Dec 4, 2012, 2:00 AM EDT
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.
Jul 27, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT
Ian Kennedy’s left oblique is bothering him, so he’ll miss tomorrow’s start against the Braves.
Jul 27, 2014, 10:35 PM EDT
The Padres are expected to get Jedd Gyorko back from the DL, but lose Carlos Quentin on Monday.
Jul 27, 2014, 9:40 PM EDT
Josh Harrison kept the PIrates in the mix in Sunday’s game against the Rockies by using his legs.
Jul 27, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
Pitchers do not want to be facing Carlos Santana right now.
Jul 27, 2014, 7:50 PM EDT
Baseball’s implementation of home plate collision rules, meant to protect catchers, hasn’t gone as smoothly as expected this season. There was yet another example on Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia.
Jul 27, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT
The Rays and Red Sox have been nipping at each other throughout the season, so it was no surprise that Chris Archer took exception when David Ortiz gawked at his three-run home run.
Jul 27, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT
According to an ESPN report, the Red Sox are considering a trade that could bring Matt Kemp to Boston.
Jul 27, 2014, 5:13 PM EDT
Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas gave a tremendous speech — reflecting on his parents and upbringing in Georgia — Sunday at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, New York …
Jul 27, 2014, 4:29 PM EDT
Via the National Baseball Hall of Fame Musuem’s official Twitter feed, here are the six new plaques that will be added to the walls in Cooperstown after Sunday’s induction ceremony …
Jul 27, 2014, 3:41 PM EDT
Rangers left-hander Derek Holland is scheduled to throw a full-effort bullpen session on Monday at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. If it goes well Holland will be cleared to embark on a 30-day minor league rehab assignment later in the week.
Jul 27, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT
On this Hall of Fame induction Sunday — Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre are going in — we give you Ted Williams’ speech from 1966 …
Jul 27, 2014, 2:08 PM EDT
The Mariners acquired Kendrys Morales from the Twins on Thursday for right-handed reliever Stephen Pryor, and they’re not done trying to beef up their offense.
Jul 27, 2014, 1:25 PM EDT
Mark Appel was promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi on Saturday despite posting a 9.74 ERA and 1.92 WHIP in 44 1/3 innings at High-A Lancaster. And he was invited to Minute Maid Park in Houston on Sunday morning to throw a bullpen session in front of Astros coaches and executives. This stuff is not sitting well with some of the players on the Astros’ current major league roster.
Jul 27, 2014, 1:07 PM EDT
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the Yankees are eyeing Twins outfielder Josh Willingham, who would require less of a committment in years and money than Alex Rios and Marlon Byrd.
Jul 27, 2014, 12:20 PM EDT
So I have three – no, wait, just thought of another one, so four – theories about the Baseball Hall of Fame’s decision to reduce the time a player can spend on the ballot from 15 years to 10. I am not opposed to this rule, by the way. I have long thought 15 years was too long for a player to be on the ballot. And I am absolutely for some changes in the Hall of Fame process …
Jul 27, 2014, 11:34 AM EDT
Jack Hannahan is finally ready to rejoin the Reds’ active roster after missing April, May, June, and most of July following offseason shoulder surgery.
Jul 27, 2014, 10:59 AM EDT
Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Tony La Russa, Joe Torre, and Bobby Cox make up the star-studded six-man class of players and managers that will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon in Cooperstown, New York. Here’s a sneak peek at the intro video that will be seen before the ceremony on MLB Network …
Jul 27, 2014, 10:12 AM EDT
The Dodgers and Diamondbacks got into a few scuffles last season, and now their Triple-A affiliates are taking the feistiness to another level. Check out this brawl from Saturday evening …
Jul 27, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
This doesn’t sound like a promising development. According to Nick Groke of the Denver Post, star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki flew to Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon to visit Dr. William Meyers about his lingering left hip injury. Meyers performed a sports hernia surgery on Tulowitzki in 2012
Jul 27, 2014, 8:56 AM EDT
The Dodgers are back on top in the NL West. Clayton Kershaw allowed only two hits and a walk over nine shutout innings and Adrian Gonzalez went 3-for-5 with two doubles as Los Angeles dominated the host Giants on Saturday night in San Francisco.
- Mariners’ interest in Matt Kemp is “very real” 21
- Astros players upset over Mark Appel’s promotion to Double-A, bullpen session in Houston 38
- Four theories about the Hall of Fame voting changes 21
- Troy Tulowitzki is visiting a sports hernia surgeon 9
- Settling the Score: Saturday’s results 29
- Giants acquire Jake Peavy from Red Sox 55
- Maximum stay on Hall of Fame ballot changed from 15 to 10 years 66
- Jon Lester is willing to return to the Red Sox as a free agent even if they trade him 32
- Expert’s Corner: How to troll fans of all 30 teams (201)
- Verducci: baseball should think about an “illegal defense” rule to combat shifts (164)
- Yankees acquire Chase Headley from Padres (108)
- Who is the next Face of Baseball? (97)
- David Ortiz passes Carl Yastrzemski on the all-time home run list — is he a Hall of Famer? (92)