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Wednesday, August 20, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 1/8/2014

SPORTS COMMENTARY

A shame Morris will be left out

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

It is probably a good thing I don’t have a Baseball Hall of Fame vote, because I neither understand nor care about all this new-fangled statistical data.

I just know what I like and I have always liked Jack Morris. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Dealing with him was like playing with razor blades. Let’s say I respected his talent and admired his tenacity against all odds and opponents.

He hasn’t thrown a pitch in almost 20 years but he has found a foe he can’t beat. Morris is 0-14 against the Hall of Fame and he’ll hear the 15th and, for him, final ballot result today.b42c8762-476a-4fec-a64c-c3d767cd8dbe

Greg Maddux is a lock to be elected in his first year of eligibility, not as a unanimous pick because, well, nobody ever has been. Not the Babe, not Ty Cobb, not Ted Williams, not anybody.

Jack Morris, Detroit Tigers pitcher, August, 1981. Jack Morris, Detroit Tigers pitcher, August, 1981.
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“Some dumb [bleep] will probably leave him off the ballot because no one else has ever been a unanimous pick,” said Maddux’s Atlanta teammate, Chipper Jones.

A lot of dumb bleeps will leave Morris off again because there are more qualified candidates this year than in some time and new rules limit the number of players for whom the baseball writers may vote.

This is also the first year of eligibility for Frank Thomas, the only player ever to string together seven seasons of at least 20 home runs and a .300 average, 100 RBIs, and 100 walks. It is the first shot for 3,000-hit man Craig Biggio, and Tom Glavine, who recorded more strikeouts on fewer strikes than probably anybody, and classy pitcher Mike Mussina.

How many of them gain the necessary votes is anybody’s guess. Not so for the likes of ace Roger Clemens and slugger Barry Bonds. They are the PED poster children and they have plenty of company, real or perceived, and the doors of the Hall are closed.

It will be a shame if they remain closed to Morris.

I know, I know. His record of 254-186 isn’t good enough to guarantee entry and no one with a career ERA higher than 3.80 has ever been elected and Morris’ was 3.90. He didn’t strike out enough batters. I get it.

No pitcher won more games or pitched more innings — and no one was close — during his 1977-94 career. No one was grittier or meaner in big games or close games. He won three World Series titles and neither the ’84 Tigers nor ’91 Twins would likely have done it without him.

Remember Game 7 of the ’91 Series against the Braves, a 10-inning, 1-0 shutout on three days rest? That was Jack Morris.

He pitched at least eight innings in more games for AL teams than any pitcher in the DH era.

He was the Opening Day starter 14 times for three different teams.

He was the Game 1 starter in a World Series three times.

Three different All-Star managers handed him the ball.

So you can have all your sabermetrics — WAR, slash lines, OPS, etc. — to choose your hall-of-famers. Or maybe you just had to be there and recognize a nasty guy with nasty stuff.

Morris came up 42 votes shy in last year’s vote and it’s hard to imagine him increasing his total with fewer ballots being cast for an influx of qualified candidates. If that’s how it plays out, it’s a shame.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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