Jack Morris was once the greatest big-game pitcher in baseball. He took the ball every opening day, made All-Star teams, threw a no-hitter and led the Detroit Tigers to the World Series title in 1984.
Yet, in a career that seemed to be destined for the Hall of Fame, Morris waited all 15 years on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot and saw his vote totals rise to the point it seemed election was imminent — only to have time run out on his rising vote totals.
It is something that has puzzled and enraged Tiger fans for the better part of a decade. How could arguably the top pitcher of a decade-plus not be in the Hall of Fame?
Ironically, one of the biggest reasons is sabermetrics. The new-age statistics that have allowed baseball fans to realize that players like Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Tim Raines and Bert Blyleven were completely underrated and underappreciated in their time finally showed its backhanded side by showing that through other statistics, perhaps Jack Morris was overrated.
The other thing that really seemed to bug Hall of Fame voters about Jack Morris was his 3.90 earned run average. It wasn’t the number specifically that kept them from checking the box next to Morris on their ballots, it was the fact that if elected, Morris would have the highest ERA in the Hall of Fame.
The older, conservative voters have always been slow to process something like that, feeling that statistically, they would be lowering the standard of the Hall of Fame.
So Morris had numbers that bugged old and new types of voters. In a way, it is amazing he received as many votes as he did. But that also shows just how dominant he truly was. Every Tiger fan felt a little more confident every time Morris took the mound.
For him to barely miss election multiple times despite having the far right wing and far left wing of voters against him is remarkable. But it shows that all the voters in the middle valued what he did bring.
Morris won 254 games during his career and started 13 consecutive Opening Days, including 11 in a row for Detroit. He also pitched the greatest World Series game in baseball history, a 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 series as a member of the Minnesota Twins. Who does that? A 10-inning shutout. They way relief pitchers are brought in and out like musical chairs these days, it’s something that almost seems too amazing to be true.
But the good news for Tigers fans is despite not being on the writers’ ballot anymore, Morris actually has the best chance of being elected. The old veterans committee is now split into three eras and Morris will be considered on the next vote — along with Lou Whitaker. Trammell will join them in the next cycle.
Old-school voters like Morris. New-school voters like Trammell and Whitaker. The next few elections out of Cooperstown could be a delight for Detroit Tigers fans.
After decades of waiting for a player to be elected (the last Tigers player elected was Hal Newhouser in 1992), it would be fitting to see all three Tigers legends from the dominant 1980s era go in at the same time.
Of course it won’t happen that way, but a baseball fan can dream, can’t he?