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.
Sep 16, 2014, 1:04 AM EDT
MLB’s best team continues to cruise through September.
Sep 16, 2014, 12:09 AM EDT
Pinch-runners Jarrod Dyson and Terrance Gore proved to be the difference in a thrilling win for Kansas City.
Sep 15, 2014, 11:29 PM EDT
Pujols suffered the injury while running to second base on a three-run double.
Sep 15, 2014, 11:09 PM EDT
Belt has been limited to just five games since July 19 due to concussion symptoms.
Sep 15, 2014, 10:25 PM EDT
Sanchez has been sidelined since early August with a right pectoral strain.
Sep 15, 2014, 9:21 PM EDT
Papelbon made a lewd gesture at fans and had a confrontation with umpire Joe West during Sunday’s game.
Sep 15, 2014, 8:35 PM EDT
Harper struck out in his lone at-bat in the top of the second inning before Nate Schierholtz replaced him as a pinch-hitter in the fourth inning.
Sep 15, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT
He last played on July 22 and previously missed time with shoulder problems that have plagued him, but he did hit .282 with five homers and an .802 OPS in 53 games when healthy enough to be in the lineup.
Sep 15, 2014, 7:59 PM EDT
Jim DeShaies previously did it with the Astros in a start against the Dodgers on September 23, 1986.
Sep 15, 2014, 7:35 PM EDT
Duffy hasn’t pitched since September 6 due to rotator cuff inflammation.
Sep 15, 2014, 7:04 PM EDT
The union must sign off on a policy before any changes are put into effect.
Sep 15, 2014, 6:48 PM EDT
Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu exited his Friday start after just one inning with shoulder pain, but an MRI revealed relatively positive news: Ryu does not have structural damage and has been diagnosed with inflammation.
Sep 15, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
“Everything we were trying to accomplish this season has been accomplished.”
Sep 15, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
Gattis met with team doctors Monday in attempt to find an answer with his illness.
Sep 15, 2014, 5:47 PM EDT
Mets reliever Vic Black has been shut down with a shoulder injury just one week after returning from a disabled list stint for a herniated disk in his back.
Sep 15, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT
Avila has suffered multiple concussions since last season and also missed time earlier this month after taking a foul tip off the mask.
Sep 15, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
Tampa Bay has called up switch-hitting infielder Nick Franklin, whom the Rays acquired from the Mariners on July 31 in the three-team trade revolving around David Price.
Sep 15, 2014, 4:16 PM EDT
Rizzo was having a breakout season before the injury, hitting .278 with 30 homers and an .889 OPS in 129 games at age 24.
Sep 15, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
“Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air.” — Thomas Gray. Or William Cullen Bryant. I don’t know, I get them mixed up.
Sep 15, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Hope he comes back soon so the Yankees have a shot at making the simulated playoffs.
- MLB suspends Jonathan Papelbon seven games for incident during Sunday’s game 30
- VIDEO: Jacob deGrom begins game with eight straight strikeouts to tie MLB record 8
- Bud Selig says MLB and players union will meet this week about domestic abuse policy 7
- And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights 67
- Cuban slugger Yasmani Tomas to command $100 million? 29
- Bruce and Brett Bochy make MLB history 32
- Settling the Score: Saturday’s results 17
- Zack Greinke homers, Dodgers demolish the Giants 17-0 at AT&T Park 20
- Chris Davis suspended 25 games for amphetamine use (92)
- A few thoughts about the discrimination lawsuit against the Mets (91)
- Giancarlo Stanton diagnosed with multiple facial fractures and dental damage (91)
- Bud Selig can’t remember the last domestic violence incident in Major League Baseball (87)
- A couple of initial thoughts on the Chris Davis suspension (83)