A Case for Jack Morris

It’s that time of year again. Time for the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) to vote on the 2014 inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame. New names join the ballot this year including Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine who anchored the Atlanta Braves’ starting rotation through the 90s and early 2000s, but the longest standing member of the Hall of Fame ballot is a man who beat the Braves in the 1991 World Series. Every year people debate the merits of Jack Morris’ career, and every year before, he’s failed to get the necessary 75% support from the baseball writers. Today, I will argue the case for him to finally get his plaque in Cooperstown.

Jack Morris has been on the Hall of Fame ballot since 2000, making this year his last year of eligibility to be voted in by the BBWAA. When the results of last year’s vote were released in January of 2013, he received 67.7% of the vote, so he would need to gain significant support in order to be voted in this year. Morris was a five time All Star, a four time World Series Champion, and the World Series MVP in 1991, where he pitched a phenomenal ten inning shutout in Game 7 to outlast John Smoltz in one of the greatest pitcher’s duels in the history of the game. That game capped off one of the most exciting and hard fought World Series of all time. Morris and Smoltz were two pitching titans, one young, one old, who had their best stuff that night. The old man prevailed over the young man like something out of a Hollywood script (in fact, Sylvester Stallone probably watched the ’91 World Series and cried because of how much better it was than that dreadful Rocky V). Morris won more games than any other pitcher in the 1980s, pitched a no hitter for the eventual champion Detroit Tigers in 1984, and was part of the most recent championships for three different franchises: the Tigers (1984), Minnesota Twins (1991), and Toronto Blue Jays (1992 and ’93).

The biggest argument against Morris is his 3.90 career ERA, and people like to downplay the win stat in baseball. Jack Morris is an example of why wins for a pitcher are important. Felix Hernandez may have won a Cy Young Award with an 11 win season, but that doesn’t make the number meaningless. Wins show that a pitcher has the ability to throw well enough to compete, regardless of the run support from his teammates. Not only was Morris a winner, but he was a winner in the playoffs. A vote for Jack Morris will set an important precedent for allowing good pitchers with less-than-jaw-dropping regular season stats who can turn it on in October when every mistake is magnified tenfold. A vote for Jack Morris is a vote for Curt Schilling. A vote for Jack Morris is a vote for Chris Carpenter. A vote for Jack Morris is a vote for Andy Pettitte. A vote for Jack Morris is a vote for Jon Lester (I know it’s premature, and he hasn’t even turned 30 yet, but the guy has helped the Red Sox to two World Series, and has been a beast in the playoffs his whole career). All of those pitchers are guys I would put in the Hall in a heartbeat if it were up to me.

Ultimately it comes down to what the BBWAA decides to feel self-righteous about this winter. This is the same body that appears likely to vote in Craig Biggio before Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens because steroids offend them now, and failed to unanimously vote in Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron because some of its members refuse to vote for someone if it is their first year on the ballot. It took 14 ballots for them to induct Bert Blyleven and all 15 ballots to induct Jim Rice, so as long as he’s still on the ballot, there’s a chance. I’m hoping the baseball writer bureaucracy does the right thing this winter. If there’s no room in Cooperstown for a big game pitcher like Jack Morris, where’s the fun in getting in?

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