• A Hall Without Jack Morris Is No Hall at All

    On Wednesday afternoon, it was announced that the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) elected Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas into the Baseball Hall of Fame as the Class of 2014. While each of the candidates were worthy of election (as each were some of the most dominant players of their own or any other era in baseball), there remains a glaring omission from the class that should offend baseball historians and fans of all ages. That omission has nothing to do with the PED era. Instead, I refer to St. Paul, Minnesota native Jack Morris.

    Morris has garnered a lot of attention over the past few years regarding his candidacy for baseball’s Hall of Fame. Most recently, Morris’ attention has stemmed from his inability to get elected to the Hall in his final year on the ballot. The argument presents many conflicting points.

    On one hand, had Morris been elected, his ERA (3.90) would have been the highest ERA ever allowed in the Hall of Fame, ousting Red Ruffing’s career 3.80 ERA. According to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, Morris also gave up so many hits and runs that he never finished among the top four in his league in ERA or WAR and only once did so for WHIP.

    On the other hand, over his 18-year career, Morris compiled a 254-186 record over 549 games—527 of which were starts—which places him 43rd on the all-time wins list. For comparison, Ruffing (whose aforementioned 3.80 ERA is the highest among Hall of Fame pitchers) had a career 273-225 record over 624 games—536 of which were starts—and he was elected into the Hall of Fame. As it currently stands, one of the 50 winningest pitchers of all-time will not be in the Hall of Fame and if you consider the thousands of pitchers who have pitched throughout the game’s history (some good, some bad), leaving out one of the top 50 (based on wins alone) is questionable. Morris was only 19 wins behind Ruffing, started 9 fewer games, had a 0.10 higher ERA than he did, and pitched in an era with a designated hitter; yet, Ruffing is in the Hall and Morris is not. At the very least, Morris requires serious consideration.

    Within his era, he further shines. According to Verducci, from 1979-1992, Morris threw 18% more innings than any other starting pitcher and made it through the 8th inning in his starts 45% more often than any other pitcher. In an era where five men rotations were becoming more common and pitchers weren't being asked to pitch more than six innings very often, Morris’ accomplishments during his career represent a dying breed of pitchers who pitched deeper into games on a more regular basis and accumulated more innings over the duration of their careers.

    More impressive, he accomplished this all while pitching in the American League with a designated hitter in every lineup. Among all starting pitchers who debuted between 1970 and 1984, Morris won the most games (254), completed the most games by far (175, or 22 percent more than the next closest pitcher), posted the second best winning percentage (.577) and had the second most strikeouts (2,478) (Verducci). Those stats, however, do not give justice to the complete profile that Morris has assembled over his illustrious career.

    Morris made 14 Opening Day starts, six Game One playoff starts (of which he went 4-2), one unforgettable Game 7 start in 1991, was selected to five All-Star teams, and finished in the top five for Cy Young Award voting five times in his career. Although Morris only had three seasons of 20 or more wins, his perception as a staff ace and bulldog on the mound garnered him a reputation around the game as one of the most durable and productive pitchers of his era. In a culture in which a player is equally judged by the number of championships they won as they are by their individual achievements, Morris’ playoff resume is equally impressive. Morris won three World Series titles and sported a career 7-4 record with a 3.80 ERA in the playoffs and a 4-2 record with a 2.96 ERA in the World Series. These statistics reflect a pitcher who excelled on the biggest stage where players careers are often judged most critically.

    No pitcher has ever pitched their entire career in the American League during the designated hitter era and been elected into the Hall of Fame. Shouldn’t Morris be the first? Sure you can point to his high ERA and his lower win total compared to other Hall of Fame pitchers, but that shouldn’t deter voters from electing Morris into the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is made for players who left an impact on the game of baseball and were among the elite players of their era.

    Morris fits the bill for both of those characteristics. His 10 inning masterpiece in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series has gone down as one of the greatest outings in Major League history and his statistics rank among the best pitchers from the era that he came from.

    A lot of the skepticism surrounding Morris’ candidacy is related to the lack of quality pitchers coming out of the era in which he pitched in. Despite the lack of elite pitching talent during this era compared to other eras in history, Morris shouldn’t be punished for pitching at the time that he did. The fact of the matter is this: Morris was one of the elite pitchers of his time and thus, he should be recognized for it.

    When Kirby Puckett was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001, there was little arguing among baseball minds that Puckett deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. I would tend to argue that Puckett was one of the greatest players who ever lived. He dominated the era that he was in and gave several lasting memories that will stand in baseball history forever.

    However, if you look at his stats and judge Puckett solely by those stats, one could argue that Puckett’s stats aren’t completely “Hall of Fame worthy” by comparison to other players already in the Hall. Puckett may have been a 10-time All-Star, 6-time Gold Glove Award winner, and 5-time Silver Slugger Award with career totals of a .318 batting average with 2,304 hits, 207 HR and 1,085 RBI over his 12-year career, but those statistics don’t rank among the game’s elite. At the time of his election in 2001, Puckett ranked 24th in career batting average, 47th in career on base percentage, 50th in runs, 25th in home runs, and 34th in RBIs out of the 59 total outfielders in the Hall of Fame. Since Puckett’s numbers ranked among the middle to lower end of the spectrum when compared to all of the outfielders in the Hall of Fame, does that mean he shouldn’t be in the Hall? No way.

    Puckett was judged by so much more than simply his statistics. His legacy had just as much to do with him getting in the Hall as his play on the field did. What created and solidified Puckett’s legacy among the game’s greats were his performances on the biggest stage, the World Series. His infamous catch and walk-off homerun in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series is firmly implanted in the minds of baseball historians and fans forever and it undoubtedly had an impact on how the voters perceived Puckett when his “Hall of Fame Judgment Day” came in 2001. With that in mind, why shouldn’t Morris’ strong performances in the World Series (i.e. Game 7 of 1991) hold the same kind of impact on his candidacy?

    If you rank Morris statistically among some of the pitchers already in the Hall of Fame, his rankings might be similar in comparison to that of Puckett’s and the rest of the Hall of Fame outfielders, but does that make him any more or less worthy of election? The answer to that question is no. While some of the statistical categories clearly show that Puckett is Hall of Fame worthy and ranks among the game’s best to ever play the position, others rank him among the bottom of the group when it comes to particular statistics; however, Puckett was still elected to the Hall and so should Morris.

    Morris' timing isn't doing him any favors. Puckett was elected in 2001 when there weren’t as many viable candidates jockeying for position as there are in 2014 when Morris is trying to get in. Morris had to compete for votes with PED era holdovers and stalwarts such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa whereas Puckett had to compete with Gary Carter, Morris, Goose Gossage, Jim Rice, and Bruce Sutter for votes. Although many of the players Puckett had to compete with for votes eventually were elected into the Hall, the situation and voting attitude is much different now than it was back then. Voter’s opinions are more diversified now than ever before and it has resulted in a declining number of players getting elected each year.

    If the Hall of Fame is truly the sacred place that the BBWAA is trying to uphold and build upon by adding the greatest players in baseball history—while keeping out the players who tarnish the game’s integrity—then Morris deserves to be a part of it. If you look at his complete body of work considering his statistics, reputation, and performance during his specific era, he will remain among the best pitchers who ever played the game.

    Sadly, it seems as if the BBWAA has their own hidden agendas behind their voting that may stem from personal experiences or perceptions of the players instead of their performance on the field. These hidden agendas are costing players like Morris—who deserve to be in the Hall—a chance to be recognized for the greatness of their careers. I shudder at the thought of who else may be left out because of such nonsensical reasoning.

    By not electing Morris in his last year of eligibility, the BBWAA hasn’t upheld their duty to elect the best players into baseball’s most sacred place. Should the system be changed? I’m not sure; but if you ask me, a Hall without Jack Morris is no Hall at all.





    Photo Courtesy of Rick Stewart-Getty Images

    This article was originally published in blog: A Hall Without Jack Morris is No Hall at All started by bwille
    Comments 127 Comments
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by OldManWinter View Post
      Levisthan: it could be some of us place more weight on what we saw and were aware of over Jack Morris' career rather than a comparison of stats.
      That's fine....up to the point that you rely on that biased perception to the point of erroneous beliefs. For example, Barreiro and then people here suggested that his high ERA was the result of pitching past exhaustion late in games. The stats show that this is completely false.

      If you want to romanticize beyond the stats - that's fine. But romanticizing a player's value in direct contrast to the stats is an issue. As the link Brock posted above demonstrates - there is a LOT of that in play with Morris for whatever reason.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by OldManWinter View Post
      Levisthan: it could be some of us place more weight on what we saw and were aware of over Jack Morris' career rather than a comparison of stats.

      That is valid too. Consider since the beginning of MLB time the baseball people made their player decisions without any metrics. Can anyone imagine Ozzie Guillen or Jim Leyland pouring over metrics to make their player decisions?

      That is not to discount metrics, only to say there are different ways of coming to conclusions. After all, for most of us baseball is entertainment and these are only opinions.

      That JM had a high ERA is a fact and that it is higher than most in the HOF is also a fact. Whether they are serious enough to disqualify HOF membership is an opinion. I think he belongs.
      The problem with this is you were not able to see all the pitchers of Jack's era as often as you saw Jack. So, naturally, you will recall his performances more than other pitchers who are just as worthy or worthier. That's one reason we have stats, which, by the way, we have always had. They were just less reliable before Sabremetrics. Stats are our way of correcting the biases that happen naturally no matter how much time we've spent watching the game we love. In the case of the HOF vote, there are so many voters to correct for these biases. The fact that he didn't get in after years and years of such votes is an indicator that he doesn't belong, at least not his bust.
    1. Hosken Bombo Disco's Avatar
      Hosken Bombo Disco -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      If you want to romanticize beyond the stats - that's fine. But romanticizing a player's value in direct contrast to the stats is an issue. As the link Brock posted above demonstrates - there is a LOT of that in play with Morris for whatever reason.
      Of course we are romanticizing! Because for many people Morris's value transcended his stats (which were still pretty good). Ask me in a year what Morris's career ERA is and I will have forgotten but will probably tell you it was something like 2.45 and then we'll launch into a barstool debate about the players -- besides Rollie Fingers and Jack Morris -- who had the greatest moustaches in baseball, which is a heck of a lot funner than arguing about some guys fWAR vs bWAr
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      That's fine....up to the point that you rely on that biased perception to the point of erroneous beliefs. For example, Barreiro and then people here suggested that his high ERA was the result of pitching past exhaustion late in games. The stats show that this is completely false.

      If you want to romanticize beyond the stats - that's fine. But romanticizing a player's value in direct contrast to the stats is an issue. As the link Brock posted above demonstrates - there is a LOT of that in play with Morris for whatever reason.
      I don't think someone's opinion about the worthiness of a player for MLB's HOF is "an issue."
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Glavine made it in on his first ballot. Other than pitching 4 years longer, what did Glavine do that was better than Mussina? Wins are a team stat. Cy Young awards are a popularity contest. Mussina had the audacity to retire when he was still good, Glavine did not. Cy Young awards are votes based on a subjective opinion on who had the best year, see 1998 Cy Young results. The only thing Glavine did better than Brown or Maddux was win more games. For a career Gavine won 35 more games than Mussina. That was enough to get 409 more HOF votes. What made his career better than Mussina's? A team stat and a beauty contest.
      There are no individual benchmarks for pitchers other than 300 wins, except if you are Roger Clemons. After Randy Johnson and Mariano Rivera get in there might not be another pitcher for a while.

      When you look at Morris's career, he never won a beauty contest, he wore out before he could get to 300 wins. He was over the time he pitched one of the best for durability and consistency. He pitched 2 teams to WS wins. In the end, not quite enough.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      I don't think someone's opinion about the worthiness of a player for MLB's HOF is "an issue."
      You took a comment completely out of context. Especially in light of the fact that the discussion started with the implication that stat-oriented people were arriving at conclusions and then finding facts.

      My point was that if you are trusting your romanticized bias of a player over (and especially in direct contradiction to) stats, there is an issue with your reasoning. Especially if you're lobbing that kind of accusation around.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      the thing about observation bias and MLB is this.....

      Did anyone that "saw" how great a player was really watch all 162 games for all the teams? If not, how do you know he was better w/o using measurment?
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