Brad Radke got two votes in the Hall of Fame balloting announced Monday, two less than Bill Mueller, one more than Eric Young and Javier Lopez.
I suppose we should be outraged. But I can’t summon it.
Two reasons perhaps, one obvious, one not so: 1.) There’s nothing so sacred about the Hall of Fame that two votes for Brad Radke is going to deface it. Three-twenty-six slugging Walt Weiss got a vote in 2006, 84-game winner Jim Deshaies got one in 2001, and nobody held it against Babe Ruth’s plaque. A wasted vote is a wasted vote, whether it’s for a third-party candidate in November or a Hall of Fame one in December. 2.) if Jack Morris got 382 votes for the Hall of Fame, maybe Radke should have had more, not less.
I’d be more outraged if the two voters for Radke really think he should be in the Hall of Fame. I’m going to assume they voted for Radke because he’s a Hall of Fame guy. Or a Hall of Fame interview. Or that they’re trying to make a point.
Brad Radke pitched 12 seasons, all for the Twins, half for some of the worst teams the franchise has offered. Radke retired after the 2006 season; he was 33 when he threw his final pitch. His final numbers are a little better than ordinary — 148 wins, 139 losses, a 4.22 ERA, 10 career shutouts and 37 complete games — and no comparison to Morris.
But the stats get odder the closer you look. Radke’s WHIP was better than Morris’ — 1.260 to 1.296. Radke fanned 1,011 batters less than Morris (2,478 to 1,467) but walked 945 batters less (445-1,390). Radke’s career WAR is better, 41.4 or 3.4 per season to Morris’ 39.3 or 2.2 per season, and his career ERA+ is better (113-105) and his two best ERA+ seasons or better than any of Morris’.
Let me pause right here, as if Michael Bourn is on first, and be clear: Jack Morris was a better pitcher than Brad Radke. He was more durable and more effective. He pitched six more seasons, which counts for a lot, and he pitched better over most of them (a .693 career OPS vs. Radke’s .755).
So what are we to draw from 382 votes for Morris to 2 for Radke and stats that favor the latter? First, Radke was probably a better pitcher than anyone but Twins’ fans remember, and certainly better than our memories of him.
He averaged more than 12 wins a year, and was 20-10 for a 1997 Twins team that was 68-94 (or 48-84 in games Radke didn’t get a decision).
You don’t think the 1997 Twins were that bad? Here’s the primary lineup behind Radke as he won 20: catcher Terry Steinbach, first baseman Scott Stahoviak, second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, shortstop Pat Meares, third baseman Ron Coomer, outfielders Marty Cordova, Rich Becker and Matt Lawton, and DH Paul Molitor.
Not quite the 1972 Phillies, a 59-97 team for which Steve Carlton was 27-10. But close.
After 1997, Radke mostly pitched 200-plus innings a year and won a little more than he lost (his 16 losses led the AL in 2000). He was a poor man’s Morris, who walked less, fanned less, won less and had less time in the majors; he spent more time pitching in the steroids era, and his stats reflected that.
Not a Hall of Fame pitcher and maybe not even a Twins Hall of Fame pitcher. But then neither is Morris. The latter received 111 votes, or 22.2%, on his very first time on the ballot in 2000. He actually went down below 20 percent the next year, and never climbed above 30 percent until his sixth year on the ballot, in 2005.
A majority of voters never thought Morris was Hall of Fame worthy until the 11th time they voted for him, in 2010. This year, in his 13th attempt, he jumped more than 13%, to 66.7%. Either a lot of voters mistook his name all these years for Hal Morris, or the MLB network replayed the 1991 World Series’ Game 7 like TNT does Shawshank Redemption.
Voters are entitled to change their minds. It’s what they say when they do that makes me want to go Roger Clemens on them. And that’s where the outrage should come in.
- ESPN’s Jayson Stark said: “It wasn’t just misguided sportswriters who thought (Morris) had that ace aura. The whole sport thought he had it.” Perhaps. But mass delusion is not reason to vote for someone. Bo Belinsky had an aura, and no one is suggesting he be in the Hall of Fame. “There’s no other explanation for why this man was chosen to start three All-Star Games,” Stark went on, “or why he started on Opening Day 14 years in a row, or why his manager handed him the ball in Game 1 of six of the seven postseason series he participated in — with three different teams.” That’s impressive, I guess. Also irrelevant. What is more relevant is how Morris pitched in his 14 Opening Day starts, which was a lot like he did on all the other days: 8-6, a 3.40 ERA and 11 times completing the seventh inning. He won more than he lost, he pitched deep into games and he gave up runs. And for the record: Brad Radke had a lower postseason ERA (3.60 in 6 starts) than Morris (3.80 in 13).
- Hal Bodley in USA Today: “Morris was the 1991 World Series MVP. Aside from Don Larsen’s perfect game for the Yankees in 1956, I’ve never seen a more dominant World Series performance than (Morris’) Game 7 masterpiece.” Really? Never? We’re just going to assume Bodley wasn’t watching Sandy Koufax’s 15-strikeout 1963 Game 1 win, or Koufax’s 10-strikeout, Game 7 three-hit shutout on two days rest in 1965, or Bob Gibson’s 17-strikeout, five-hitter in Game 1 in 1968, or Josh Beckett’s nine-strikeout, five-hit shutout to end the 2003 World Series in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium. I’m not convinced Bodley saw Steve Blass’ 2-1 Game 7 win at Baltimore 20 years before Morris’ shutout. Morris was excellent, but if Lonnie Smith didn’t try to take the long way home, it’s likely Morris loses 1-0 and we’re talking about Game 7 in 1991 as a reason to vote John Smoltz into the Hall of Fame, not Morris. Most dominant since Larsen? Hardly.
You can do a google search on gratuitous reasons to vote Jack Morris into the Hall of Fame and get more hits than Pete Rose has, well, hits.
Defend Jack Morris’ record as a Hall of Fame pitcher, if you want. Vote for him for induction if you want. But don’t make the case on aura and misplaced platitudes. As long as voters try to, I’ll worry more about that than two votes for Brad Radke.