Baseball Hall of Fame debates 2013: Jack Morris
Part 5 of a 10-part series that looks at prominent potential Hall of Famers for the Class of 2013 and the reasons to vote them in -- or keep them out.
Jack Morris is in his 14th year on the ballot. The former Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays and Indians righty is a lightning rod for many Hall of Fame voters. In a classic case of "eyes" vs. "numbers," some see Morris as the top pitcher of the 1980s who unquestionably belongs in the Hall. Others see his career as decidedly average. One thing both sides agree on: He pitched one heck of a game in October 1991.
THE CASE FOR THE HALL
If Jack Morris is elected to the Hall of Fame in January, he will have punched his ticket on Oct. 27, 1991, during Game 7 of the World Series at the Metrodome.
It was one of the most memorable games of the last quarter-century, and Morris was the star.
Facing a young John Smoltz, the veteran Morris was brilliant. He pitched 10 shutout innings and earned the win after Chaminade High School graduate Gene Larkin's walk-off single handed the Twins the Series. Morris was named World Series MVP.
That game became Morris' calling card, but it was also the perfect encapsulation of his 18-year career as an American League bulldog:
-- He twice led the league in wins (1981, 1992).
-- He won double-digit games 14 times (including a streak from 1979-1988).
-- He won more than 15 games 10 times.
-- He was a five-time All-Star.
-- He had seven top-nine finishes in Cy Young Award voting.
-- He was in the top 21 of MVP voting five times.
His 162 wins in the 1980s were the most in that decade. If Jim Rice got in the Hall of Fame chiefly for being "the most feared hitter" of the 1980s, shouldn't Morris' election be simple if he was the best pitcher during that same time?
Morris' greatest strength was his ability to go deep into games. Morris threw 175 complete games, led the league in 1990 with 11 complete games, led the league in 1986 with six shutouts and led the league in innings pitched in 1983 (2932/3).
And it was that endurance and competitive fire he took with him into World Series Game 7 in 1991, allowing him to pitch in and out of trouble for 10 innings.
Morris peaked last year with 66.7 percent of the votes (75 percent is needed for enshrinement). His vote total has increased each year since 2007 (37.1).
THE CASE AGAINST THE HALL
Here's the easy stuff. If you're a fan of wins, Morris won only 254 games, not even close to the "magic number" of 300. If you like ERA, Morris' career ERA of 3.90 is about good enough to earn him a spot in the middle of a rotation but is hardly an automatic entry into the Hall of Fame.
If you like awards, well, Morris didn't win any. At least not during the regular season. He never finished better than third in Cy Young Award voting. He never finished better than 13th in MVP voting.
Oh, but the postseason, right? That's supposedly Morris' bread and butter. Except that his postseason exploits have become more lore than fact over time.
Morris was 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA overall in the postseason. He appeared in seven postseason series and was excellent in three of them: 1984 American League Championship Series (1-0, 1.29 ERA); 1984 World Series (2-0, 2.00 ERA); 1991 World Series (2-0, 1.17 ERA). He was good in one of them: 1991 ALCS (2-0, 4.05 ERA). He was awful in the other three: 1987 ALCS (0-1, 6.75 ERA); 1992 ALCS (0-1, 6.57 ERA); 1992 World Series (0-2, 8.44 ERA).
Take away that one outstanding World Series game in 1991 and what do you have? A pitcher who belongs in the memory banks, but not in the Hall of Fame. That game is supposed to show Morris' prowess. What it really does is obscure a respectable career that was just slightly above average.