of all these things.

  2. Gobias Industries - May 1, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    “I’m not exactly sure who Rany is referencing as the fourth, but there are multiple candidates.” Rusty Kuntz, he’s just too shy to say so.

  3. pjmitch - May 1, 2012 at 1:22 PM

    Darrell Evans should be in the HOF? Are you kidding? Was he a good player? Yes some seasons, but in this 1984 that you are speaking of he hit .232 with 16 homers. And he should be in before Jack Morris?????? Evans was a lifetime .248 hitter. Don’t tell me about his 400+ homers, there a lot of guys with 400 homers who should never be elected to the HOF.

    • jasonc2300 - May 1, 2012 at 1:34 PM

      If you had used only 5 question marks after “Morris,” I would have been dubious, but that sixth one clinched it for me.

      • 18thstreet - May 1, 2012 at 2:14 PM

        G-d, I love this bar.

    • nategearhart - May 1, 2012 at 1:38 PM

      The key is that he should be a HOFer before Morris. His case isn’t exactly lock-tight. BUT much more important than his .248 BA is his very, very good .361 OBP. The fact that he maintained that and a 119 OPS+ for 21 years is pretty impressive.

    • mgv38 - May 1, 2012 at 3:31 PM

      Well, 1984 was an “off” year for Evans–”only” a 105 OPS+. But that was sandwiched between years of 150+ and 138+ OPS (at ages 36 and 38). Yeh, has was damn good–just that the enlightened BBWAA of the time couldn’t see it. In 1973, he hit 41 homers, led he league in BB, had 100+ Runs and 100+ RBI (3rd in WAR)–and finished 18th in the MVP voting. And in 1983 and 1985, he finished 14th in the voting each year.

      We don’t need to perpetutate the ignorance of the media of the time, do we? Okay, Evans shouldn’t be in the HOF, but neither should Morris. As nate points out below, Rany’s claim is that Morris is such a weak HOF candidate that even Evans deserves to be inducted AHEAD of him–not that he desrves to be inducted at all.

  4. sictransitchris - May 1, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    This whole argument is why I constructed my own Cooperstown in the guest bedroom.

  5. WhenMattStairsIsKing - May 1, 2012 at 1:52 PM

    In Morris’s defense, Pedro Gomez never denied saying he’s better than Cy Young, Randy Johnson and Bob Gipson put together.

  6. jeffbbf - May 1, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    I always thought Lance Parrish was the leader of those teams. And his career numbers weren’t that far off from the great Johnny Bench. 8 time all-star. 6 time silver slugger, 3 time golden glove.

    • braddavery - May 1, 2012 at 2:56 PM

      Parrish is definitely a candidate for Hall consideration. The guy was right up there with some of the best catchers ever.

  7. Paul White - May 1, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    “The bad news is that it will be Jack Morris, who was maybe the fifth-best player on the team.”

    Actually, in the context of just that season, Rany was being a bit charitable. According to bWAR, Morris ranked 8th on that team:

    Alan Trammell – 6.6
    Chet Lemon – 6.0
    Kirk Gibson – 5.1
    Willie Hernandez – 4.8
    Lou Whitaker – 3.9
    Dan Petry – 3.2
    Lance Parrish – 2.5
    Jack Morris – 2.3

  8. deathmonkey41 - May 1, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    I’m tired of hearing about how this guy belongs in the Hall of Fame- the whole conversation is absurd. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my “Andy Hawkins for the HoF” campaign.

  9. 18thstreet - May 1, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    Best third basemen, last 50 years, via Fangraphs WAR, which includes some odd people as 3B:
    http://www.fangraphs.com/graphswd.aspx?teamid=0&pos=3B&season=2012&season1=1962&grid=25

    I don’t see how Darrell Evans deserves serious consideration. Those are some great years in his mid-20s, and good years afterwards. It’s funny, though: Evans is the type of player who non-SABR minded people are prone to ignore: low batting average, very good fielder, never had a ton of RBI. But I think the stat nerds have overrated him.

    • Kevin S. - May 1, 2012 at 4:29 PM

      Not sure how that works against him. 3B is criminally underrepped in the Coop. Of the guys in front of him, Graig Nettles is probably the only true third baseman who isn’t a sure-fire Hall of Famer, and he suffers from some of the same biases Dewey does. He’s a borderline candidate, but they’re the ones that deserve the most consideration. Whether Evans is in or out says a lot about what your HOF standard is. Among full-time third basemen (and I’m counting A-Rod there), he’s tenth in the past fifty years. I think there’s room for two third basemen a decade in the Hall.

      • 18thstreet - May 1, 2012 at 5:00 PM

        It’s not just where he ranks on the list. It’s how good he was in individual years. A long career of being “good” doesn’t strike me as “Hall of Fame.” He was excellent, briefly, but for the most part of was a 4-wins above replacement player. That’s what Mark Teixeira contributed last year.

    • stlouis1baseball - May 2, 2012 at 9:22 AM

      Thanks for link 18th! I was actually quite surprised to see Rolen at 9th. I thought he would have graded a little higher. Either way…thanks again.

  10. racksie - May 1, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    I’m a Twins fan, so I am biased. But you know one amazing pitching performance with a solid career does not get you into the hall of fame.

    • 18thstreet - May 1, 2012 at 4:48 PM

      No, no! Chris Carpenter totally deserves to go in the Hall of Fame. Didn’t you see Game 5 of last year’s NLDS?

      One great game is obviously what defines a Hall of Famer!

      /rolls eyes (at someone other than Racksie)

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 1, 2012 at 5:02 PM

      For every person that brings up G7 in ’91, they should be forced to point out his two games in the ’93 WS where he gave up 10 runs in 10 2/3 IP.

      • racksie - May 2, 2012 at 6:07 AM

        If I was a Blue Jays fan, I might do that.

  11. davebrownspiral - May 1, 2012 at 6:03 PM

    To me, the Hall of Fame should be reserved for guys that nobody has to think or debate about. If you have to sit back and think and debate for years about a player’s merits for the Hall of Fame, than he is not a Hall of Famer. He is simply a very good ball player. Guys like Maddux (eligible in 2014), Smoltz (2015), Randy Johnson (2015) and Griffey (2016) are upcoming eligibles that need no debate and who are perfect examples of Hall of Famers. (I specifically omitted Bonds, Piazza and Clemens who are all eligible in 2013 due to the fact that they will probably be debated based on steroid use/suspicions). The fact that their is disagreement as to the qualifications for guys like Alan Trammel and Jack Morris makes them less than Hall of Famers in my opinion. I just feel Hall of Fame should be for players that there is no doubt or disagreement as to their merits and accomplishments.

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