The Zebra

The Zebra is a monthly publication, with a circulation of about 30,000, which is dedicated to Northern Virginia and especially the city of Alexandria. It has a “Book of the Month” column where, instead of stars, a book is assigned one to five “zebra stripes.” I am happy to report that the February, 2018 issue has as awarded The Gatekeepers of Democracy, the highly coveted five zebra stripe rating.

http://digital.thezebra.org/?issueID=22&pageID=25

 

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First Sign of Spring

Lindys

Forget the groundhog. The first sign of spring occurred at the supermarket this morning with the appearance of the first of this year’s baseball magazines. Now I realize that the high number of unsigned free agents makes the magazine’s predictions shaky, at best, but still…can spring be far behind?

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Hildegard

Hilgegard

Mary and I spent a enjoyable evening at the National Cathedral listening to the Folger Consort’s performance of music composed Hildegard von Bingen (aka St. Hildegard) who was a medieval mystic, poet, playwright, composer, natural historian and just about everything else.

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ROVAC

rovac-logo

I have been invited address the Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut (ROVAC) at their spring conference in April. I’ll be talking about my experiences as an election officer and how I came to write The Gatekeepers of Democracy and November Third. I’ll update as I learn more.

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A Bit of Free Publicity

November Third is one of the books featured in the “Books” section of the winter issue of “Ed.,” a quarterly magazine put out by the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/ed/18/01/books-winter-2018

 

 

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Winter SABR Meeting

AlSchacht

Tomorrow is the winter meeting of the Washington area chapter of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research). There are a number of exciting items on the agenda but the one I am most looking forward to is a presentation on Al Schacht.

After a relatively brief stint as a pitcher in the 1920s, Al Schacht commenced a career as a baseball clown/comedian. Eventually he became known as the “Clown Prince of Baseball.” He entertained at ballparks all over the country as well as overseas. I had the opportunity of seeing Al Schacht “umpire” a number of Old Timers’ games at Yankee Stadium during the late 1950s and early 1960s. I remember one occasion when he pulled a shotgun on Dizzy Dean when the pitcher started to complain about a ball/strike call. And Al Schacht would never let Joe DiMaggio take a walk in these games. He would insist that Joe stay at bat until he hit the ball.

This never-before-seen photo of Al Schacht was taken by me in 1960. He is at the ticket window at Yankee Stadium. My recollection is that he was trying make sure that some tickets for his friends had been allocated.

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Jack Morris – The Value of Determination

EDIT (1/1/2018): My description of ERA+ below is not completely accurate. A better description of ERA+ is that it tells you “how much better/worse the league was than pitcher A.” What I described below: “how much better/worse pitcher A was than the league” is usually referred to as ERA-. While they use similar numbers in their formulas, they tell slightly different narrative. Nonetheless, they both (roughly) represent the same outcome as far as I am concerned so just keep this fact in mind when reading.


 

Previously we discussed Alan Trammell and why it took the Modern Era Committee to vote him into the Baseball Hall of Fame and potential reasons the BBWAA writers may have overlooked his candidacy. In this post, we will perform a similar breakdown of the other player voted in by the Modern Era Committee: pitcher Jack Morris.

The Numbers: Breakdown of Jack Morris’ Career

Born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, right handed pitcher Jack Morris was selected in the 5th round of the 1976 amateur player’s draft by the Detroit Tigers (same year Trammell was drafted by Tigers). Similar to Trammell, Morris didn’t spend too much time in the minors. He immediately started with the Tigers AA team in Montgomery and spent the first half of the 1977 season with their AAA farm team in Evansville. Detroit called up Morris in July of that year (replacing Mark Fidrych who was placed on the disabled list)  and made is debut on July 26 (pitched four innings in relief facing the Chicago White Sox).

Morris2

Morris would make the first start of his MLB career five days later (July 31) in Arlington, Texas against the Rangers. It almost ended early for Morris struggled in the first inning. Here is the outline of the half-inning as stated on Retrosheet.

RANGERS 1ST:

  • Hargrove walked;
  • Campaneris walked [Hargrove to second];
  • Washington singled to center [Hargrove scored, Campaneris out at third (center to first to third), Washington to second];
  • Washington stole third;
  • Morris threw a wild pitch [Washington scored];
  • Horton struck out;
  • Harrah flied out to left

Not the best start to a major league career. Morris started the inning off with a walk-walk-single-wild pitch which resulted in two quick runs for the Rangers. This would be enough to rattle any rookie pitcher in his first MLB start. However, Morris didn’t cave; he held tough and didn’t allow any more runs in the inning. Morris went back out in the 2nd inning and, emboldened by the finish of the previous inning, retired the side. Morris would end up pitching an additional seven strong innings before being pulled in the 10th inning. Here is a quick breakdown of his pitching line comparing the 1st inning and 2nd-9th innings.

Innings Hits Runs Walks Strikeouts
1st 1 2 2 1
2nd-9th 3 0 3 10

Putting the two lines together, Morris ended up with the following stat line in his first MLB start.

Innings Hits Runs Walks Strikeouts
9 4 2 5 11

Aside: The Texas pitcher whom Morris was facing against was Bert Blyleven, a Hall of Fame pitcher, who also threw 9 innings of 2 run ball.

As we look more at Morris’ career, a common theme will appear, which is well-represented in his first big league start, that Morris was a “bulldog” type of pitcher: someone who would pitch with everything he had, hang tough when not pitching with his best stuff, and find a way to record outs.

Early on in his career, Morris struggled with the control of his pitches. He started the rest of month August in 1977 were in 32.2 innings, he gave up 17 walks while striking out 14 batters. Arm problems resulted in the Tigers shutting him down in September.  The following season, Morris was again belittled by arm trouble which resulted in him banished to the bullpen the whole season. Again, pitching command was an issue where   in 106.0 innings pitched, he gave up 49 walks while striking out 48 batters. Things were so bad for Morris that he didn’t even make it out of spring training 1979 with the Tigers and was sent to the Tigers AAA affiliate in Evansville. But Morris’ “bulldog” persona didn’t waiver. Determined to get back to the Tigers, Morris showed considerable command improvement in Evansville where he gave up 18 walks in 34 innings. Evansville manager Jim Leyland remarked that “[Morris] won’t be here in a month”  which held true as Morris was recalled to Detroit in May of that year, and this time for good. Tigers immediately played Morris in the starting rotation and with his newfound confidence, Morris put together a breakout season and established himself as the ace pitcher of the Tigers.

Wins Losses ERA ERA+ Games Started Innings Hits Runs Walks Strikeouts
17 7 3.28 133 27 197.2 179 76 59 113

Statistic Reference

ERA+ = “Adjusted” ERA. It compares a player’s ERA (earned run average) to the league average and tells you how much greater/less it is compared to the average. An ERA+ of 100 is league average. For example, 110 is 10% above league average, and 90 is 10% less than league average. It’s purpose is to give a “neutral” context on how much a pitcher’s run prevention was compared to the league he was playing in. That way, it is a more fitting statistic to compare pitchers across different eras than ERA itself.

Morris would anchor the Tigers pitching staff for the next eleven seasons, being a pivotal piece in their 1984 World Series championship team. The best way to describe Morris in his twelve consecutive seasons (1979-1990) as the Tigers ace is durable. In his eleven seasons as a starter for the Tigers, Morris averaged 33 starts, 13 complete games, 241 innings, and 16 wins a season.

Despite striking out 11 batters in his first big league start, Morris wasn’t known as a strikeout pitcher for the first part of his career. He mostly relied on fastball, slider, and changeup but he wasn’t satisfied with his slider. Teammate Milt Wilcox suggested that Morris use a split-finger fastball (sometimes called a splitter), a pitch that looks like an ordinary fastball but then drops as it comes to home plate. This pitch results in a lot of swing-and-misses which helps a pitcher raise his strikeout total.

Morris began working on his splitter near the end of the 1982 season and had it on full display in 1983. With a splitter in his arsenal of pitches, Morris indeed saw his strikeout total jump from 135 in 266.1 innings pitched (1982) to 232 in 293.2 innings pitched (1983) to lead the league in strikeouts. He would go on to throw 200+ strikeout seasons two more times in the decade.

After the 1990 season, Morris signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Twins (his hometown team) and put up a solid regular season.

Wins Losses ERA ERA+ Games Started Innings Hits Runs Walks Strikeouts
18 12 3.43 125 35 246.2 226 107 92 163

The Twins would win the American League West Division and defeat the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship game to go to the World Series. Facing the Atlanta Braves, the series went to seven games where the Twins called on Morris to start game 7 (played in Minnesota). Facing Braves ace pitcher John Smoltz, Morris would pitch in one of the greatest playoff games of all time. Morris held tough throwing 9 shutout innings but with the game tied 0-0 after 9 innings, Morris was determined to go out for the 10th inning. He would throw one more shutout inning which is all the Twins offense needed as they produced the one run of the game in bottom of the 10th inning, giving the Twins a World Series championship. Putting it all together, Morris pitched 10 shutout innings while giving up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 8 strikeouts.

Morris would bounce between the Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians the next three seasons before retiring in the spring of 1995 (after a failed spring training stint with the Cincinnati Reds). Morris finished with the following career stat lines.

Wins Losses ERA ERA+ Innings Walks Strikeouts
254 186 3.90 105 3824.0 1390 2478

The Wait:  Bad Luck and  Sabermetrics

Morris first appeared on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot in 2000 and the timing couldn’t have been better. Morris was the only new starting pitcher on the ballot with a chance and the holdover starting pitchers either didn’t have a chance (Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Jim  Kaat, Luis Tiant) or weren’t fully appreciated until later ballots (Bert Blyleven). With a perceived  lack of competing starting pitching, Morris receiver 22.2% of the vote (a respectable first-year vote total). Advocates of Morris hoped this base of support would grow over time. It took several years (until 2005) but this vote total did in fact slowly increase over time, peaking in 2013 with 67.7%.

2000: BBWAA (22.2%)
2001: BBWAA (19.6%)
2002: BBWAA (20.6%)
2003: BBWAA (22.8%)
2004: BBWAA (26.3%)
2005: BBWAA (33.3%)
2006: BBWAA (41.2%)
2007: BBWAA (37.1%)
2008: BBWAA (42.9%)
2009: BBWAA (44.0%)
2010: BBWAA (52.3%)
2011: BBWAA (53.5%)
2012: BBWAA (66.7%)
2013: BBWAA (67.7%)

That was the highest it got as in 2014, his last year on the ballot, he received 61.5% of the vote.

Aside: One speculated reason for the rise in Morris’ numbers is a backlash towards sabermetrics. Jay Jaffe explains that sabermetrics (study of baseball in an analystic mindset) helped propel Bert Blyleven to the Hall of Fame which revolved on a Moneyball style approach. Not every baseball fan agreed with this and wanted to re-emphasize old-school statistics and intangibles when describing hall of Fame players. To them, Jack Morris was the perfect player who molded his career on this philosophy.

When looking at Morris’ vote totals over the years, a big question is “why did it stall near the end?” He got so close to the 75% threshold needed to be elected but couldn’t get over that hump. In fact, it is  remarkable he didn’t get elected in 2013-2014 when viewed with the following historical statistic. In the history of the Hall of Fame, all except one player who has received at least 50% of the BBWAA vote eventually made it to Cooperstown (the lone exception is Gil Hodges). As Morris passed the 50% threshold in 2010, fans of Morris claimed it was only a matter of time before he got elected. In addition,  Morris getting 66.7% of the vote in 2012 would normally be enough momentum to get him over the 75% vote threshold in the next election or two (such momentum was witnessed in Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice a few years earlier). But what stopped Jack Morris?

Was it Bad Luck?

Advocates for Morris claim his failure to get elected in 2013-2014 was sheer dumb luck. Indeed, Morris was unlucky for the newcomers on the 2013 ballot included great players with steroid whispers/accusations (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa) along with great players with questionable character (Curt Schilling). The addition of such players changed the dynamic of the election completely (about integrity of the game) and took a lot of focus away from Morris. Not only did Morris’ vote total stay stagnant (only went up a percentage point) but NO ONE was elected that year.

Craig Biggio — 68.2% (HoF)
Jack Morris — 67.7% (HoF)
Jeff Bagwell — 59.6% (HoF)
Mike Piazza — 57.8% (HoF)
Tim Raines — 52.2% (HoF)
Lee Smith — 47.8%
Curt Schilling — 38.8%
Roger Clemens —  37.6%
Barry Bonds — 36.2%
Edgar Martinez — 35.9%
Alan Trammell — 33.6% (HoF)

(HoF) – since has been voted into the Hall of Fame by BBWAA or Committee

With no one elected, all the controversial players remained on the ballot in 2014. Combine that with the addition of first-ballot Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas, it’s not surprising Morris got lost in the crowded ballot and his vote total stalled out.

…Or Bad Statistics?

However you might say “But wait! Something like ‘luck’ shouldn’t play that much of a factor. You can’t explain everything away by luck…something else must have happened which prevented Morris’ total to rise.” Well there is another factor Morris’ advocates accuse of happening: people (most notably sabermetricians/internet bloggers) out to intentionally hurt Morris’ candidacy. Here is what Dave St. Peter, current president of the Twins, said following the departure of Morris from the BBWAA ballot in 2014.

“It sure seemed as though there was a focus by some to dispel Jack’s Hall of Fame worthiness, so to speak. It’s ironic that a lot of the sabermetricians who tried to help Bert Blyleven’s [candidacy] worked against Jack’s.”

Comments such as these point to an angry base of baseball fans,  who not only didn’t think Morris was a Hall of Famer, but vehemently attacked people for consider Morris as a Hall of Famer and were determined see Morris fall shy of the 75% vote threshold. I wish I could say this is false. That baseball fans who didn’t see Morris as a Hall of Famer just said “Nope, not a Hall of Famer”, left it at that and didn’t get upset at people voting for Morris. But I can’t say that. I can’t say that people didn’t get upset for considering / not considering Morris’ candidacy. I can’t say that people didn’t go out of their way to attack supporters of Morris.

What I can say is this, there was a loud presence of baseball fans on the internet (like me) who were adamant of Morris not being included purely on statistical means. In other words, a significant portion of the baseball community said Jack Morris’ career statistics are not one a Hall of Famer would have. Writers such as Joe Posnanski, Jay Jaffe, and David Schoenfield among others have written many articles concerning why they don’t feel Morris is a Hall of Famer and such articles revolve in the weakness of Morris’ career stats. You can find lots of different articles written on his statistical weaknesses, but I’ll summarize some of them here.

Stat Case 1: Weak Run-Prevention

The first argument doesn’t use any advanced statistics or mathematics. Just a simple formula. The most basic formula/statistic that measures a pitcher’s performance is ERA (earned run average), computed by dividing the number of innings pitched by the number of (earned) runs the pitcher allowed. In short, ERA tells you how well a pitcher prevented runs being scored against his team. So the lower an ERA is, the better. As stated earlier, Morris has a career ERA of 3.90. How does this compare with all other Hall of Fame pitchers? In turns out, that it doesn’t compare. No pitcher in the Hall of Fame has a greater ERA than Jack Morris (the closest is Red Ruffing with an ERA of 3.80).

Rk pitcher seasons ERA
1st Jack Morris 1977-1994 3.90
2nd Red Ruffing 1924-1947 3.80
3rd Ted Lyons 19238-1946 3.67
4th Jesse Haines 1918-1937 3.64
5th Herb Pennock 1912-1934 3.60
6th Waite Hoyt 1918-1938 3.59

Some Morris advocates claim it is only this high due to high ERAs Morris posted in his final two seasons (6.19 in 1993 and 5.60 in 1994). So what happens if we remove those seasons and recompute his ERA? It drops by almost twenty points down to 3.73…but now only Red Ruffing’s ERA is still greater. If one were to be more extreme and say, only consider his period until 1988, his career ERA would be 3.59 (tied for sixth worst of all time) but you get the idea. Even if we remove Morris’ most extreme seasons, his overall career run-prevention case is still high.

Coming to Morris’ defense, it is not fair to compare his ERA to, say Juan Marichal’s ERA. Both players played in vastly different eras where ERA in the 1960s was generally much lower than it was in the 1980s. So comparing ERA straight up isn’t the best comparison. This is where ERA+ comes into play. The advantage of ERA+ is it’s “normalized” in that it isn’t season context. An ERA+ of 110 means that the pitcher was 10% better than his fellow pitchers. It means the same thing in 1968 as it does in 1998. So how does Morris’s ERA+ compare with other Hall of Fame pitchers? Morris has the third WORST ERA+ (of 105) of all time, only in front of Rube Marquart (103) and Catfish Hunter (104).

Rk pitcher seasons ERA+
1st Rube Marquart 1908-1925 103
2nd Catfish Hunter 1965-1979 104
3rd Jack Morris 1977-1994 105
4th Herb Pennock 1912-1934 106
5th Early Wynn 1939-1963 107
5th Pud Galvin 1875-1892 107

With a career ERA+ of 105, Morris’ run prevention game was only slightly better than the average pitcher of his time period. And you can do a similar game as before where if you remove the two seasons at the end of his career, his ERA+ jumps up to 109 (tied for 9th worst of all time). and if you remove everything beyond 1988, ERA+ jumps again to 113, tied for 15th lowest of all time. Put together, this gives the image of a pitcher who, even when compared to people in his time period, wasn’t the greatest at preventing runs from scoring.

It’s worth mentioning that Morris’ advocates further insisted it was this high because Morris “pitched to the score” meaning he didn’t max out all the time and only got tough when he had to. For example, if his team is winning by more than 5 runs, he may decide to go a little easy out on the mound (thus allow 2-3 runs to score) if it means he gets to stay in the game till the end. This argument goes away from the statistic side of things so the only thing I’ll mention is writer Joe Sheehan has an article doubting this claim. He studied Morris Win-Loss record along with his ERA using Retrosheet. Upon close examination, he didn’t find “[any] pattern in when Jack Morris allowed runs. If he pitched to the score — and I don’t doubt that he changed his approach — the practice didn’t show up in his performance record.”

Stat Case 2: Low WAR

Another common argument made against Jack Morris is his low WAR (Wins Above Replacement) score compared to other Hall of Fame pitchers. I mentioned the value of WAR in the Trammell article but remember that I never claim it is an “end-all” statistic. It is meant as an attempt to measure a player’s total contributions on the field and summarize it all in one tidy number. It is inaccurate to say

“Player A is greater than Player B just because Player A has higher WAR than Player B.”

The following page from FanGraphs describes how WAR should be used

“Perhaps one of the most controversial aspects of sabermetrics is the way in which WAR is used. Given the nature of the calculation and potential measurement errors, WAR should be used as a guide for separating groups of players and not as a precise estimate. For example, a player that has been worth 6.4 WAR and a player that has been worth 6.1 WAR over the course of a season cannot be distinguished from one another using WAR. It is simply too close for this particular tool to tell them apart. WAR can tell you that these two players are likely about equal in value, but you need to dig deeper to separate them.”

WAR is a tool to separate out different levels of players. In a particular season, WAR difference that are less than, say 1, don’t hold as much weight in direct comparison as a WAR difference of, say 4. This can be extended to comparing career WARs over someone’s entire career. It is easier to distinguish players with “large” career WAR differences than ones with “small” career WAR differences.

With this in mind, let’s see how Jack Morris stacks up to other Hall of Fame starting pitchers in career WAR (I am using baseball-reference version of WAR). I am not considering ALL Hall of Fame pitchers since relievers mess up this analysis in addition to players who split time between pitching and hitting (ex. Babe Ruth and John Ward). Therefore I am only considering players who were PRIMARILY starting pitchers (who started at least 30% of their games), pitched at least 1500 innings, and I am going all the way back to 1871.

Note: The reason why the % of games started is this low is I want to keep Dennis Eckersley who had a split-career between being a starter and reliever.

According to baseball-reference, Jack Morris has a career WAR of 43.8. When you rank Hall of Fame pitchers (using the criteria described) above, Morris is 57th out of 64 Hall of Fame starting pitchers. Below are some pitchers with comparable with Morris’ WAR along with some well-known Hall of Fame pitchers for comparison.

Rk pitcher seasons career WAR
1st Cy Young 1890-1911 170.3
2nd Walter Johnson 1907-1927 152.3
5th Lefty Grove 1925-1941 109.9
8th Randy Johnson 1988-2009 104.3
16th Pedro Martinez 1992-2009 86.0
22nd Fergie Jenkins 1965-1983 82.8
23rd Bob Gibson 1959-1975 81.9
34th Bob Feller 1936-1956 65.5
40th Juan Marichal 1960-1975 61.9
49th Whitey Ford 1950-1967 53.9
55th Herb Pennock 1912-1934 44.1
56th Chief Bender 1903-1917, 1925 44.0
57th Jack Morris 1977-1994 43.8
58th Lefty Gomez 1930-1943 43.1
59th Dizzy Dean 1930-1941, 1947 42.7
60th Jack Chesbro 1899-1909 41.2
61st Bob Lemon 1946-1958 37.5
62nd Catfish Hunter 1965-1979 36.6
63rd Jesse Haines 1918-1937 35.7
64th (last) Rube Marquard 1908-1925 34.2

Out of the 64 pitchers listed above, the mean WAR is 72.1 with a standard deviation of 26.5. This means Morris is greater than one-standard deviation of the average WAR of a Hall of Fame pitcher. Even if you don’t believe in WAR, you have to admit that the company Morris has been keeping with these past several tables (Herb Pennock, Catfish Hunter, Rube Marquard) isn’t that inspiring a list.

Now those skeptical of WAR may look at this list and explaim “AH HA! This shows why WAR is flawed!! Bob Lemon/Dizzy Dean was a much better pitcher than Jack Morris yet this says the two pitchers are comparable! Impossible!” I completely agree with you here, to a point. In their primes, Dean and Lemon were MUCH better pitchers than Morris. However, WAR is an accumulation statistic; the more time you play, the more it usually builds up. While Morris had a long healthy career (pitched over 3800 innings), Lemon and Dean’s careers were much shorter (Dean only threw 1800 innings due to injuries and Lemon 2800 innings from missing several years to serving in WW2). So perhaps this is why WAR claims they are comparable, in that Morris’ long, very good career is comparable to Lemon/Dean’s short excellent careers.

But if this still isn’t a satisfying answer, let’s tailer the table to address these concerns. So instead of comparing Morris to all Hall of Fame starting pitchers, why not compare him to pitchers of a similar type; workhorses who threw for many years. For instance, let’s instead focus on Hall of Fame pitchers who threw 3000+ innings. In that list, Morris ranks 50 of 53 eligble pitchers. Now we are getting somewhere. Even when comparing Hall of Fame pitchers with a huge workload under their belt, Morris still ranks near the bottom. And finally, were we to restrict ourselves to pitchers with 3800+ innings (Morris threw 3824.0), he is DEAD LAST, 42 of 42. So no matter how you stack it, WAR says Morris’ career value (for a pitcher with a lot of innings thrown), is very poor compared to fellow Hall of Fame pitchers.

Stat Case 3: The Comparsion Game

This case isn’t so much an argument. Rather, it is a comparison of careers, usually from the standpoint you want to compare someone to another player where an opinion has already been established. Below is comparison of Morris to other pitchers not in the Hall of Fame with similar statistics (sorted by ERA+).

 

seasons Wins ERA ERA+ Innings Walks Strikeouts WAR
Jamie Moyer 1986 – 2012 269 4.25 103 4074.0 1155 2441 50.2
Jack Morris 1977 – 1994 254 3.90 105 3824.0 1390 2478 43.8
Dennis Martinez 1976 – 1998 245 3.70 106 3999.2 1165 2149 49.5
Bartolo Colon 1997 – present 240 4.04 107 3315.1 923 2454 47.5
David Wells 1987 – 2007 239 4.13 108 3439.0 719 2201 53.5
Luis Tiant 1964 – 1982 229 3.30 114 3486.1 1280 2416 66.1
Andy Pettitte 1995 – 2013 256 3.85 117 3316.0 1031 2448 60.9

Perhaps no comparison above is as similar to Morris as Dennis Martinez. Both pitchers within 10 wins of each other, almost identicial ERA+ and Wins, and similar WAR totals. Comparisons however only take you so far and these career stats don’t take into account the different career narratives each player has. Morris established himself after the 1979 season and held the role of ace pitcher for nearly 10 years. Martinez was the 2nd best pitcher on the Orioles in the first third of his career (behind either Jim Palmer or Mike Flanagan) who struggled in the midpoint of his career. Morris helped secure two World Series championships (1984 and 1991) whereas Martinez was on the 1979 Orioles which lost the World Series and the year the Orioles did win it (in 1983), Martinez had a dreadful year and didn’t make the World Series roster. In  addition, Martinez’s best seasons arguably didn’t come until his mid-late 30s, by which time he was playing in Montreal (and out of the public eye).

The bottom line is Jack Morris compares heavily with a lot of either “Hall of Very Good” pitchers or borderline Hall of Famers.

The Resurgence: Time Heals All Wounds…Maybe

Despite getting desparately close to the 75% vote threshold, Morris felt some relief after not getting elected on his final ballot in 2014.

“I’ve very glad it’s over,” Morris, 58, told mlb.com after learning that he was named on only 61.1 percent of ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in his final year on the ballot, well short of the 75 percent plurality required for enshrinement. “Fifteen years of being critiqued ought to be enough for anybody.”

All of the negative articles on his candidacy took a toll on the man and he wanted some closure (one way or another). But the debate wasn’t done by a longshot since it was immediately speculated he would appear on the Modern Era committee ballot in 2017. Perhaps all Morris needed was some time. Time for people to move on to debate other Hall of Fame candidates (Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina etc). Time for people to stop being so committed to keeping him out of the Hall of Fame. A lot of writers (such as Joe Posnanski) cited at the time that they took no joy in writing such (negative) articles on Jack Morris. Here is what Posnanski had to say about Morris in 2013.

In the middle of writing this longish post on Jack Morris — the 48,384th one I’ve done — I stopped for a moment to ask myself the obvious question: What’s this obsession with Jack Morris anyway? It’s not like I’m opposed to Morris going in the Hall of Fame. I’m not. Frankly, at this point, I WANT him to get elected into the Hall. He does not deserve to have his career so publicly argued about and to come achingly close to election time after time. No, I won’t vote for Morris because he falls below my Hall of Fame line, but I’d be happy if he was elected.

I think some of the heated debate resulted from people digging in on opinions and refusing to yield ground, more out of principle than anything. Once the debate was able to move away from Morris, such positions by fans perhaps were able to dissipate. The next time Morris came up in conversation, people didn’t want to have the same debate all over again. They wanted to move on. Perhaps some of the people standing in Morris’ way relinquished their position and allowed Morris to get in.

Or perhaps it’s because a large portion of the Modern Era committee is made up of Hall of Fame players (George Brett, Rod Carew, Dennis Eckersley, Don Sutton, Dave Winfield and Robin Yount) along with former Manager Bobby Cox, all of whom whitnessed or faced Jack Morris in real life. Most players stay away from the numbers when looking at potential Hall of Fame players and recall what it was like when they faced him. With Morris, one general idea rang true with a lot of former big league players: tough. He was gutsy, wanted to win, and did whatever it took to win a game. Intangibles such as these, along with the fact Morris was the winningest pitcher of the 1980s, probably propelled most of the Hall of Fame players on the committe to vote for him.

Do I think Morris’ election in the Hall is justified? Maybe. While I don’t believe he is a Hall of Famer, there is some relief in that this debate is over for now and Morris, a man whose career was picked apart piece-by-piece, for fifteen years, no longer has to worry about that. The bulldog of a pitcher held tough and in end got what he wanted, a place in the Hall of Fame.

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