Voters made blunder by not electing MorrisRICK LUBBERS: Another swing and another miss. For the 14th straight year, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America didn’t generate enough votes to put former pitching ace Jack Morris into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
By: Rick Lubbers, Duluth News Tribune
Another swing and another miss.
For the 14th straight year, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America didn’t generate enough votes to put former pitching ace Jack Morris into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
This year, the voters made the right statement by keeping the suspicious steroid-era bad boys (Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens) out of the sacred Hall, but they also blundered in keeping Morris, the most dominant pitcher of the 1980s and ace of three World Series-winning staffs (Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays), waiting in the atrium.
To earn a bust in Cooperstown, N.Y., former players need at least 75 percent of the vote. Morris’ numbers the past four years have crept tauntingly close to that mark — 52.3, 53.5, 66.7 and 67.7 — but next year is his final year on the ballot and he’ll have all-star hurlers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine to contend with, as well as sluggers Frank Thomas and Craig Biggio, who appeared on 68 percent of the ballots this year in his first try. Morris is in serious danger of earning a dubious distinction: being the player garnering the highest percentage of the vote without being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Gil Hodges made it to 63 percent in 1983 before dropping off the ballot.
Morris doesn’t deserve to be the next Gil Hodges.
Here’s what voters are ignoring from Morris’ standout 18-year career:
Morris’ critics quickly point to his lifetime 3.90 ERA, which would be higher than any other inductee, but they fail to note his tendency to chew up innings and save bullpens while suffering hits to that ERA. Few pitchers of his era consistently pitched into the eighth and ninth innings more than Jack Morris. No one does it today. Not even Justin Verlander.
During his career, Morris was the definition of a No. 1 pitcher — a reliable workhorse that managers could trot out to the mound inning after inning. He also might have been the most difficult pitcher in history to remove from a game, often snarling at managers strolling to the pitcher’s mound and demanding to stay in the game. Nowadays, most starters would be elated with having pitched six good innings before retiring for the night.
And despite playing myriad games there, Tiger Stadium was not a friend to Morris. One of the most hitter-friendly parks of its time, Tiger Stadium was a place where even routine fly balls seemed to will themselves over the walls.
The anti-Morris crowd also shouts about his 0-3 postseason mark with the Blue Jays in 1992, ignoring his perfection for the Tigers and Twins in 1984 and 1991.
For the 1984 Tigers, Morris went 1-0 in the American League Championship Series with a 1.29 ERA and in the World Series he was 2-0 (two complete games) with a 2.00 ERA.
And then in 1991, Morris helped with Twins win a world title with a 2-0 ALCS mark and a 2-0 World Series record that included the lowest postseason series ERA of his career: 1.17.
If those aren’t Hall of Fame numbers, then the voters should start taking down some plaques. Without Morris, the Tigers and Twins likely lose those two World Series.
It should be difficult to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, where standards need to be quite high, and it’s OK to have years in which no one makes it. The NFL elects wave after wave into its hall of fame and seems to have standards only slightly tougher than the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame.
But that doesn’t mean it should close its doors to deserving players either.
Too many voters don’t know Jack.
Contact News Tribune sports editor Rick Lubbers at firstname.lastname@example.org or (218) 723-5317. Follow him @ricklubbersdnt on Twitter.