Dec 4, 2012, 2:00 AM EST
I’ve covered this territory before, and I realize I’m mostly preaching to the choir here. Still, it needs to be written again: Jack Morris did not have a Hall of Fame career.
The funny thing is that the writers once knew this. When Morris debuted on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2000, he received 22 percent of the vote. His support dipped to 20 percent in 2001, and he only reached 30 percent on his sixth try in 2005. Now he’s all of the way up to 66.7 percent, still for no good reason that I can see.
Morris’ backers say he was the best pitcher of the 1980s and that he pitched one of the greatest games of all-time to clinch the 1991 World Series for the Twins. I take no issue with the latter statement; Morris’ stellar duel with the Braves’ John Smoltz in which he went the distance for a 1-0, 10-inning victory was a true masterpiece and should never be forgotten. And it won’t be.
The rest of the case for Morris is weak.
Morris is only a candidate for “best pitcher of the 1980s” because it just so happens that no elite starters showed up during that 1975-1980 timeframe and had their peak years during the 1980s. No one would ever think of Morris as the top pitcher of the 1970s or 1990s had his 1980s happened in another decade.
Also, one can put together a pretty good argument that Dave Stieb was actually the best pitcher of the 1980s. Morris topped Stieb in wins 162-140, but it was closer in winning percentage (.577 to .562), even though Morris played for superior teams. Morris had a 3.66 ERA and a 109 ERA+ for the decade, while Stieb came in at 3.32 and 126.
Even if you still want to give Morris “best pitcher of the 1980s” honors, he certainly wasn’t the best pitcher of the first half of the decade (Steve Carlton, 88-47, 2.91 ERA; Morris 86-62, 3.66 ERA) or anywhere near the best pitcher of the second half of the decade (Roger Clemens 86-41, 2.92 ERA; Morris 76-57, 3.67 ERA).
And Morris wasn’t the best pitcher in any season of the decade. Not only did he never win a Cy Young Award, but he never even finished second.
It’s the Cy Young balloting that is particularly telling, in my opinion. Some of those who argue for Morris like to tell us that we weren’t there, that we didn’t see Morris when he was winning all of those big games.
Well, look at the people that were there. Morris pitched for 18 seasons, all of them in a 14-team American League. During that time, there were 504 ballots cast for the Cy Young Award. Morris received a first-place vote on five of those ballots. One percent. He got two first-place votes in 1983, when he finished third in the balloting behind the immortal LaMarr Hoyt and a reliever in Dan Quisenberry. He got the other three in 1991, when he finished fourth behind Clemens, Scott Erickson and Jim Abbott.
And while I wasn’t covering baseball in those years, I was there, at least for the latter half of Morris’ career. I think everyone respected Morris. I don’t think anyone was afraid of him. No opposing fan ever went to the ballpark and said “we’ve got no shot today, Morris is starting.” Morris was a workhorse, a battler. There’s no evidence to support the pitching to the score argument, but Morris worked deep into games and usually gave his team a chance to win. And his team did more often than not (it helped that those Tigers had two guys who really should be in the Hall of Fame in Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker).
Of course, having to be the game’s best pitcher shouldn’t be the standard for the Hall of Fame. Bert Blyleven and Don Sutton were never the best in their leagues. Tom Glavine and Curt Schilling weren’t either, yet both of them should be enshrined.
Morris, though, still doesn’t compare. His 3.90 ERA would be the worst in Cooperstown. Even in seemingly weak fields, his best AL ERA finish was fifth place. He led the league in wins twice; once in the strike-shortened 1981 season with 14 and later in 1992 when he went 21-6 with a 4.04 ERA. He led the league in innings and strikeouts once apiece. His win total of 254 is pretty good, but it’s still behind that of 41 other starters in history and it’s really the strong point of his case. Also, it should be noted that the AL was the weaker of the two leagues during Morris’ career. He was facing easier competition than his NL counterparts.
Jack Morris was a very good pitcher, one of the last to average 250 innings and 10 complete games per season in his prime. He turned in one of the greatest postseason starts in history. That’s how he should be remembered. He just doesn’t come all that close to meeting the current standards for Hall of Fame enshrinement, and voting him in would be a mistake.
Dec 18, 2013, 7:37 PM EST
With the Rays still asking the moon for ace David Price, the Mariners have apparently moved on to other options for upgrading their starting rotation. According to FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi, the Seattle front office has been showing “continued interest” in free agent right-hander Ervin Santana. There was a report in November stating that Santana…
Dec 18, 2013, 6:23 PM EST
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Dec 18, 2013, 5:16 PM EST
Richard Justice has a good column up about Billy Beane today. He notes Beane’s role as a transformative figure and how, despite the fact that every GM this side of Ruben Amaro has followed Beane’s approach — and despite the fact most of them have more money to work with than he does — Beane’s…
Dec 18, 2013, 4:49 PM EST
Kansas City and Baltimore swapped role players, with the Orioles sending third baseman/first baseman Danny Valencia to the Royals for outfielder David Lough. Valencia was overmatched as a regular for the Twins, but has found a good niche as a part-timer used mostly versus left-handed pitching. He hit .304 with eight homers and an .888…
Dec 18, 2013, 4:35 PM EST
I’m not a big fan of the Ryan Doumit trade, but at least it’s good for the yuks: Wren said he viewed Doumit as the best player available to fill his bench need because “he’s almost two players in one.” — Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) December 18, 2013 True! He is almost two players. Almost…
Dec 18, 2013, 4:16 PM EST
Livan Hernandez earned more than $50 million during his 17-season career, including a million bucks as recently as 2012, but now he’s selling his stuff. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that Hernandez is auctioning off his championship ring and MVP award from the 1997 World Series with the Marlins, both with $5,000 reserve…
Dec 18, 2013, 3:21 PM EST
After shopping around as a free agent Eric Chavez has decided to return to Arizona, with Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reporting that he’s agreed to re-sign with the Diamondbacks. Chavez has stayed healthy and productive in part-time roles for the Diamondbacks and Yankees during the past two seasons, hitting a combined .281 with 25 homers…
Dec 18, 2013, 3:00 PM EST
This is pretty unexpected: Source: Atlanta finalizing deal to acquire catcher/outfielder Ryan Doumit from Minnesota. — Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 18, 2013 Rosenthal reports that the Braves are sending back lefty Sean Gilmartin. Doumit, a catcher and outfielder who does neither of those things at all well but who has been known to hit a little,…
Dec 18, 2013, 2:47 PM EST
After a year spent in Japan veteran third baseman/first baseman Casey McGehee is headed back to America to sign with the Marlins, according to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. McGehee took a $1.5 million deal in Japan following back-to-back terrible seasons in the majors and helped the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles to the league…
Dec 18, 2013, 2:14 PM EST
Boston acquired Franklin Morales from Colorado in May of 2011 and now three years later the Red Sox have traded him back to the Rockies. Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports that the Red Sox will send the Rockies 27-year-old Triple-A reliever Chris Martin in addition to Morales, who had a 3.90 ERA in 134 innings…
Dec 18, 2013, 2:03 PM EST
Either Ruben Amaro never spends any time on the internet or he just loves providing fuel for the trolls: Amaro somewhat cagey when repeatedly questioned about makeup of roster he expects to contend: “Ryan Howard does still live. He exists.” — Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) December 18, 2013 I guess we’ll see if that’s the…
Dec 18, 2013, 1:50 PM EST
It sounds like the Rockies are committed to playing Carlos Gonzales is center field after trading away Dexter Fowler, but they’ve picked up an alternative just in case. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Rockies have acquired Drew Stubbs from the Indians in exchange for left-hander Josh Outman. Stubbs is probably best suited for…
Dec 18, 2013, 1:40 PM EST
We learned over the weekend that Ryan Freel, who took his own life a year ago this Sunday, suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a condition caused by concussions and which has been linked to suicide. But Freel suffered from so much more. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, ADD and depression. He was an alcoholic…
Dec 18, 2013, 1:18 PM EST
It just gets better and better with the New York Yankees. They just signed Brian Roberts. I wrote before (in my Ichiro Suzuki essay for the 100 greatest players) that this Yankees team would look awfully good … in 2006. But by essentially replacing Robinson Cano with Brian Roberts, they have — in a weird…
Dec 18, 2013, 12:46 PM EST
Carlos Beltran‘s three-year, $45 million deal with the Yankees still hasn’t been officially announced nearly two weeks later, so Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York asked general manager Brian Cashman what’s up. Cashman’s response: There are terms to do, physicals to take, items to be worked out when you do a contract … There’s no…
Dec 18, 2013, 12:30 PM EST
This is interesting: Jeff Passan of Yahoo! reports that the Yankees offered Shin-Soo Choo a seven-year, $140 million contract. It reportedly came after the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury for $153 million. Passan says Choo’s agent, Scott Boras, countered for more money, after which the sides parted ways and the Yankees pivoted to Carlos Beltran. That’s…
Dec 18, 2013, 11:35 AM EST
Raul Ibanez is staying in the American League West, with Jeff Fletcher of the Orange Country Register reporting that the 41-year-old has agreed to a one-year, $2.75 million deal with the Angels. Ibanez hasn’t posted a batting average above .250 since 2010 and makes a ton of outs, but he also smacked 29 homers in…
Dec 18, 2013, 11:17 AM EST
Texas has been very willing to shift pitchers back and forth between the rotation and bullpen in recent years, with both good and bad results, and Tanner Scheppers is the latest with his future role in flux. Scheppers has spent this offseason building up arm strength to potentially join the rotation, although the Rangers have…
Dec 18, 2013, 10:37 AM EST
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Dec 18, 2013, 10:15 AM EST
Last night the Mariners and Franklin Gutierrez were said to be close to a deal and now Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reports that the two sides have agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract. According to Rojas the deal also includes $2 million in potential incentives after Gutierrez spent the past three seasons mostly…