The Hall of Fame voters are batting a perfect 1.000 on Jack Morris, who gets one final pitch this year in his 15h and final attempt to be voted in.
Morris has improved from a low of 19.6% of the vote in 2001 to a high of 67.7% last year without winning a single additional game or striking out a single additional batter. We can only be glad the qualification for election isn’t two-thirds of the vote.
Here’s hoping Morris doesn’t get in, not because he wasn’t a good pitcher (he was) or a good person (who knows, although there is evidence to the contrary), but because he wasn’t good enough. The voters are supposed to be selective and discerning, not admitting players to the Hall of Fame as if they were college professors distributing gentleman Cs to average students.
Morris pitched a lot of innings and won 254 games. Forty Hall of Famers who pitched won less, though that list includes Babe Ruth, Satchel Paige, oldtimer Candy Cummings, umpire Hank O’Day and five relievers.
Morris also gave up a lot of runs — only 15 of the 70 Hall of Famers who pitched have given up more, and none of those pitched less innings. Morris’ 3.90 ERA would be the highest in the Hall. That would probably get him a vote from Red Ruffing, the current dubious distinction holder at 3.80.
It’s true Morris led the league in wins twice and starts twice and complete games and strikeouts and innings pitched, but he also led it in wild pitches six times. That’s hard to do without allowing baserunners, which he did. He also led it in earned runs and walks allowed and came close in losses and home runs allowed.
And the next time his supporters bring up his Game 7 shutout of the Braves in the 1991 Series, remind them that he would probably have lost had not Lonnie Smith run the bases as if he were texting and driving, drifting out of the baseline. And that Curt Schilling was a far better postseason pitcher.
Morris played 18 seasons, 14 of them for the Tigers, who won the 1984 World Series. The ’84 Tigers won 104 games that year and lost just one postseason game, yet are represented only by Sparky Anderson in the Hall of Fame; they’re one of only two champions through 1996, according to a fangraphs.com post, to win the World Series without a Hall of Famer (the ’81 Dodgers are the other; the ’97 Marlins and ’02 Angels are likely to make four). If a Tigers fan suggest that’s an injustice, agree with them, to a point.
Lou Whitaker retired in 1995 and received just 15 votes in 2001, despite 19 accomplished seasons. Whitaker was like a music album you put away for 20 years, and don’t realize it how good it was until you play it again.
Whitaker did almost everything well — he walked more than he struck out, he hit double figures in home runs for 11 straight years, he won three Gold Gloves — yet was off the Hall of Fame ballot after one election. His 74.2 WAR was nearly twice as much as Steve Garvey, who received 161 more votes, and is more than 40 points better than Morris’, who’s still on the ballot.
Sometimes the voters aren’t always so perfect.
On to the 2014 ballot, with a look at returning players in order of votes received and then the new guys:
Craig Biggio: One voter said they didn’t vote for Biggio because he only had one 200-hit season. If only he hadn’t walked so much. Biggio is a close call, but his variety of skills put him over in this view. Yes.
Jack Morris: Good isn’t good enough. No.
Jeff Bagwell: And now the specter of PEDs rears. In a tidy 15-year career, Bagwell had a .948 OPS and topped 1.000 five times, including 1.201 in the strike-terminated 1994 — four of those with half his games in the Astrodome. Unlike Biggio, who reached 3,000 hits, Bagwell didn’t hit the milestones — 2,314 hits and 449 home runs. Still, there’s only one reason not to vote for Bagwell. Yes.
Mike Piazza: Piazza is the game’s greatest offensive catcher, with a .922 carer OPS, .308 average and 427 homers. Early voting results say Piazza is right on the fringe. The same specter which kept Bagwell out shuts the door on Piazza. In Piazza’s case, it makes me say … Reserving the right to change, but for now, No.
Tim Raines: Last year was Raines’ sixth on the ballot and first time he topped 50%. The last quarter of the vote will be the hardest to convince. Raines’ problem is drugs, too, but in his case cocaine. He’s close, too, but just across. Yes.
Lee Smith: Smith had a lot of saves — 478 — but he also had a lot of blown saves — 103, according to sportslistoftheday.com. Smith is the Jack Morris of relievers: good, but not good enough. In 11 years, he’s bounced between 36.6% and 50.6% of the vote. That’s high enough. No.
Curt Schilling: A better pitcher than Tom Glavine, who’s going in, and a better pitcher than Jack Morris, who’s hopefully not. So good that even Boston Globe writer Dan Shaughnessy, his nemesis, voted for him. Yes.
Roger Clemens: Received only 37.6% of the vote last years. Sounds like not many believed his PED denials. Yes.
Barry Bonds: Received 36.2% of the vote last year. See Clemens. Yes.
Edgar Martinez: This is Edgar’s fifth at-bat in the voting, and he has yet to get out of the 30% range, mostly because he couldn’t run and didn’t field. But he could create runs. Ten .300 seasons. Five 1.000 OPS seasons. A lifetime .312 average, .418 on-base, .933 OPS, 147 OPS+. A .356 average and .479 on-base percentage in 1995, when he finished third in the MVP voting to Mo Vaughn, despite being 91 points better in OPS and 53 points better in slugging percentage while Mo had Fenway Park’s home-field advantage. Must have been Mo’s defense. Offense matters. I’m flopping. Yes.
Alan Trammell: The ’84 Tiger we should be arguing over. It’s Trammell’s 13th vote and he’s never gotten as close as he’s deserved, finally getting into the 30s in his 11th try. Should have been the MVP in ’87 when his Tigers overtook winner George Bell’s Jays on the final weekend. No, but …
Larry Walker: Has a Hall-worthy 72.6 WAR despite missing approximately 38 games per year in a 17-year career. Coors helped, but still slugged .502 as a 38-year-old with the Cardinals. Hit 383 homers, stole 230 bases, had lifetime .313 average, won seven Gold Gloves. But only once played more than 150 games. If he did have a plaque, it would need a crutch. No.
Fred McGriff: Hall of Very Good first ballot. Hall of Fame? Almost but not quite. No.
Mark McGwire: He’s not talking about the past, neither are we. He knows why. No.
Don Mattingly: Remember when last call always seemed to come too early? That’s Mattingly’s career. Maybe he’ll get in as a manager. No.
Sammy Sosa: Seen a photo of the retired Sammy? Someone must have told him to lighten up and he took it literally. Hit 609 home runs, but between the PEDs and cork in his bat, how many were honestly struck? Also led league in strikeouts three times and has a career -1.0 defensive WAR. No.
Rafael Palmeiro: Voters don’t like angry. Or defiant. 569 home runs, 3,020 hits and barely stayed on the ballot. Here’s hoping he falls off. No.
Greg Maddux: Tom Seaver got in with a Hall-best 98.84%. Only 5 voters left him off. Maddux might do better, and deservedly so. You’re not contrarian if you vote against Maddux, you’re delusional. Yes.
Frank Thomas: Seven seasons of 1.000 OPS, lifetime .974 OPS. If you vote for Edgar, you have to vote for Thomas. But not vice versa. Yes.
Mike Mussina: It’s going to be a longer wait for Mussina to get in. Won 20 games only once, in his final season at age 39. Had he pitched on to 300, like Tom Glavine, he’d go in sooner. Like Schilling, we’re liable to be arguing Mussina’s worthiness a decade from now. Yes.
Tom Glavine: 305 wins, 2 Cy Youngs and five 20-win seasons make him easier to vote for than Schilling or Mussina. Still a comparable pitcher. That means … Yes.
Jeff Kent: Wonder if he has Barry Bonds’ vote? He’s close — an MVP, lifetime .500 slugging and .855 OPS at second base. But defense counts, too. No.
Kenny Rogers: He’s here to make Jack Morris look better. Won 219 games and had a 51.1 WAR, but had a 4.27 ERA and 107 ERA+ and only five seasons as a starter with an ERA of less than 4. Lasted 20 seasons and pitched till he was 43. Not a lot of folks would have bet on that for a minor-leaguer with a 4.20 ERA. No.
Luis Gonzalez: Hit 57 home runs and had a 1.117 OPS in 2001 — twice as many homers as he hit in every season but one and 165 points of OPS better than any other season. Forget Brady Anderson for one-year spikes. Gonzalez’s 7.9 WAR in 2001 pushed him over 50. But not enough. No.
Moises Alou: I hate to piss on Moises’ candidacy like he peed on his hands, but get a grip. He has some attributes — a .303 lifetime average and .516 slugging percentage — but he missed time to injury and was a bad fielder. Steve Bartman shouldn’t feel so bad. There’s always the chance Moises could have dropped that foul fly without Bartman’s help. No.
Ray Durham: Hit 192 home runs, stole 273 bases, retired at 36 after an .813 OPS season. Poor man’s Whtaker. No.
Hideo Nomo: First regular Japanese pitcher, rookie of the year, threw two no-hitters, and otherwise was ordinary. Career 4.24 ERA and won 123 games. Will get some vote as a pioneer, but it was quite a bit different for Nomo than Jackie Robinson. Nomo had an interpreter, Robinson needed an enforcer. No.
Richie Sexson: Mariners once gave him a Hall of Fame contract. He gave them a lot of strikeouts. He hit 306 home runs and slugged .507. No.
Paul Lo Duca: Four-time All-Star, which tells you all you need to know about NL catching in the 21st century’s first decade. Career .746 OPS. No.
Armando Benitez: Saved 289 games but remembered more for the ones he blew: two losses for the Orioles in the ’97 ALCS, blew the save in Game 1 of the 2000 Series, blew the win in Game 6 of the ’99 NLCS. Orioles fans and Mets fans no doubt agree. No.
Mike Timlin: Pretty solid seventh-inning pitcher for 18 seasons and four Series winners. No.
Sean Casey: If cordiality was a qualification, he’d be in. Career .302 average, retired at 33. No.
Jacque Jones: 10-year career, twice hit 27 homers. Someone will vote for him. This year’s Walt Weiss. No.
Eric Gagne: Saved 152 games and won a Cy Young in a three-year span for the Dodgers, only saved 35 more. No.
J.T. Snow: If defense (six Gold Gloves) or bloodlines (dad was a pretty good wide receiver) were the criteria, he’d go in. Had three 20-homer seasons. No.
Todd Jones: Had 235 of his 319 saves for the Tigers despite a 4.07 ERA with them. Did the Tigers ever think there was a connection between that and why they mostly didn’t win with Jones as their closer (2006 the exception). No.