On July 26, 1977, Jack Morris took the hill for the very first time at Comiskey Park against the Chicago White Sox. The 22-year-old Morris pitched four innings of relief and gave up two hits and two earned runs while striking out three in his major league debut.
Little did the people of the Windy City know is that day they were witnessing the birth of a career that would compile the most wins by a pitcher in the 1980’s, become one of the best big game pitchers in baseball history, win four World Series, and lead the Tigers’ staff for 14 years.
Whether you watched him pitch countless games at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull or have read or saw film of Tigers the Tigers legend, the name Jack Morris has been forever etched into the history of the Tigers.
Which leads people to ask a common question, how is Jack Morris not in the Hall of Fame?
A big knock on Morris is his career ERA, which is 3.90 and would be the highest number amongst any other pitcher currently in the Hall of Fame. But a lot to do with Morris’ inflated ERA is his last three years in the majors in which he posted an ERA of 5.07 ultimately rising his career ERA from 3.71 to 3.90.
What really gets overlooked though was the fact that Morris was an innings eater. Putting up 10 (seven straight) 200 inning seasons and nearly getting to the 300 mark in 1983 when he pitched 293 innings. Morris also has five top five finishes in the Cy Young voting as well as 254 wins and 2,478 strike outs.
The stats and accomplishments are certainly present when looking at Morris’ 18 year career. But the numbers alone may not what be what finally gets this Tigers great into Cooperstown.
The 2013 Hall of Fame ballot is like the Kardashians… very annoying, not going away anytime soon, and very controversial. This years ballot features first time candidates such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Craig Biggio, and Sammy Sosa. And when you see names like Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa you think of one thing, steroids. Furthermore it’s that tarnish on the careers of these once great players that will help Morris finally get into the Hall of Fame.
But to further point out the effect that steroids has had on potential Hall of Fame inductees, Mark McGwire (an admitted steroid user) has been on the ballot since 2007 and has never come close to reaching the 75% mark of the vote needed to go to Cooperstown. Which means guys like Clemens and Bonds, who have huge steroid clouds floating over their heads may not fair much better on their first time on the ballot.
Some writers refuse to vote for anyone that used PED’s. Meaning Morris (who only has one more year left of eligibility to get in) is the safe and easy way out pick.
Now to think this is the only way Morris finally gets in is ludicrous. But it maybe his best and only chance he has at finally getting into the Hall of Fame.
In the end though it’s a damn shame it has taken the writers 14 years to even get this close to voting Morris in and it took a controversial ballot to help push his case. But after a road that has been way too long for Morris, it’s certainly better than nothing.