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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Walters: Could Tigers’ success help Jack Morris?

Former Tigers ace Jack Morris, asked to compare himself and current Tigers ace Justin Verlander: “I think the only real comparison is that it took us both a few years to really get to a point where we understood it all, and he’s at that point now.”

Yeah, that point being Game 5…1992.

...The timing can be perfect for the St. Paul native, whose name will be back on the ballot when it comes out in the next month or so. Morris was the top finisher not elected in the most-recent vote, receiving 66.7 percent. Seventy-five percent is needed for election.

Now voters can be thinking Tigers and seeing Morris.

“I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement, being around all these writers during the postseason,” Morris said. “But I’ve just got to stay on the same plane. I can’t get too high, can’t get too low. It is what it is; it’s going to happen, if it’s meant to be. If it’s not meant to be, it’s going to be that way, too.”

Morris is up for election for a 14th year. It took former Twins pitcher Bert Blyleven 14 years for election.

Repoz Posted: October 25, 2012 at 05:14 AM | 30 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hof, tigers

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   1. TomH Posted: October 25, 2012 at 07:05 AM (#4282765)
will Tigers success help Lance Parrish? No.
will Tigers success help Alan Trammell? No.
will Tigers success help Lou Whitaker? No.

If Jack Morris snswered every HoF question with a plea for one of his deserving teammates to get elected befoe himself, I'd feel less badly if Jack got in. Dont know why, since it's still a mistake, but my sympathy-meter would negate my rational brain a bit.
   2. AROM Posted: October 25, 2012 at 07:53 AM (#4282771)
If this series goes 7, and Leyland pulls a surprise by pulling Jack out of retirement, AND he throws another shutout, he'll have my support.

Otherwise, no.
   3. Enrico Pallazzo Posted: October 25, 2012 at 08:17 AM (#4282782)
What does this have to do with Frank Tanana?
   4. Walt Davis Posted: October 25, 2012 at 08:18 AM (#4282784)
If this series goes 7, and Leyland pulls a surprise by pulling Jack out of retirement, AND he throws another shutout, he'll have my support.

Silly, silly boy. Shutouts don't matter, wins matter. If the Tigers score 1, Jack will throw a shutout; if they score 10, he'll give up 9. That he gives up all 9 in the first inning, gets pulled, then the Tigers pull the most amazing comeback of all-time would just be further proof of Morris's greatness.
   5. PS is probably a sitcom character Posted: October 25, 2012 at 08:47 AM (#4282798)
Best case for Tigers helping Morris:
If a lesser team can win the World series, a lesser pitcher can make the HoF.
However, the Giants make the same case.
   6. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: October 25, 2012 at 09:14 AM (#4282808)
The more I think about it, the more I think that Jack Morris' election wouldn't really functionally lower standards for the Hall by all that much. He takes his place pretty obviously on the bottom tier of HOF'rs (the sort usually populated by the Veteran's Committee.) To be considered a Morris Comp (hi Andy Pettitte! Curt Schilling!*), the player would need:

a) sparkling intangibles like grit, clutch, and leadership,
b) a very long prime in which the pitcher was considered an ace for at least a decade,
c) at least 2 really standout, highly memorable "moments" like Morris' 1984 or 1991 postseason performances and
d) Morris' actual 1983-1987 prime, while not HOF caliber, is very respectable. He averaged 19-11, 3.38 ERA (120 ERA+), 35 GS, 265 IP, 200K, 1.21 WHIP, 4 WAR.
e) 5 All Star games, and 5 top-5 Cy Young appearances, and a WAR record that indicates that Morris was probably generally one of the 5-10 best pitchers in the AL from 1979-1987. This demonstrates some synchronicity between (a), (b), and (c) the narrative of Morris as an ace and the (d) & (e) reality of Morris as a front end starting pitcher.

The real Jack Morris was a genuine workhorse and, in his prime, a front end starter with a penchant for playoff heroics. What he's not is the definition of an ace for any extended period, nor is he someone who over his career simply compiled too much value to be ignored. Even if you ignore his miserable final two seasons (which the writers do, and it's a position I'm frankly very sympathetic towards), none of Morris' career ERA, ERA+, IP/season, etc. suddenly look HOF worthy.

If Morris' prime really had extended from, say, 1979-1991 like some writers seem to think, at his 83-87 level, I'd be much, much more comfortable with him as a Hall of Famer. However, as it is, he's not likely to lead to any significant influx of lesser players being inducted into the HOF. And, frankly, standards ebb and flow and narrative does count. I'd much rather Jack Morris gets in and we see Curt Schilling sail in then neither be inducted.

*Curt Schilling was obviously much, much better than Morris. Basically, Schilling actually is the Legend of Jack Morris. But, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
   7. LargeBill Posted: October 25, 2012 at 10:30 AM (#4282884)
Heinie, What you say is mostly true. However, it is incomplete as it ignores the rest of Morris' career when he was either average or well below average. That sums up the problem with the pro-Morris arguments it requires ignoring the majority of his career and merely focus on the highlights. If his 5 year prime that you referred to as as respectable was more Koufax-ish then maybe the rest could be ignored. Problem is, even in his best years he was good to very good - not great. The rest was meh. You can make a HoF case on some very good & some meh if you have an incredible quantity leading to career totals that can't be denied. He falls short in that measure as well. He's 50th in IP. He can't make a Don Sutton case as Sutton was 7th in IP (basically 1,300 more IP of better quality). One great game seven doesn't make up that difference.
   8. LargeBill Posted: October 25, 2012 at 10:32 AM (#4282885)
Separately, to address the premise of the article, yes the Tigers success this year could help Morris since many of the scribes are more concerned with a narrative leading to an article or two than with the actual facts.
   9. Rants Mulliniks Posted: October 25, 2012 at 10:35 AM (#4282887)
d) Morris' actual 1983-1987 prime, while not HOF caliber, is very respectable. He averaged 19-11, 3.38 ERA (120 ERA+), 35 GS, 265 IP, 200K, 1.21 WHIP, 4 WAR.


That tells you how silly this argument is. The IPs are nice, but everything else is not even remotely close to what you would expect out of even a lower tier HOF pitcher in his best 5 season stretch.

I didn't do a PI search or anything, but the only HOF pitchers I can think of that wouldn't meet the 120 ERA+ over 5 years qualifier are Marquard and Jesse Haines, and Marquard at least has much better conventional numbers in his best seasons than Morris. Wynn meets it, Ruffing meets it, Grimes meets it, Pennock meets it.

So Morris is better than Jesse Haines. So are dozens of pitchers not in the HOF.
   10. SG Posted: October 25, 2012 at 11:31 AM (#4282933)
More reason to hope the Tigers get swept.
   11. Bourbon Samurai Posted: October 25, 2012 at 12:00 PM (#4282967)
#6, also he had a great moustache, gave a good quote, was fun to watch. I pretty much agree. I wouldn't vote for Morris for the hall of fame, but I wouldn't put up any stink over it.
   12. valuearbitrageur Posted: October 25, 2012 at 12:36 PM (#4282996)
To be considered a Morris Comp (hi Andy Pettitte! Curt Schilling!*


PitcherERA+/ bWAR
Schilling
127 /  77
Petitte
117 /  55
Morris
105 39 


To be considered Morris comps Schilling and Pettitte would have needed to have gone fishing during their best seasons and hand back a few championships.
   13. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: October 25, 2012 at 01:29 PM (#4283063)
Jack Morris is eligible for the Hall of Fame? Why haven't I heard about this?
   14. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 25, 2012 at 02:55 PM (#4283161)
Does the Detroit local media push Morris more than Trammell for the HOF? Because if they do, that really is a disgrace. When I grew up as a semi-Tigers fan, my favorite players were 1. Alan Trammell 2. Kirk Gibson 3. Lou Whitaker and maybe 4. Gary Pettis because he was fast. Then Morris.
   15. Moeball Posted: October 25, 2012 at 04:31 PM (#4283293)
will Tigers success help Alan Trammell? No.
will Tigers success help Lou Whitaker? No.

If Jack Morris snswered every HoF question with a plea for one of his deserving teammates to get elected befoe himself, I'd feel less badly if Jack got in. Dont know why, since it's still a mistake, but my sympathy-meter would negate my rational brain a bit.


I'm with TomH on this - let's face it, already at 67% there's a good chance that Morris is going in, deserved or not. He should be taking these media opportunities to plug guys like Trammell & Whitaker. Wake up, Jack - a big part of the reason for your success was teammates that both put runs on the board for you while preventing runs from scoring against you.

For all the ills of the Frankie Frisch Veterans Committee selections, at least Frankie was very vocal about recognizing contributions from his teammates and didn't seem to think he was the only great player from those teams. "Jim Bottomley, he was a great clutch hitter. George Kelly was a whiz with the glove, etc."
   16. Karl from NY Posted: October 25, 2012 at 05:06 PM (#4283350)
Could Tigers’ success help Jack Morris?


Believe it or not, YES. I have seen evidence of an effect where contemporary success by a franchise boosts the HOF voting totals of its favorite sons.

Jim Rice was actually losing votes for a couple years, and suddenly reversed course to start gaining again right after the 2004 Red Sox World Series.

Gary Carter's biggest vote gains came right after the two Mets playoff seasons in 1999 and 2000.

The 1983 White Sox division title immediately preceded large gains by all of Hoyt Wilhelm, Nellie Fox, and Luis Aparicio.

Don Drysdale and Duke Snider had several low years on the ballot, then made big gains amidst successful Dodger teams in 1977 through 1981.

Ralph Kiner spent three years in the 40s, then jumped to 55% after the Pirates 1970 division title, and reached 75% after the Pirates 1974 division title.

These are anecdotes, but I've been meaning to do a real study of a correlation between franchise success and HOF voting totals of its players in the next election.
   17. TDF, situational idiot Posted: October 25, 2012 at 05:11 PM (#4283356)
If Jack Morris snswered every HoF question with a plea for one of his deserving teammates to get elected befoe himself, I'd feel less badly if Jack got in.
But Morris is an ego-centric a55hat, so that will never ever happen.

Guarantee, if he's elected, his speech will be about how he would have made it years ago if he'd had better defense behind him, or if the offense didn't waste so many scoring chances.
   18. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: October 25, 2012 at 05:21 PM (#4283363)
Morris's other teams were 72 games under .500 this year. The Blue Jays have been in the news for trading their manager. Now the Twins and the Indians will have to do something newsworthy to help Jack Morris. Maybe the Twins can cure cancer, and the Indians can fix the presidential election.

For Jack.
   19. Cooper Nielson Posted: October 25, 2012 at 11:11 PM (#4283879)
d) Morris' actual 1983-1987 prime, while not HOF caliber, is very respectable. He averaged 19-11, 3.38 ERA (120 ERA+), 35 GS, 265 IP, 200K, 1.21 WHIP, 4 WAR.

That tells you how silly this argument is. The IPs are nice, but everything else is not even remotely close to what you would expect out of even a lower tier HOF pitcher in his best 5 season stretch.


I brought this up in a previous Morris post (Preemptive note: I do not think Morris is a worthy HOFer, so please don't think I'm trying to make that argument), but Catfish Hunter's 5-year prime wasn't incredibly better than Morris's, and Hunter's HOF candidacy is entirely based on his prime. Outside of his 5-year prime, he was basically a league-average starter, and not for very long.

Catfish Hunter, 1971-1975 (season averages):

22-10, 2.65 ERA (127 ERA+), 38 GS, 294 IP, 163 K, 1.03 WHIP, 4.7 WAR

He's clearly ahead of Morris in everything but strikeouts, but if you consider the three extra starts were a function of the era and had little to do with Hunter, the differences in wins, innings, and WAR are reduced a bit.

Hunter made it into the HOF in his third year of eligibility, so clearly this was considered a "Hall of Fame-worthy prime." Morris's 1983-1987, though worse, was not that much worse, and he also had 1979, 1981 and 1991, where he was very good -- WAR of 5.6. 3.2 (approximately 4.5 if prorated for games canceled by the strike) and 4.1.

Hunter, on the other hand, outside of his 5-year peak, had one season of 4.3 WAR, but his next best was 1.9.
   20. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: October 25, 2012 at 11:18 PM (#4283902)
#17: I think it's pretty ridiculous to expect any player with a realistic Hall chance to poor mouth his career and champion other players over himself.
   21. Howie Menckel Posted: October 25, 2012 at 11:41 PM (#4283923)

Look at Hunter's W totals, peaking as his team won THREE consecutive World Series in the new 2-round system, a great nickname and moustache, and he was the Game 1 guy throughout and kept winning in the postseason.

There is no point in having a Hall of FAME if Catfish doesn't evoke an amazing and memorable team. One of the most memorable dynasties of all time, plus the first huge-splash free agent ever, basically, who goes to the Yankees and wins 20 again.

The gripe with Morris is exactly that, in spite of 1984 and another epic stat, he was NOT Catfish peak.


Hint: There is no Hall of Fame for football that can exclude Joe Namath, either.
Maybe you had to be there...


   22. Cooper Nielson Posted: October 26, 2012 at 01:09 AM (#4283956)
The gripe with Morris is exactly that, in spite of 1984 and another epic stat, he was NOT Catfish peak.

But Morris's HOF argument has never been a "peak" argument (unless you consider his peak to be Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.) He's more of a compiler who was considered (perhaps wrongly) to be pretty good for a long period of time -- more Don Sutton than Sandy Koufax.

So if you have a guy who was an "ace" (opening-day starter) for a long time, won a bunch of games ("most wins in the '80s!") and he also had a five-year peak that matches up relatively well to a pure-peak candidate, it seems to me that's either an argument in Morris's favor or an argument against Catfish. (I lean toward the latter.)

Maybe you had to be there...

This is probably true. I did not start following baseball/collecting baseball cards until 1981, so I never saw Catfish pitch. I was aware that he had been a "superstar," and when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame I was not surprised or upset, but when I really looked at his stats years later, I kinda scratched my head. Not having "been there," it's hard to see what was so great about him.

Superficially, Hunter's peak doesn't look that much better than Dave Stewart's (though Stewart's was only 4 years).
   23. tshipman Posted: October 26, 2012 at 01:17 AM (#4283958)
Not having "been there," it's hard to see what was so great about him.


Catfish, million-dollar-man,
Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can.

Reggie Jackson at the plate
Seein' nothin' but the curve,
Swing too early or too late
Got to eat what Catfish serve.

Catfish, million-dollar-man,
Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can.
   24. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: October 26, 2012 at 01:50 AM (#4283961)
Believe it or not, YES. I have seen evidence of an effect where contemporary success by a franchise boosts the HOF voting totals of its favorite sons.

Jim Rice was actually losing votes for a couple years, and suddenly reversed course to start gaining again right after the 2004 Red Sox World Series.

Gary Carter's biggest vote gains came right after the two Mets playoff seasons in 1999 and 2000.

The 1983 White Sox division title immediately preceded large gains by all of Hoyt Wilhelm, Nellie Fox, and Luis Aparicio.

Don Drysdale and Duke Snider had several low years on the ballot, then made big gains amidst successful Dodger teams in 1977 through 1981.

Ralph Kiner spent three years in the 40s, then jumped to 55% after the Pirates 1970 division title, and reached 75% after the Pirates 1974 division title.

These are anecdotes, but I've been meaning to do a real study of a correlation between franchise success and HOF voting totals of its players in the next election.


Other than Carter and Fox, I'm not seeing it (at least with the above examples). Drysdale, Kiner and 2/3 of the White Sox* enjoyed their biggest bumps in the vote before the season in question - Dodgers in 77, Pirates in 70, White Sox in 83. The yearly vote is considered to take place in January, before the baseball season of that year.

* Rice's only big jump was in 2000, which did follow a playoff year, though the stacked 1999 ballot was probably more to blame, since his support cratered from 1998. Despite BTF CW, he had one of the more unspectactular slow, steady climbs up the ballot.
   25. Cooper Nielson Posted: October 26, 2012 at 08:58 AM (#4284011)
he was the Game 1 guy throughout and kept winning in the postseason.

Granted, he was fantastic with those three World Series champions, but throw in his 1971 appearance and his diminished Yankee years and his career postseason numbers are: 9-6, 3.26 ERA (interestingly, precisely the same as his career regular-season ERA), 1.126 WHIP, 70 K, 35 BB and 21(!) HR allowed in 132.1 innings. Still good, but not exactly legendary.

Dave Stewart, for comparison, was 10-6 with a 2.77 ERA and 1.105 WHIP in the postseason in the same playoff format (except for 1981). He had an almost identical 133 IP, with 73 K, 48 BB and 13 HR allowed. He pitched for three World Series champions (though he was not a key member of the 1981 Dodgers).

Dave Stewart appeared on only two Hall of Fame ballots before dropping off, Catfish got in on his third try.
   26. BDC Posted: October 26, 2012 at 09:24 AM (#4284025)
I was thinking of my own mock HOF ballot for this winter's goat-rodeo of an election, and I reckon I'd go to ten names: Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Piazza, Raines, Schilling, Sosa, Trammell. I see very little to distinguish Morris from David Wells, who is making his first ballot appearance. Neither one was nearly as good a pitcher as Schilling, though they had longer careers.
   27. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: October 26, 2012 at 11:26 AM (#4284179)
Dave Stewart, for comparison, was 10-6 with a 2.77 ERA and 1.105 WHIP in the postseason in the same playoff format (except for 1981). He had an almost identical 133 IP, with 73 K, 48 BB and 13 HR allowed. He pitched for three World Series champions (though he was not a key member of the 1981 Dodgers).

Dave Stewart appeared on only two Hall of Fame ballots before dropping off, Catfish got in on his third try.


Catfish was the ace of three straight championship teams (yeah Holtzman had a better '73, but you get my point). He also went 4-0 in the WS over that run. Bob Dylan wrote a song about him. He was a big deal, and for obvious reasons.

Stewart went 2-4 in the WS, though he pitched pretty well. He only won 168 games with a 100 ERA+. I don't think there's any mystery why Hunter was regarded as a HOF-type pitcher and Stewart was not.
   28. Cooper Nielson Posted: October 26, 2012 at 12:57 PM (#4284321)
I don't think there's any mystery why Hunter was regarded as a HOF-type pitcher and Stewart was not.

I agree with the second half of this statement but I'm still not convinced about the first half. I know Catfish was great for about five years, was on a terrific team, was very famous, and people liked him. I still think he's a stretch as a Hall of Famer, no matter what the argument. (Unless it's "pitcher wins over a five-year span.")

He had a nice peak, but it wasn't Koufaxian, and outside of his 5-year peak, he really didn't do much. By career WAR and ERA+ he doesn't stand out over Jim Perry, Andy Messersmith, Mickey Lolich, Milt Pappas, or Vida Blue and he's well behind guys like Luis Tiant and Rick Reuschel, non-HOFers.
   29. Walt Davis Posted: October 28, 2012 at 12:30 AM (#4285717)
I can't explain it either but, at the time of his career, at his retirement and when he came up for vote, I thought he was a pretty obvious HoFer. Looking back on it, I really can't think why I thought so other than we all "knew" he was the best pitcher in the AL in the 70s.

In retrospect, he got a little lucky on timing in that he hit the ballot when there was a drought in starters and before the glut hit. Much like Morris, it never hurts to be the best starter on the ballot. You could argue Bunning was better but close enough.

In Hunter's first year on the ballot, he finished 6th with a respectable 54% of the vote but this must have been one of the weaker HoF ballots of all-time. Maris was 7th with 32%, Harvey Kuenn was 8th with 31% and Tony Oliva was 9th with 29%. Kuenn was coming off some success managing the Brewers but had fewer than 2100 hits. Lew Burdette -- seriously, Lew Burdette -- polled in the 20s from 1977 to 1987. The man had a career 99 ERA+. Roy Face was outpolling Santo, Torre and Munson. The voters of that era didn't have a clue what they were doing.

Then, in 1986 ... this also pretty stunning. The second best debut player (after McCovey) was Tim McCarver. OK, Blair with 34 WAR wins the WAR battle but nobody came on the ballot in 86. But that was topped in 87 when the best debut was Bobby Bonds -- a very respectable 56 WAR but less than 6% of the vote. Roger Maris was now sitting 5th and Catfish was in.

This continued in 88 when Stargell made it first ballot and Bunning barely missed. Oliva, Cepeda, Maris, Kuenn and Maz now sit 3rd through 7th.

And in 1989, the types of HoF ballots we loved through the 90s finally came. Bench, Yaz, Perry, Jenkins and Kaat come on. That was 4 of the top 5 slots. Lolich dropped from 25% to 10.5 and never made it above that again. Bunning lost 11 points and Oliva 17 and Tiant 20. Palmer and Morgan follow and Bunning drops another 10 points.

If Hunter hadn't already made it, he'd have dropped with Bunning et al. He'd have still had plenty of time to rebuild momentum but the pitchers really didn't stop coming. Sutton and Niekro took a while and right after Sutton made it, Ryan came on the ballot. Hunter probably wouldn't have started making progress again until the 2000 ballot ... except for the little problem that he would have been off the ballot by then.

The voters are weird with their story players so it's certainly possible that they'd have voted Hunter in before Niekro or Sutton. But it's also certainly possible that if Hunter hadn't had the luck to debut with no outstanding pitchers on the ballot and have it remain that way for a few years (with no strong debuts by anybody) then he doesn't make it before 1989 and then he doesn't make it all. He'd have likely been the Morris of his day, getting lots of late ballot support. His best shot would have been 96 when they elected nobody but two of those nobodies were Niekro and Sutton.

   30. BDC Posted: October 28, 2012 at 09:26 AM (#4285777)
I think it's pretty ridiculous to expect any player with a realistic Hall chance to poor mouth his career and champion other players over himself

I dunno – isn't it the big-picture equivalent of being interviewed post-game and saying "I struggled with my control, but Lou-Whit made a couple of key plays back there and Trammy came up big with that RBI double?" For all I know Morris would say pretty much that at his induction. Without the silly retroactive nicknames, I hope.

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