Hall of Fame Debate – Jack Morris

Jan 7, 2009

Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor and I are back to debate Jack Morris’ Hall of Fame worthiness.

The Numbers
254 Wins (40th All-time)
3.90 ERA
2478 Strikeouts (31st All-time)
3824 Innings (49th All-time)
527 starts (35th All-time)
175 Complete Games
28 Shutouts

The Awards
World Series MVP
5 All-Star Appearances
Received MVP votes in 5 seasons
Recieved Cy Young votes in 7 seasons

Top Ten Finishes
Wins – 12 Times (Led league in ‘81 & ‘92)
ERA – 5 Times
Strikeouts – 8 Times (Led league ‘83)
Innings – 9 Times (Led league in ‘83)
Starts – 11 Times (Led league in ‘90 & ‘91)
Complete Games – 10 Times (Led league in ‘90)
Shutouts – 8 Times (Led league in ‘86)
Winning Percentage – 5 Times

Hall of Fame Yardsticks
Black Ink: Pitching – 20 (89) (Average HOFer ≈ 40)
Gray Ink: Pitching – 193 (47) (Average HOFer ≈ 185)
HOF Standards: Pitching – 39.0 (73) (Average HOFer ≈ 50)
HOF Monitor: Pitching – 122.5 (64) (Likely HOFer > 100)

Lester’s Take
1991.  Game 7.  Minnesota Twins vs. Atlanta Braves.  Jack Morris vs. John Smoltz.  In perhaps the best postseason performace of the modern era, Jack Morris throws ten innings of shutout ball to deliver a World Series to Minnesota in 1-0 ballgame.  That’s the stuff that legends are made of.  That’s just one reason he belongs in the Hall of Fame.  Jack Morris won World Series titles with three different teams (Detroit in ‘84, Minnesota in ‘91, and Toronto in ‘92) compiling a World Series record of 3-0 with a 2.96 ERA in seven games.  He went 6-1 in 13 career playoff starts.  Morris isn’t limited to that brilliant World Series performance, those seven World Series games, or those 13 playoff games.  His overall numbers speak to his worthiness as well.

Morris had more wins in the 80’s (162) than any other pitcher.  Dave Steib is the next closest with 140.  Every pitcher that has led a decade in Wins is in the Hall of Fame.  He was a model of consistency winning at least 15 games in 12 of the 14 seasons in which he had at least 25 starts.  His dominance is equaled by his durability.  He made over 500 consecutive starts without missing a turn in the rotation.  He also owns a no-hitter (1984 vs. the White Sox).

Gone are the days of 300 wins careers.  With five-man rotations, you just don’t get enough starts to reach the plateau.  That benchmark may need to be adjusted.  He was an elite pitcher for  a decade with a history of big games in the postseason and unmatched durability.  That says Hall of Famer in my book.    

Rotoprofessor’s Take
Jack Morris was a tremendous big game pitcher, maybe the best of his generation.  The 10-inning shutout performance against the Braves will go down in history as one of the greatest ever.  He should be honored for it.  He absolutely should be.  Baseball historians should mention the performance when they release Top 10 games pitched lists.  Fans should remember with awe the stuff that Morris brought to the table that day.  It was that good.  It was great.
 
However, that one game, and the other 12 he threw in the postseason, does not make an entire career.  Yes, the 254 Wins are a nice number, but he is a pitcher who posted a career ERA of 3.90 and not once was under 3.  In fact, in 8 of his seasons his ERA was over 4.  Does that sound like a pitcher who deserves to be enshrined with some of the best?
 
Three 20 Win seasons is nice, but one of them came with a 4.04 ERA, certainly not something that is all that impressive.  Not once did he win the Cy Young Award, being named the best pitcher in his league.  Finishing in the Top 10 is nice, and shows that you are a very good pitcher, but to be remembered as one of the best you need to prove it, and not just in a few select moments. 
 
Honor the great moments that Morris provided over his career, he deserves that.  Honor him as a good pitcher, a very good pitcher even.  Do not honor him as one of the best, because he wasn’t, and for that reason I would not vote him into the Hall of Fame.

Previous Debates
Mark McGwire (Hall of Fame)
Tim Raines (Hall of Fame)
Bernie Williams (Hall of Fame)
Ryan Dempster (2009 Season)

. .

28 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Frank
    January 7th, 2009 at 11:08 am #

    Great work guys!

    HOF selections are tough for me because of the following:
    1) The HOF is reserved for the best, not the very good
    2) Not all members were the very best, thus includes some of the very good.

    The later makes comparing stats of who’s out with who’s in very difficult … then factor in the different eras … tough task.

    In terms of Jack Morris, I side more with the professor on this one. The pitcher that I would vote in? Bert Blyleven.

  2. Brad
    January 7th, 2009 at 1:29 pm #

    I have to say let him in. He has 250+ wins, and he was the wins leader in the 80s…which should be enough to get him in, and it is hard to turn down the guy who put out the greatest pitching performance (1991 Game 7) I have ever seen in my lifetime.

    Great debate though, and I do agree with Frank that Blyleven should be in as well.

  3. LestersLegends
    January 7th, 2009 at 2:29 pm #

    I agree with Bert, but if I had the choice I would go with Jack. Not only does he have the postseason heroics, but he was a higher caliber pitcher than Bert.

    Brad – Totally agree

  4. Larry Novak
    January 7th, 2009 at 3:03 pm #

    I have to say Jack should be in but so should Bert, Tommy John and Jim Katt.

  5. LestersLegends
    January 7th, 2009 at 3:06 pm #

    I agree with all of them, but when you think about which one was the best of those guys I think it may be Morris. I don’t understand how a guy who was one of the best for an entire decade with his postseason resume isn’t getting in. It’s nuts.

  6. doug robison
    June 27th, 2009 at 1:40 pm #

    I appreciate both analyses but disagree with the professor, especially on the comment that Morris’s 12 post season games are excellent but don’t “make a career.” Look again at his career numbers: winningest pitcher in major league baseball in the 1980s; was totally integral in helping three different teams win the world series. Everything about Jack Morris was about winning, and that is the bottom line. If he goes into the Hall of Fame he would have the highest lifetime e.r.a. of all pitchers in the Hall. So what? Someone has to have that distinction. He pitched 18 seasons. He was a workhorse. He pitched a tremendous number of innings, and he pitched in an era when starters did not get as many starts and when relievers were beginning to be used much more than in previous eras. Don’t forget also that he pitched during the second decade of the use of designated hitters when the dh was becoming more refined. These three facts alone have to play a significant role in his higher e.r.a. and fewer wins. Jack Morris was a proven winner and he belongs in the Hall. Lets get him in there!

  7. LestersLegends
    June 27th, 2009 at 1:52 pm #

    To me it doesn’t make his career, but it puts him over the top.

  8. erik
    July 26th, 2009 at 12:19 am #

    stop smoking crack and put him in. if he was a yankee he would have been in years ago. alan trammel too. he was way better than ozzie amith.

  9. erik
    July 26th, 2009 at 12:19 am #

    stop smoking crack and put him in. if he was a yankee he would have been in years ago. alan trammel too. he was way better than ozzie smith.

  10. erik
    July 26th, 2009 at 12:25 am #

    ill go a step further. you would have to be high on crystal meth, crack rocks, and heroine if you chose ozzie smith over alan trammel. trammel was way better than that weak arm, no hitting bum. smith hit 28 homers in his career and trammel hit 28 in one season. trammel was a great defender too with a way better arm. whitaker should be in with trammel too. they hold so many records as a SS-2B combo it is sick. if they were yankees they would be in there.

  11. LestersLegends
    July 26th, 2009 at 2:06 am #

    There are more less deserving Shortstops in the HOF than Ozzie. To me Ozzie belongs, but Trammell does too.

  12. Larry
    July 26th, 2009 at 7:40 am #

    When he retires I would say Omar Vizquel should be in also.
    He was totally overshawdowed most of his career by Derek Jeter, Nomar and A-Rod.

  13. LestersLegends
    July 26th, 2009 at 7:42 am #

    Omar has been a whiz with the glove and I agree with your assessment.

  14. edollar
    August 4th, 2009 at 12:34 am #

    a lot of other people need to get in before visquel

  15. Gary Zwillinger
    November 22nd, 2009 at 12:52 pm #

    I grew up with baseball numbers in my head. I was always good at math because I started out figuring out batting averages when I was 7 years old. Only kids who became baseball fans at the age of 7 know that 2 for 7 is a .285 batting average. The numbers 714 (Ruth’s home run total) 56 (Joe Dimaggio’s consecutive hitting streak), and .406 (Ted William’s average in 1941 when he went 6 for 8 in the last doubleheader against Philadelphia) stuck in my head for a lifetime.

    So now I’m an adult and the steroid era has destroyed one of the great assets of the game; the statistics. How do you justify the statement that the greatest “non-juiced” home run season since Maris’ 61 in 1961 is Luis Gonzales’ 57 in 2001 (if even that was a non-juiced year). The icon of truth and justice is Jose Canseco. Really? That’s what we’ve come to.

    And then I look back at the 80’s and see these ballplayers getting jobbed by the Hall of Fame Committee because they’ve spend the last 15 years with these outrageous numbers/statistics as the milestone, and guys like Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson and Jack Morris can’t live up to them. Well, I’m not one to look back on those days of yesteryear when everything was peaches and cream, but some of these 80’s guys are clear hall of famers, especially in contrast to what has gone on over the last 15 years. Well, here’s an argument for Jack Morris, one of the toughest pitchers this game will ever see. He belongs in the Hall of Fame and this is my justification

    Gary Zwillinger

    THE CASE FOR JACK MORRIS

    INTRODUCTION

    In his first year of eligibility for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001, Jack Morris received 101 out of a possible 515 votes cast (19.61%). In his second year, Morris received a similar number and percentage (97 votes out of 472 votes cast – 20.55%). His third year bumped that percentage to approximately 23%. Over the last few years, his numbers have risen to approximately 44%. In order to be elected, a candidate must receive at least 75% of the votes cast.

    The question is why would the man who: (i) won more games than any major league pitcher during the decade of the 1980’s; (ii) is generally credited with having pitched the defining 7th game of a World Series; (iii) whose 254 career wins exceeds the career win totals of Hall of Famers Carl Hubbell, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Jim Bunning, Hal Newhouser and Bob Lemon, among others, and (iv) was called by Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons, the “best of his time, especially when it counted. It never dawned on me that he wouldn’t be a first-ballot winner”; be on a course to languish among the large group of “good but not worthy” pitchers over the course of a “solid” career.

    The answer, as set forth in this presentation, is that the absence of one or two magnificent “career” years or one meteoric statistic has allowed a clearly worthy Hall of Fame career to be obscured.

    The purpose of this presentation is to set the record straight and make the case for Jack Morris’ entry into the Hall of Fame.

    THE FACTS AND THE ARGUMENT

    The game of comparisons among pitchers from different decades is a tricky one. The use of the total number of wins as the basis for either side of an argument (e.g. Morris won 70 less games than Don Sutton but was clearly more dominant and worthy, or Morris won 89 more games than Sandy Koufax but never reached his heights) provides support for Mark Twain’s distrust for statistics. However, a pitcher’s dominance in comparison to the other pitchers of his time, during the bulk and prime of an extended career, must be a valid yardstick for analysis.

    Morris’ prime was the 14-year period from 1979-1992 (he pitched only 151 innings before 1979 and only 2 years after 1992). During that period, his 233 wins were not only the most by a major league pitcher, they were shockingly the most by 41 games (Bob Welch was next at 192, 174 for Dave Stieb and 168 for Nolan Ryan).

    The purpose of this analysis is not to detract from Nolan Ryan, but it’s hard to ignore that during a 14 year period of what is Ryan’s “second prime” (it is, after all, Ryan’s longevity and strikeout numbers which propelled him into the Hall so overwhelmingly), Morris outwins the near unanimous first rounder by 65 games.

    It’s instructive that 14 consecutive years seems to be an accurate yardstick for great pitchers who stake their Cooperstown claim on the strength of their “prime” (we’ll call them the “Prime Pitchers”) as opposed to the group of great pitchers who base their claims on longevity (we’ll call them the “Endurers”).

    Step back 10 years from Morris’ prime and look at the great pitchers of the late 60’s and 70’s. In what is the prime of the great Tom Seaver (1969-1982 – remember 1969 is the “Miracle Mets” year when Seaver wins 25), Seaver wins one game less than Morris in his 14 year prime (233 for Morris and 232 for Seaver). The 14-year period from 1961 to 1974 for Bob Gibson shows Gibson winning 242 games, 9 more than Morris. Jim Palmer’s 14 year prime (1969-1982) has him winning 240 games (7 more than Morris). Steve Carlton’s 14-year prime (1969-1982) is the best of that era at 258 wins followed by Gaylord Perry (14-year prime from 1966-1979) at 255 wins. Ferguson Jenkins’ 14 year prime (1967-1980) is next at 251 wins. Other than the somewhat earlier era career of Warren Spahn (the tops at 270 during his 14 year prime from 1947-1960), the only other two post World War II pitchers to win more than Jack Morris in their 14 consecutive year primes are Greg Maddux ( 1987-2000 – 238 wins – 5 more than Morris) and Juan Marichal (1961-1974 – 237 wins – 4 more than Morris). All of the above are Hall of Famers (including the certain future entry of Maddux)

    The following Prime Pitchers fall short of Morris’ 233 wins in his 14-year prime:

    • Whitey Ford (1953-1966) 225 wins (Hall of Famer)
    • Jim Bunning (1957-1970) 221 wins (Hall of Famer)
    • Roger Clemens ((1986-1999) 231 wins (Certain Future Hall of Famer)
    • Don Drysdale (1956-1969) full career – 209 wins (Hall of Famer)
    • Tom Glavine (1987-2000) 208 wins (Maybe Future Hall of Famer)
    • Dennis Martinez (1977- 1990) 159 wins (Unlikely Hall of Famer)
    • Robin Roberts (1949-1962) 227 wins (Hall of Famer)
    • Bob Welch (1979-1992) 192 wins (Unlikely Hall of Famer)

    When we jump to the “Endurers” and give each of them the benefit of the doubt by counting only their “best” 14 years as the basis for the comparison (rather than any one 14 year consecutive period) Morris’ case for immediate entry into Cooperstown is only strengthened. The near unanimous first rounder, Nolan Ryan’s best 14 years gives him 10 less wins than Morris’ prime (Morris’ 233 wins to Ryan’s 223 wins). Bert Blyleven’s so far unsuccessful attempt is based on longevity and strikeouts. Blyleven’s best 14 years are the same as Ryan’s – 223 wins and 10 less than Morris’ prime. Other relevant Endurers and their best 14 years are as follows:

    • Orel Hersheiser —196 wins —37 less than Morris’ Prime (Unlikely Hall of Famer)
    • Bob Feller —242 wins —9 more than Morris’ Prime (Hall of Famer)
    • Catfish Hunter —222 wins — 11 less than Morris’ Prime (Hall of Famer)
    • Jim Kaat — 228 wins — 5 less than Morris’ Prime (Maybe Future Hall of Famer)
    • Jimmy Key —185 wins — 48 less than Morris’ Prime (Unlikely Hall of Famer)
    • Phil Niekro — 236 wins — 3 more than Morris’ Prime (Hall of Famer)
    • Don Sutton —228 wins — 5 less than Morris’ Prime (Hall of Famer)
    • Early Wynn — 237 wins — 4 more than Morris’ Prime (Hall of Famer)
    • David Cone — 182 wins – 51 less than Morris’ Prime (Unlikely Hall of Famer)

    Whether it’s the “Prime Pitcher” analysis or the “Endurer” analysis, the answer is the same. The only pitchers greater than Morris are the consensus Hall of Famers: Seaver, Palmer, Gibson, Carlton, Jenkins, Perry, Marichal, Maddux (when he retires), Feller, Niekro, Spahn and Wynn. The others who have made it as well as those who haven’t are not at his level and the numbers bear that out.

    On a more typical time analysis, the winners of the most games in every decade in the 20th century are all existing. or in the singular case of the 1990′s and Greg Maddux, future Hall of Famers except for one; Jack Morris. The 00’s found Grover Cleveland Alexander as the pitcher with the most wins. The 10’s was led by Walter Johnson; the 20’s by Burleigh Grimes; the 30’s by Lefty Grove, and Hal Newhouser was the winningest pitcher in the 40’s. Probably more instructive is the comparison of Morris with the “modern” pitchers. When you make that comparison, Morris is right in the middle of that group and belongs with them in Cooperstown. They are as follows:

     1950’s Spahn 3 more wins than the next highest, Robin Roberts
     1960’s Marichal 33 more than the next highest, Don Drysdale
     1970’s Palmer 8 more than the next 3 highest, Jenkins, Seaver and Carlton
     1980’s MORRIS 22 more than next highest, Dave Stieb
     1990’s Maddux 12 more than next highest, Tom Glavine

    Jack Morris is in the rarified air that Hall of Famers occupy. His absence would be a great injustice.

    MORRIS’ RESUME

    Morris’ curricula vitae is as follows:

    • Greatest 7th game pitching performance in World Series History (Game 7, 1991, 10 IP – 0 ER – 7 hits- Winning Pitcher in 1-0 victory over Braves)

    • One of the Innovators of the Split Fingered Fastball

    • 1979-1992 – 233 Wins- 41 more than the next highest total and 65 more than Nolan Ryan

    • 254 career wins in 527 starts – comparable to Jim Palmer’s 268 career wins in 521 starts (consider the talent of the Orioles teams over Palmer’s career against that of Morris’ Tigers)

    • 3 seasons with 20 wins or more – compared with Don Sutton’s 1 season- Jim Bunning’s 1 season

    • 5 seasons with 17 wins or more (but less than 20 wins). Ryan had 3 – 17+ seasons

    • 3824 innings pitched – 6X 250+ innings – 11X 200+ innings

    • Pitched on 4 World Champions – Ace of 3 of those teams with a World Series record of 4 wins – 2 losses and a 2.96 ERA in the World Series

    • Acknowledged big time clutch pressure pitcher

    • Unquestioned Pitcher of the 1980’s

    • Pitched a No-Hitter

    • Started 14 consecutive Opening Day games during his career, tying him with the great Walter Johnson for most consecutive Opening Day games

    • Acknowledged number one pitcher on 1984 Detroit Tigers – one
    of baseball’s all time great teams

    Absent from the c.v. is any Cy Young Award. He never led the league in ERA. He led
    the league in strikeouts only once, innings pitched only once and games won twice.

    CONCLUSION

    The picture is clear. While he never dominated for one year in a Koufax or Gibson mode, he did, perhaps more importantly, dominate his era with a magnitude that is the equivalent, at least, of the greatest modern day pitchers. He was the clutch pitcher of his generation and his success in the World Series venue bears that out. When you stack up the numbers, Morris is outperformed only by the most “elite” pitchers of the modern day. Other than those most elite (Seaver, Palmer, Gibson, Carlton, Perry, Spahn, Maddux, Jenkins) existing Hall of Famers fall consistently short of his greatness.

    Morris is a Hall of Famer, plain and simple. The absence of a few stellar years or a Ryan like strikeout ability has to be the answer for the results of his first 2 years on the Hall of Fame ballot. BBWAA writers should take note and correct this mistake. Morris may not be the media friendly quote machine of someone like Palmer, but his dominance of his era over an extended career means he belongs there beside Palmer, Seaver, Gibson and Carlton in Cooperstown.

  16. LestersLegends
    November 22nd, 2009 at 1:20 pm #

    Very well said Gary

  17. Mike
    November 28th, 2009 at 7:57 am #

    This guy is a hall of famer. He won world series with three different teams,how many guys can say that? There was no pitcher better in big games that Jack and just the number of innings and complete games this guy ate up is worthy. he was a true work horse at the tail end of an era where pitchers completed games instead of being micro managed into the 6 or 7th inning snd being pulled for some middle reliever. Jack was a gamer.

  18. LestersLegends
    November 28th, 2009 at 8:09 am #

    Very well said Mike.

  19. Jay
    December 1st, 2009 at 1:04 pm #

    I grew up watching Morris in his prime with the Tigers… I remember him being a notorious slow starter… Seemed like every year he didn’t come into form until June and then after that he was just lights out. He was frustrating to watch as a young baseball fan… I seriously think his numbers would be “no doubt” HOF worthy if he didn’t need the first 10 starts of the season to pitch himself into shape during his years in Detroit.

    (This is just off my childhood recollections, when my mother would force me to go outside and play actual baseball on sunny summer days when I just wanted to stay inside and watch/listen to the Tigers games. I haven’t looked at old box scores or anything… so maybe my “slow starter” tag for Jack is just hazy perceptions… think I’ll have to research this one day.)

  20. LestersLegends
    December 1st, 2009 at 1:21 pm #

    Thanks for sharing Jay.

  21. David
    January 7th, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    I read somewhere but don’t have the tim to find it again maybe you can help me know if it’s true.

    Of pitchers with over so many innings, I think 3,000 but could be wrong, Morris has the WORST ERA not hall of famers not wlite pitchers but any pitcher with over 3,000 innings the worst ERA I think he had 8 season over a 4, that’s just terrible. While WINS are impressive and they are only half of a pithchers resume they are Wins and ERA, I noticed you never mnetioned his ERA it’s not that it was never the best it was never good period. Sounds like I’m really knocking him but I really do think he was a great pitcher just not Hall worthy when you take everything into account.

    Just though people should know some of the negative ass well as the good.

  22. LestersLegends
    January 7th, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

    His ERA wasn’t great, but in big games he stepped up his game.

  23. Larry
    January 7th, 2010 at 3:51 pm #

    Morris should be in because when you combine his regular season along with his post season that makes him a HOFer in my book, The same thing for Schilling.
    Saw a debate on MLB Network about Larkin, And while Costas says Larkin should be in he feels like Larkin did not define the Position like Ozzie Smith or Omar Vazqeul, I get the feeling that Costas believes like me that Vazquel is simply one of the best ever Shortstops (Defensively) and of course he had a pretty good bat too.

  24. LestersLegends
    January 7th, 2010 at 3:56 pm #

    Larkin may not have defined the position, but he was elite. One of the best ever.

  25. Larry
    January 7th, 2010 at 3:59 pm #

    I agree and I think Costas would agree, I think it was him or Harold Reynolds said Larkin was Jeter or A-Rod before Jeter or A-Rod.

  26. LestersLegends
    January 7th, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

    He got overshadowed by Ozzie and Cal, but was right up there with those two. Kind of a hybrid between the two actually.

  27. Jake
    February 13th, 2010 at 4:28 pm #

    Dear Rotoprofessor,

    Please stop ruining baseball by flaunting certain statistics and ignoring others. A 3.9 career ERA is more important then leading a decade in wins. The later is the clear indicator of dominance, and yes a bit of good fortune. Add on top the iconic postseason moments, and a pitcher that really, had some of the most dominant stuff around when it was working for him. I mean, come on, that forkball was wicked. Baseball needs to look at eras and not at ERA’s, he won over 250 games, struck out nearly 2500 batters. And then I see the comparisons to Mike Mussina, who isn’t close to as dominant as Morris was, and the Moose seems like a joke.
    And now we talk about guys like Barry Larkin and Robbie Alomar, and you talk about dominance. I have to argue that those guys were far less dominating batters then Morris was a pitcher. But seems certain they will be enshrined.

  28. gary zwillinger
    February 23rd, 2011 at 11:14 am #

    I grew up with baseball numbers in my head. I was always good at math because I started out figuring out batting averages when I was 7 years old. Only kids who became baseball fans at the age of 7 know that 2 for 7 is a .286 batting average. The numbers 714 (Ruth’s home run total) 56 (Joe Dimaggio’s consecutive hitting streak), and .406 (Ted William’s average in 1941 when he went 6 for 8 in the last doubleheader against Philadelphia) stuck in my head for a lifetime.

    So now I’m an adult and the steroid era has destroyed one of the great assets of the game; the statistics. How do you justify the statement that the greatest “non-juiced” home run season since Maris’ 61 in 1961 is Luis Gonzales’ 57 in 2001 (if even that was a non-juiced year). The icon of truth and justice is Jose Canseco. Really? That’s what we’ve come to.

    And then I look back at the 80’s and see these ballplayers getting jobbed by the Hall of Fame Committee because they’ve spent the last 15 years with these outrageous numbers/statistics as the milestone, and guys like Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris (and until recently Jim Rice and Andre Dawson) can’t live up to them. Well, I’m not one to look back on those days of yesteryear when everything was peaches and cream, but some of these 80’s guys are clear hall of famers, especially in contrast to what has gone on over the last 15 years. Well, here’s an argument for Jack Morris, one of the toughest pitchers this game will ever see. He belongs in the Hall of Fame and this is my justification.

    Gary Zwillinger

    THE CASE FOR JACK MORRIS

    INTRODUCTION

    In his first year of eligibility for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001, Jack Morris received 101 out of a possible 515 votes cast (19.61%). In his second year, Morris received a similar number and percentage (97 votes out of 472 votes cast – 20.55%). His third year bumped that percentage to approximately 23%. Over the last few years, his numbers have risen to approximately 52.4%. In order to be elected, a candidate must receive at least 75% of the votes cast.

    The question is why would the man who: (i) won more games than any major league pitcher during the decade of the 1980’s; (ii) is generally credited with having pitched the defining 7th game of a World Series; (iii) whose 254 career wins exceeds the career win totals of Hall of Famers Carl Hubbell, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Jim Bunning, Hal Newhouser and Bob Lemon, among others, and (iv) was called by Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons, the “best of his time, especially when it counted. It never dawned on me that he wouldn’t be a first-ballot winner”; be on a course to languish among the large group of “good but not worthy” pitchers over the course of a “solid” career.

    The answer, as set forth in this presentation, is that the absence of one or two magnificent “career” years or one meteoric statistic has allowed a clearly worthy Hall of Fame career to be obscured.

    The purpose of this presentation is to set the record straight and make the case for Jack Morris’ entry into the Hall of Fame.

    THE FACTS AND THE ARGUMENT

    The game of comparisons among pitchers from different decades is a tricky one. The use of the total number of wins as the basis for either side of an argument (e.g. Morris won 70 less games than Don Sutton but was clearly more dominant and worthy, or Morris won 89 more games than Sandy Koufax but never reached his heights) provides support for Mark Twain’s distrust for statistics. However, a pitcher’s dominance in comparison to the other pitchers of his time, during the bulk and prime of an extended career, must be a valid yardstick for analysis.

    Morris’ prime was the 14-year period from 1979-1992 (he pitched only 151 innings before 1979 and only 2 years after 1992). During that period, his 233 wins were not only the most by a major league pitcher, they were shockingly the most by 41 games (Bob Welch was next at 192, 174 for Dave Stieb and 168 for Nolan Ryan).

    The purpose of this analysis is not to detract from Nolan Ryan, but it’s hard to ignore that during a 14 year period of what is Ryan’s “second prime” (it is, after all, Ryan’s longevity and strikeout numbers which propelled him into the Hall so overwhelmingly), Morris outwins the near unanimous first rounder by 65 games.

    It’s instructive that 14 consecutive years seems to be an accurate yardstick for great pitchers who stake their Cooperstown claim on the strength of their “prime” (we’ll call them the “Prime Pitchers”) as opposed to the group of great pitchers who base their claims on longevity (we’ll call them the “Endurers”).

    Step back 10 years from Morris’ prime and look at the great pitchers of the late 60’s and 70’s. In what is the prime of the great Tom Seaver (1969-1982 – remember 1969 is the “Miracle Mets” year when Seaver wins 25), Seaver wins one game less than Morris in his 14 year prime (233 for Morris and 232 for Seaver). The 14-year period from 1961 to 1974 for Bob Gibson shows Gibson winning 242 games, 9 more than Morris. Jim Palmer’s 14 year prime (1969-1982) has him winning 240 games (7 more than Morris). Steve Carlton’s 14-year prime (1969-1982) is the best of that era at 258 wins followed by Gaylord Perry (14-year prime from 1966-1979) at 255 wins. Ferguson Jenkins’ 14 year prime (1967-1980) is next at 251 wins. Other than the somewhat earlier era career of Warren Spahn (the tops at 270 during his 14 year prime from 1947-1960), the only other two post World War II pitchers to win more than Jack Morris in their 14 consecutive year primes are Greg Maddux ( 1987-2000 – 238 wins – 5 more than Morris) and Juan Marichal (1961-1974 – 237 wins – 4 more than Morris). All of the above are Hall of Famers (including the certain future entry of Maddux)

    The following Prime Pitchers fall short of Morris’ 233 wins in his 14-year prime:

    • Whitey Ford (1953-1966) 225 wins (Hall of Famer)
    • Jim Bunning (1957-1970) 221 wins (Hall of Famer)
    • Roger Clemens ((1986-1999) 231 wins (Certain Future Hall of Famer)
    • Don Drysdale (1956-1969) full career – 209 wins (Hall of Famer)
    • Tom Glavine (1987-2000) 208 wins (Certain Future Hall of Famer)
    • Dennis Martinez (1977- 1990) 159 wins (Unlikely Hall of Famer)
    • Robin Roberts (1949-1962) 227 wins (Hall of Famer)
    • Bob Welch (1979-1992) 192 wins (Unlikely Hall of Famer)

    When we jump to the “Endurers” and give each of them the benefit of the doubt by counting only their “best” 14 years as the basis for the comparison (rather than any one 14 year consecutive period) Morris’ case for immediate entry into Cooperstown is only strengthened. The near unanimous first rounder, Nolan Ryan’s best 14 years gives him 10 less wins than Morris’ prime (Morris’ 233 wins to Ryan’s 223 wins). Bert Blyleven’s so far unsuccessful attempt is based on longevity and strikeouts. Blyleven’s best 14 years are the same as Ryan’s – 223 wins and 10 less than Morris’ prime. Other relevant Endurers and their best 14 years are as follows:

    • Orel Hersheiser —196 wins —37 less than Morris’ Prime (Unlikely Hall of Famer)
    • Bob Feller —242 wins —9 more than Morris’ Prime (Hall of Famer)
    • Catfish Hunter —222 wins — 11 less than Morris’ Prime (Hall of Famer)
    • Jim Kaat — 228 wins — 5 less than Morris’ Prime (Maybe Future Hall of Famer)
    • Jimmy Key —185 wins — 48 less than Morris’ Prime (Unlikely Hall of Famer)
    • Phil Niekro — 236 wins — 3 more than Morris’ Prime (Hall of Famer)
    • Don Sutton —228 wins — 5 less than Morris’ Prime (Hall of Famer)
    • Early Wynn — 237 wins — 4 more than Morris’ Prime (Hall of Famer)
    • David Cone — 182 wins – 51 less than Morris’ Prime (Unlikely Hall of Famer)

    Whether it’s the “Prime Pitcher” analysis or the “Endurer” analysis, the answer is the same. The only pitchers greater than Morris are the consensus Hall of Famers: Seaver, Palmer, Gibson, Carlton, Jenkins, Perry, Marichal, Maddux, Feller, Niekro, Spahn and Wynn. The others who have made it as well as those who haven’t are not at his level and the numbers bear that out.

    On a more typical time analysis, the winners of the most games in every decade in the 20th century are all existing. or in the singular case of the 1990′s and Greg Maddux, future Hall of Famers except for one; Jack Morris. The 00’s found Grover Cleveland Alexander as the pitcher with the most wins. The 10’s was led by Walter Johnson; the 20’s by Burleigh Grimes; the 30’s by Lefty Grove, and Hal Newhouser was the winningest pitcher in the 40’s. Probably more instructive is the comparison of Morris with the “modern” pitchers. When you make that comparison, Morris is right in the middle of that group and belongs with them in Cooperstown. They are as follows:

     1950’s Spahn 3 more wins than the next highest, Robin Roberts
     1960’s Marichal 33 more than the next highest, Don Drysdale
     1970’s Palmer 8 more than the next 3 highest, Jenkins, Seaver and Carlton
     1980’s MORRIS 22 more than next highest, Dave Stieb
     1990’s Maddux 12 more than next highest, Tom Glavine

    Jack Morris is in the rarified air that Hall of Famers occupy. His absence would be a great injustice.

    MORRIS’ RESUME

    Morris’ curricula vitae is as follows:

    • Greatest 7th game pitching performance in World Series History (Game 7, 1991, 10 IP – 0 ER – 7 hits- Winning Pitcher in 1-0 victory over Braves)

    • One of the Innovators of the Split Fingered Fastball

    • 1979-1992 – 233 Wins- 41 more than the next highest total and 65 more than Nolan Ryan

    • 254 career wins in 527 starts – comparable to Jim Palmer’s 268 career wins in 521 starts (consider the talent of the Orioles teams over Palmer’s career against that of Morris’ Tigers)

    • 3 seasons with 20 wins or more – compared with Don Sutton’s 1 season- Jim Bunning’s 1 season

    • 5 seasons with 17 wins or more (but less than 20 wins). Ryan had 3 – 17+ seasons

    • 3824 innings pitched – 6X 250+ innings – 11X 200+ innings

    • Pitched on 4 World Champions – Ace of 2, maybe 3 of those teams (perhaps not the ace of the ’93 Blue Jays) with a World Series record of 4 wins – 2 losses and a 2.96 ERA in the World Series

    • Acknowledged big time clutch pressure pitcher

    • Unquestioned Pitcher of the 1980’s

    • Pitched a No-Hitter

    • Started 14 consecutive Opening Day games during his career, tying him with the great Walter Johnson for most consecutive Opening Day games

    • Acknowledged number one pitcher on 1984 Detroit Tigers – one
    of baseball’s all time great teams

    Absent from the c.v. is any Cy Young Award. He never led the league in ERA. His ERA of 3.90 would be the highest of the starting pitchers in the Hall. He led the league in strikeouts only once, innings pitched only once and games won twice.

    CONCLUSION

    The picture is clear. While he never dominated for one year in a Koufax or Gibson mode, he did, perhaps more importantly, dominate his era with a magnitude that is the equivalent, at least, of the greatest modern day pitchers. He was the clutch pitcher of his generation and his success in the World Series venue bears that out. When you stack up the numbers, Morris is outperformed only by the most “elite” pitchers of the modern day. Other than those most elite (Seaver, Palmer, Gibson, Carlton, Perry, Spahn, Maddux, Jenkins) existing Hall of Famers fall consistently short of his greatness.

    Morris is a Hall of Famer, plain and simple. The absence of a few stellar years or a Ryan like strikeout ability has to be the answer for the results of his first 2 years on the Hall of Fame ballot. BBWAA writers took note and his numbers have moved significantly. Morris may not be the media friendly quote machine of someone like Palmer, but his dominance of his era over an extended career means he belongs there beside Palmer, Seaver, Gibson and Carlton (or maybe more correctly, Ford, Bunning, Sutton, Drysdale and Roberts) in Cooperstown.

    I grew up with baseball numbers in my head. I was always good at math because I started out figuring out batting averages when I was 7 years old. Only kids who became baseball fans at the age of 7 know that 2 for 7 is a .286 batting average. The numbers 714 (Ruth’s home run total) 56 (Joe Dimaggio’s consecutive hitting streak), and .406 (Ted William’s average in 1941 when he went 6 for 8 in the last doubleheader against Philadelphia) stuck in my head for a lifetime.

    So now I’m an adult and the steroid era has destroyed one of the great assets of the game; the statistics. How do you justify the statement that the greatest “non-juiced” home run season since Maris’ 61 in 1961 is Luis Gonzales’ 57 in 2001 (if even that was a non-juiced year). The icon of truth and justice is Jose Canseco. Really? That’s what we’ve come to.

    And then I look back at the 80’s and see these ballplayers getting jobbed by the Hall of Fame Committee because they’ve spent the last 15 years with these outrageous numbers/statistics as the milestone, and guys like Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris (and until recently Jim Rice and Andre Dawson) can’t live up to them. Well, I’m not one to look back on those days of yesteryear when everything was peaches and cream, but some of these 80’s guys are clear hall of famers, especially in contrast to what has gone on over the last 15 years. Well, here’s an argument for Jack Morris, one of the toughest pitchers this game will ever see. He belongs in the Hall of Fame and this is my justification.

    Gary Zwillinger

    THE CASE FOR JACK MORRIS

    INTRODUCTION

    In his first year of eligibility for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001, Jack Morris received 101 out of a possible 515 votes cast (19.61%). In his second year, Morris received a similar number and percentage (97 votes out of 472 votes cast – 20.55%). His third year bumped that percentage to approximately 23%. Over the last few years, his numbers have risen to approximately 52.4%. In order to be elected, a candidate must receive at least 75% of the votes cast.

    The question is why would the man who: (i) won more games than any major league pitcher during the decade of the 1980’s; (ii) is generally credited with having pitched the defining 7th game of a World Series; (iii) whose 254 career wins exceeds the career win totals of Hall of Famers Carl Hubbell, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Jim Bunning, Hal Newhouser and Bob Lemon, among others, and (iv) was called by Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons, the “best of his time, especially when it counted. It never dawned on me that he wouldn’t be a first-ballot winner”; be on a course to languish among the large group of “good but not worthy” pitchers over the course of a “solid” career.

    The answer, as set forth in this presentation, is that the absence of one or two magnificent “career” years or one meteoric statistic has allowed a clearly worthy Hall of Fame career to be obscured.

    The purpose of this presentation is to set the record straight and make the case for Jack Morris’ entry into the Hall of Fame.

    THE FACTS AND THE ARGUMENT

    The game of comparisons among pitchers from different decades is a tricky one. The use of the total number of wins as the basis for either side of an argument (e.g. Morris won 70 less games than Don Sutton but was clearly more dominant and worthy, or Morris won 89 more games than Sandy Koufax but never reached his heights) provides support for Mark Twain’s distrust for statistics. However, a pitcher’s dominance in comparison to the other pitchers of his time, during the bulk and prime of an extended career, must be a valid yardstick for analysis.

    Morris’ prime was the 14-year period from 1979-1992 (he pitched only 151 innings before 1979 and only 2 years after 1992). During that period, his 233 wins were not only the most by a major league pitcher, they were shockingly the most by 41 games (Bob Welch was next at 192, 174 for Dave Stieb and 168 for Nolan Ryan).

    The purpose of this analysis is not to detract from Nolan Ryan, but it’s hard to ignore that during a 14 year period of what is Ryan’s “second prime” (it is, after all, Ryan’s longevity and strikeout numbers which propelled him into the Hall so overwhelmingly), Morris outwins the near unanimous first rounder by 65 games.

    It’s instructive that 14 consecutive years seems to be an accurate yardstick for great pitchers who stake their Cooperstown claim on the strength of their “prime” (we’ll call them the “Prime Pitchers”) as opposed to the group of great pitchers who base their claims on longevity (we’ll call them the “Endurers”).

    Step back 10 years from Morris’ prime and look at the great pitchers of the late 60’s and 70’s. In what is the prime of the great Tom Seaver (1969-1982 – remember 1969 is the “Miracle Mets” year when Seaver wins 25), Seaver wins one game less than Morris in his 14 year prime (233 for Morris and 232 for Seaver). The 14-year period from 1961 to 1974 for Bob Gibson shows Gibson winning 242 games, 9 more than Morris. Jim Palmer’s 14 year prime (1969-1982) has him winning 240 games (7 more than Morris). Steve Carlton’s 14-year prime (1969-1982) is the best of that era at 258 wins followed by Gaylord Perry (14-year prime from 1966-1979) at 255 wins. Ferguson Jenkins’ 14 year prime (1967-1980) is next at 251 wins. Other than the somewhat earlier era career of Warren Spahn (the tops at 270 during his 14 year prime from 1947-1960), the only other two post World War II pitchers to win more than Jack Morris in their 14 consecutive year primes are Greg Maddux ( 1987-2000 – 238 wins – 5 more than Morris) and Juan Marichal (1961-1974 – 237 wins – 4 more than Morris). All of the above are Hall of Famers (including the certain future entry of Maddux)

    The following Prime Pitchers fall short of Morris’ 233 wins in his 14-year prime:

    • Whitey Ford (1953-1966) 225 wins (Hall of Famer)
    • Jim Bunning (1957-1970) 221 wins (Hall of Famer)
    • Roger Clemens ((1986-1999) 231 wins (Certain Future Hall of Famer)
    • Don Drysdale (1956-1969) full career – 209 wins (Hall of Famer)
    • Tom Glavine (1987-2000) 208 wins (Certain Future Hall of Famer)
    • Dennis Martinez (1977- 1990) 159 wins (Unlikely Hall of Famer)
    • Robin Roberts (1949-1962) 227 wins (Hall of Famer)
    • Bob Welch (1979-1992) 192 wins (Unlikely Hall of Famer)

    When we jump to the “Endurers” and give each of them the benefit of the doubt by counting only their “best” 14 years as the basis for the comparison (rather than any one 14 year consecutive period) Morris’ case for immediate entry into Cooperstown is only strengthened. The near unanimous first rounder, Nolan Ryan’s best 14 years gives him 10 less wins than Morris’ prime (Morris’ 233 wins to Ryan’s 223 wins). Bert Blyleven’s so far unsuccessful attempt is based on longevity and strikeouts. Blyleven’s best 14 years are the same as Ryan’s – 223 wins and 10 less than Morris’ prime. Other relevant Endurers and their best 14 years are as follows:

    • Orel Hersheiser —196 wins —37 less than Morris’ Prime (Unlikely Hall of Famer)
    • Bob Feller —242 wins —9 more than Morris’ Prime (Hall of Famer)
    • Catfish Hunter —222 wins — 11 less than Morris’ Prime (Hall of Famer)
    • Jim Kaat — 228 wins — 5 less than Morris’ Prime (Maybe Future Hall of Famer)
    • Jimmy Key —185 wins — 48 less than Morris’ Prime (Unlikely Hall of Famer)
    • Phil Niekro — 236 wins — 3 more than Morris’ Prime (Hall of Famer)
    • Don Sutton —228 wins — 5 less than Morris’ Prime (Hall of Famer)
    • Early Wynn — 237 wins — 4 more than Morris’ Prime (Hall of Famer)
    • David Cone — 182 wins – 51 less than Morris’ Prime (Unlikely Hall of Famer)

    Whether it’s the “Prime Pitcher” analysis or the “Endurer” analysis, the answer is the same. The only pitchers greater than Morris are the consensus Hall of Famers: Seaver, Palmer, Gibson, Carlton, Jenkins, Perry, Marichal, Maddux, Feller, Niekro, Spahn and Wynn. The others who have made it as well as those who haven’t are not at his level and the numbers bear that out.

    On a more typical time analysis, the winners of the most games in every decade in the 20th century are all existing. or in the singular case of the 1990′s and Greg Maddux, future Hall of Famers except for one; Jack Morris. The 00’s found Grover Cleveland Alexander as the pitcher with the most wins. The 10’s was led by Walter Johnson; the 20’s by Burleigh Grimes; the 30’s by Lefty Grove, and Hal Newhouser was the winningest pitcher in the 40’s. Probably more instructive is the comparison of Morris with the “modern” pitchers. When you make that comparison, Morris is right in the middle of that group and belongs with them in Cooperstown. They are as follows:

     1950’s Spahn 3 more wins than the next highest, Robin Roberts
     1960’s Marichal 33 more than the next highest, Don Drysdale
     1970’s Palmer 8 more than the next 3 highest, Jenkins, Seaver and Carlton
     1980’s MORRIS 22 more than next highest, Dave Stieb
     1990’s Maddux 12 more than next highest, Tom Glavine

    Jack Morris is in the rarified air that Hall of Famers occupy. His absence would be a great injustice.

    MORRIS’ RESUME

    Morris’ curricula vitae is as follows:

    • Greatest 7th game pitching performance in World Series History (Game 7, 1991, 10 IP – 0 ER – 7 hits- Winning Pitcher in 1-0 victory over Braves)

    • One of the Innovators of the Split Fingered Fastball

    • 1979-1992 – 233 Wins- 41 more than the next highest total and 65 more than Nolan Ryan

    • 254 career wins in 527 starts – comparable to Jim Palmer’s 268 career wins in 521 starts (consider the talent of the Orioles teams over Palmer’s career against that of Morris’ Tigers)

    • 3 seasons with 20 wins or more – compared with Don Sutton’s 1 season- Jim Bunning’s 1 season

    • 5 seasons with 17 wins or more (but less than 20 wins). Ryan had 3 – 17+ seasons

    • 3824 innings pitched – 6X 250+ innings – 11X 200+ innings

    • Pitched on 4 World Champions – Ace of 2, maybe 3 of those teams (perhaps not the ace of the ’93 Blue Jays) with a World Series record of 4 wins – 2 losses and a 2.96 ERA in the World Series

    • Acknowledged big time clutch pressure pitcher

    • Unquestioned Pitcher of the 1980’s

    • Pitched a No-Hitter

    • Started 14 consecutive Opening Day games during his career, tying him with the great Walter Johnson for most consecutive Opening Day games

    • Acknowledged number one pitcher on 1984 Detroit Tigers – one
    of baseball’s all time great teams

    Absent from the c.v. is any Cy Young Award. He never led the league in ERA. His ERA of 3.90 would be the highest of the starting pitchers in the Hall. He led the league in strikeouts only once, innings pitched only once and games won twice.

    CONCLUSION

    The picture is clear. While he never dominated for one year in a Koufax or Gibson mode, he did, perhaps more importantly, dominate his era with a magnitude that is the equivalent, at least, of the greatest modern day pitchers. He was the clutch pitcher of his generation and his success in the World Series venue bears that out. When you stack up the numbers, Morris is outperformed only by the most “elite” pitchers of the modern day. Other than those most elite (Seaver, Palmer, Gibson, Carlton, Perry, Spahn, Maddux, Jenkins) existing Hall of Famers fall consistently short of his greatness.

    Morris is a Hall of Famer, plain and simple. The absence of a few stellar years or a Ryan like strikeout ability has to be the answer for the results of his first 2 years on the Hall of Fame ballot. BBWAA writers took note and his numbers have moved significantly. Morris may not be the media friendly quote machine of someone like Palmer, but his dominance of his era over an extended career means he belongs there beside Palmer, Seaver, Gibson and Carlton (or maybe more correctly, Ford, Bunning, Sutton, Drysdale and Roberts) in Cooperstown.

Leave a Comment


Partner of USA TODAY Sports Digital Properties