It’s Hall of Fame Week at Umpbump. We’ll be taking a look at the guys on the ballot and giving you our take on who does and doesn’t belong in Cooperstown. First up is Jack Morris, the winningest pitcher of the 1980s.
Let’s get something straight: Jack Morris isn’t getting into the Hall of Fame. In his first year of eligibility, he received 41.2 percent support from voters. In his second year, he got 37.1 percent. Guys who don’t get into the Hall on the first vote need to build support in subsequent years. It’s a momentum thing. And Morris doesn’t have any momentum.
Let’s get something else straight: Jack Morris belongs in the Hall of Fame. We’re talking about a guy who was one of the best pitchers — maybe the best pitcher — of his era. He was dominant, never more so than when the games mattered most.
There are compelling cases to made in opposition to Morris. But the reasons to vote for him outweigh the reasons to vote against him.
Reasons not to vote for Morris:
1. Morris had 225 win shares.
The Win Shares method, developed by Bill James in 2002, is a complex method for evaluating players which includes all aspects of performance – offense, defense and pitching. James has stated that, “Historically, 400 Win Shares means absolute enshrinement in the Hall of Fame and 300 Win Shares makes a player more likely than not to be a Hall of Famer. However, future standards may be different. Players with 300-350 Win Shares in the past have generally gone into the Hall of Fame. In the future, they more often will not”.
225 Win Shares places Morris 14th among players on this year’s HOF ballot, just behind Chuck Knoblach. Ewww.
2. Morris never won a Cy Young.
3. Morris had a career ERA of 3.90. If elected, he’d have the highest career ERA of any HOF pitcher.
Reasons why none of that matters:
1. Win Shares are a good stat. But they’re not all-important. There are HOF pitchers with fewer Win shares than Morris. Bruce Sutter had 168!
2. Morris never won a Cy Young, but he came darned close. He finished fifth or better in the Cy voting five times. He led the league in wins twice and in strikeouts and complete games once. He was a five-time all-star. And nobody won more games in the 1980s.
3. Yeah, his ERA was high. But his career ERA was inflated by a couple of rough years (1988-1990). You know what Morris did in 1991? He won 21 games and posted an ERA of 3.43. That’s HOF perseverance, baby!
A few more reasons to vote for Morris:
1. The guy was clutch. If the only game you saw Morris pitch was his game seven start in the 1991 World Series, that was enough. Morris started for the Twins three times in that series. In a post season performance for the ages, the 36-year-old hurler threw 10 innings of shutout baseball against the Braves as the Twins won the World title on a 10th inning single by Gene Larkin that scored Dan Gladden. Morris was voted the World Series MVP.
2. Morris gave the most chauvinist quote of his generation, once explaining to a female reporter that, “I don’t talk to women when I’m naked, unless they’re on top of me or I’m on top of them.” Right now Keith Hernandez is reading this and taking notes.
3. Great ‘stache.
4. Morris was a winner. I know that wins and losses are not the best way to judge a pitcher’s performance. I know it. But I can’t get past the feeling that Jack Morris better understood what it takes to win than any other pitcher of his generation. Maybe it’s because he won more games than any other pitcher in the 1980s. Maybe it’s because he was a mostly dominant postseason pitcher. Maybe it’s because he won FOUR World Series rings. But that’s always how it seemed. And I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Morris’s peers respected him. That’s why he played in five all-star games. That’s why he started a record 14 opening day games. He was the man.
One more thing before you go. I think it’s safe to say Curt Schilling will be pulling for Jack Morris. Schilling is the Morris of our generation: a consistently good pitcher who never won a Cy Young and whose big-game performances have enhanced his legend. Schilling, incidentally, has 242 win shares — 17 more than Morris. But Morris has one thing Schilling doesn’t: a no-hitter.