I’m again holding out hope that Jack Morris will have his ticket to the Hall of Fame punched
Jack Morris obviously is a difficult decision for Hall of Fame voters. He didn’t win 300 games or a Cy Young Award. He led the American League in victories only twice, one of those in the strike-shortened 1981 season. His 3.90 career ERA is not dazzling.
So if you cast your Hall of Fame votes by simply lining up the numbers, there’s a chance that 254 career victories over an 18-year career won’t meet your criteria.
Maybe that’s why Morris is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the 13th time. Only in the last two years has he gotten 50 percent of the votes. He hasn’t come close to the 75-percent threshold.
To me, he exposes one of the flaws in Hall of Fame balloting. Let’s face it, there’s no perfect system. As Joe Torre said, “It’s the Hall of Fame. It’s supposed to be tough to get in.”
In this case, if you did not watch Morris pitch, if you didn’t cover his teams, you might not appreciate him. To many, the enduring memory of Jack Morris is that incredible 10-inning shutout of the Braves in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
Morris took the ball, walked to the mound and wasn’t going to leave until the job was done. He was a tough, cantankerous, competitive bulldog.
He wasn’t the most pleasant human being to be around at times, but he was a winner however way you want to define that word. When I covered the Orioles in the ’80s, Morris and Eddie Murray had some hellish battles.
They were alike in a lot of ways. Neither of them said a lot. Both of them believed winning was the only stat that counted.
I hope before my friends cast their ballots, they’ll take one more look at Morris and talk to people like Kirk Gibson and Dan Gladden about what he meant to their teams.
Between 1979 and 1992, Morris averaged 17 victories and 241 innings a season. His ERA over that span was 3.71. He was part of three teams that won the World Series.
Yes, he never won a Cy Young Award. But he finished in the top five in the voting five times. He was in the top five in victories eight times. His 254 victories are 42nd on the all-time list. He’s 32nd in strikeouts and 50th in innings.
Even if some of his numbers don’t measure up, there ought to be some consideration of the human element, what he brought to the table, how he impacted others, etc.
Jack’s teammates knew he gave them a chance to win, and that the bigger the game, the better he’d be. In seven World Series starts, he compiled a 2.96 ERA.
If you covered baseball in the ’80s, especially if you covered the American League East, there’s absolutely no arguing against Jack Morris. Those of us who were there with him, who watched him and appreciated him, know he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Maybe his path to the Hall of Fame will be like that of Bert Blyleven, who got in on his 14th time on the ballot. He didn’t get 50 percent of the votes until his ninth year.
Whether Morris gets in or not, he’ll remain in a special place in the hearts and minds of the people who played with him, and more importantly, against him.
One afternoon, I was standing with Earl Weaver and Sparky Anderson on the field at Tiger Stadium.
Like baseball men of their generation often did, they were talking about the possibility of being fired.
Weaver’s Orioles were having a bad year, and Weaver said something about his owner being perfectly justified in getting rid of him.
“See them guys,” he said, motioning toward Jack Morris and Dan Petry, his top two starters.
“I can’t get fired as long as I have them,” he said.
Indeed, a lot of Jack’s managers felt that way about him.