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Rick Lubbers column: Blyleven is deserving of the Hall, but so is a waiting Jack Morris

Now that the Baseball Writers Association of America voters have finally circled Bert Blyleven on enough ballots to put the former Minnesota Twins pitcher into the Hall of Fame -- the fourth former Twin to be immortalized -- it's time to lobby fo...

Now that the Baseball Writers Association of America voters have finally circled Bert Blyleven on enough ballots to put the former Minnesota Twins pitcher into the Hall of Fame -- the fourth former Twin to be immortalized -- it's time to lobby for the fifth.

Jack Morris.

Bert's journey to the Hall of Fame took 14 years before he received more than 75 percent of the votes necessary for induction, but with 287 wins, 3,701 strikeouts and 60 shutouts to his resume, why did it have to take this long?

Morris, another player who should have had his ticket punched to Cooperstown, N.Y., years ago, received 53.5 percent of the needed votes on Wednesday -- up about 1 percent from last year (52.3). And Morris only has three more years of eligibility left.

During his time with the Detroit Tigers, Twins, Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians, he was a model of unwavering consistency, durability and toughness. There was no better pitcher in the 1980s, and his dominance of the 14-year span from 1979-92 is unmatched by any of his peers.

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Simply put, he was the most dominant pitcher of the 1980s, won three World Series with three different teams and was the consummate ace throughout his 18 big league seasons.

Morris is a throwback to the days when pitchers completed the games they started and challenged hitters, instead of pitching around them. When Morris didn't want to leave a game, he drew a line on the pitcher's mound instead of handing the ball to his manager, whether the skipper was Detroit's Sparky Anderson or Minnesota's Tom Kelly. He growled and they trudged back to the dugout.

And he feared no one, often going right after a big bat rather than trying to find a back door to conjure an out. Morris didn't paint corners of the strike zone; he used a blow torch on it.

Here's what stands out from Morris' 18-year career:

-- 254-186 overall record.

-- 13 seasons of 14 or more victories.

-- Three seasons of 20 or more wins.

-- 175 complete games (Obviously this was before the age of pitching counts and multiple relievers.)

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-- 28 career complete game shutouts.

-- Ace pitcher on three World Series-winning teams.

-- A no-hitter.

-- His legendary performance in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series for the Twins, in which he pitched 10 shutout innings -- on three days rest -- to propel the Twins to the world title.

Those are the marks of a Hall of Fame pitcher.

Bert agrees.

"Hopefully Jack is going to follow me here, maybe next year, maybe the year to follow," Blyleven told the Associated Press on Wednesday. "But my words to Jack would be, 'Don't give up.' His numbers are out there. He's got very impressive numbers. He's had a great career, and hopefully one day his day will come."

But two things have hurt Jack's case for the Hall of Fame.

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One, critics often note his 3.90 ERA as a Hall of Fame roadblock. What they don't mention is that old Tiger Stadium was every hitter's best friend and every pitcher's enemy. Had he thrown in a pitcher-friendly ballpark, his ERA definitely would have been much lower. And, as an American League pitcher, he never had the benefit of tossing to a fellow hurler every nine batters.

Two, Morris was not a friend of the media. Some baseball writers dubbed him "Mount Morris" because of his legendary temper, and a couple of times he went on "media strikes." That shouldn't matter when it comes to the Hall of Fame, but his cantankerous history with the media certainly doesn't help garner votes.

Every member of the Hall of Fame had his share of critics -- heck, even Nolan Ryan was left off a ballot or two -- but Jack Morris certainly deserves a place among baseball's immortal.

Contact News Tribune sports editor Rick Lubbers at rlubbers@duluthnews.com or (218) 723-5317.

Related Topics: BASEBALL
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