Skip to content

Inducting Jack Morris would lower the bar for the Hall of Fame

Dec 4, 2012, 2:00 AM EDT

jack-morris-03jpg-3f54fc94864f2ba1_medium[1] AP

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Video: Giancarlo Stanton makes a leaping catch to rob Josh Harrison of extra bases

    May 25, 2015, 9:18 PM EDT

    PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 25:  Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the Miami Marlins catches the third out in the second inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 25, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

    We usually post videos of Giancarlo Stanton hitting long home runs because he has a penchant for doing that on a regular basis and it’s a lot of fun to marvel over them. However, he can also get it done with the glove.

  2. Jose Bautista receives cortisone shot in ailing shoulder

    May 25, 2015, 8:14 PM EDT

    BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 13:  Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 13, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista hasn’t been able to play in the field since April 21 due a nagging shoulder injury, but he hopes to change that soon.

  3. Video: Khris Davis has home run taken away before getting it back

    May 25, 2015, 7:05 PM EDT

    MILWAUKEE, WI - MAY 25: Khris Davis #18 of the Milwaukee Brewers runs the bases after hitting a solo home run in the third inning agains the San Francisco Giants at Miller Park on May 25, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption *** Khris Davis Getty Images

    Brewers outfielder Khris Davis hit two home runs today against the Giants, but he nearly had one of them taken away for not touching home plate.

  4. Wily Peralta out at least four weeks with oblique strain

    May 25, 2015, 6:09 PM EDT

    NEW YORK, NY - MAY 17:  Wily Peralta #38 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches against the New York Mets during their game at Citi Field on May 17, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Brewers manager Craig Counsell said today that right-hander Wily Peralta will miss at least four weeks with an oblique strain.

  5. Great Moments in Memorial Day Tributes

    May 25, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    American Flag

    When I think solemn remembrance of the military dead, I definitely think John Kruk and Curt Schilling in weird jerseys.

  6. Another potential cable deal could mean more Dodgers games on TV in southern California soon

    May 25, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    dodgers logo

    Dodgers fans have been through this before, but hope is hope.

  7. Broken finger sends James Loney to Rays’ disabled list

    May 25, 2015, 3:55 PM EDT

    james loney getty Getty Images

    Loney was hitting .275 with two homers and a .698 OPS in 30 games.

  8. John Farrell calls for an approved substance pitchers can use for a better grip

    May 25, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    He thinks it’s silly that guys are risking 8-10 game suspensions for doing something everyone does and everyone thinks is sensible.

  9. Travis Ishikawa designated for assignment by the Giants

    May 25, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    travis ishikawa getty Getty Images

    Ishikawa started (out of position in left field) for the Giants during last year’s World Series-winning playoff run.

  10. A’s closer Sean Doolittle is ready to make his season debut

    May 25, 2015, 2:10 PM EDT

    Sean Doolittle AP

    Doolittle is coming back from a partially torn rotator cuff.

  11. Josh Hamilton is starting in left field and batting fifth for the Rangers today

    May 25, 2015, 1:47 PM EDT

    Josh Hamilton AP

    Last time he started in left field and batted fifth for the Rangers? July 27, 2010.

  12. Ben Zobrist rejoins the A’s a month after knee surgery

    May 25, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros Getty Images

    It might be too little too late for the A’s considering their 16-30 record.

  13. Mike Napoli continues to kill the Angels

    May 25, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    Mike Napoli

    Mike Scioscia ran Mike Napoli out of Anaheim. Napoli has beaten the hell out of the Angels ever since.

  14. Royals shut down Danny Duffy with shoulder injury

    May 25, 2015, 10:41 AM EDT

    Danny Duffy Getty Images

    Initially the Royals planned to merely push back Duffy’s next start.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. J. Hamilton (4079)
  2. R. Castillo (3684)
  3. D. Travis (3449)
  4. Y. Puig (3221)
  5. J. Reyes (3207)
  1. D. Wright (3189)
  2. A. Pujols (3179)
  3. C. Crisp (3166)
  4. B. Harper (3081)
  5. H. Ryu (3044)