Morris era intersects steroids era in latest vote

  • Article by: DENNIS BRACKIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 16, 2012 - 7:22 AM

In his 14th year of eligibility, the St. Paul native shares a Hall of Fame ballot with names like Bonds, Clemens and Sosa.

hide

Jack Morris won three World Series, and even though he spent only one season with the Twins, he might be best known among fans for his Game 7 victory in the 1991 Series.

Jack Morris is in his 14th -- and second to last -- year on the Hall of Fame ballot, adding personal drama in its sense of urgency to the annual vote this month by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Morris is the leading returning vote-getter after finishing second to Barry Larkin last year, but this time the St. Paul native and 1991 Twin grudgingly shares the ballot with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa, all of them alleged steroid users who are on the ballot for the first time for one of the most highly anticipated elections in baseball history.

"To me, it's frustrating to hear, 'Oh, Morris might have a chance because he's on the ballot with all the guys who did this and that,'" he said. "Wait a minute. Take that out of the picture. I'm either in or out, based on what I did. I don't think [the alleged steroid users] should have anything to do with it."

Morris, who pitched from 1977 to 1994 and won 254 games, gained 66.7 percent of the 573 ballots cast last year, meaning he needs to pick up 48 more votes -- more if the number of voters increases, as anticipated -- to reach the required 75 percent threshold. He leaves no doubt how he would vote on alleged cheaters.

"Look, guys do [performance-enhancing drugs] to get an edge," he said. "They don't feel good about their God-given ability, so they've got to have an edge. That mentality bothers me. ... I just think it's wrong for society to reward people for doing something that was definitely wrong.

"That sends the wrong message to the next generation. I know I was never raised that way, and I would not want to live that way. I didn't cheat my teammates, myself, or anybody. I'm not a perfect guy. I made a lot of bad mistakes in my life, but not in that regard."

Morris feels so strongly on that subject that he says he's even sympathetic to the voters, many of whom found him as a player to be surly and brusque. The writers, he said, will be the first official baseball entity to make a decision on suspected steroid users, since the commissioner's office has declined to become involved on matters such as placing asterisks in the record book.

"The writers have some tough decisions to make, because other people haven't," Morris said. "It's going to be interesting."

Interesting, in part, because those alleged cheaters have such gaudy numbers. Bonds has every qualification needed for admission, a seven-time NL MVP and eight-time Gold Glove outfielder who holds baseball's home run records for a single season (73) and a career (762). Clemens, too, would be a cinch first-ballot selection based on seven Cy Young Awards and a 354-184 career record. Sosa had 609 career homers and hit 60 in a season three times.

Morris' credentials, on the other hand, inspire debate, not awe.

The eye test

Morris' candidacy draws intense emotions from both sides. Unlike another ex-Twins pitcher, Bert Blyleven, who was elected in his 14th year on the ballot, Morris is not popular with baseball's statistical wing.

He never won a Cy Young Award; won fewer games than either Jim Kaat or Tommy John, neither of whom is in the Hall; and his career ERA is 3.90, higher than any enshrined pitcher.

Why Morris? His supporters point to the fact that he won more games than anyone in the 1980s, was an ace -- 14 Opening Day starts -- and earned a reputation as a big-game pitcher, in large part because of his 1-0, 10-inning victory for the Twins in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

"The majority of time, the voting is career-based," said Hall of Famer Paul Molitior, who like Morris and Hall of Famer Dave Winfield were products of St. Paul's youth program. "Every now and then there's an exception due to injury -- a [Sandy] Koufax, a [Kirby] Puckett -- people like that. I think people who understand and watch the game know the intangible aspect that goes beyond career numbers. When players dominate a decade and come up a little bit short on career numbers, those guys are still Hall of Fame players."

Morris quickly acknowledges that "Bert and I are not the same pitchers," which might explain why Morris never made a serious jump in his vote total when he shared the ballot with Blyleven for 12 years. But after Blyleven was elected in 2011, Morris' total jumped 13.2 percentage points.

That statistic favors Morris, since only one player, Gil Hodges, has had more than a 60 percent vote and failed to eventually get into the Hall of Fame -- although Orlando Cepeda and Jim Bunning were voted in by the Veterans Committee, a body that considers players who did not make it during their 15 years of eligibility.

Numbers game

Morris, who spent most of his 18 years in the majors with the Detroit Tigers, said he's proud of his rising vote total because neither he nor any of the teams he played on has mounted a formal campaign for his election. It means, he said, that writers, on their own, are coming around, even if statistics leave him in a gray area.

"Numbers are great, but you can make them into anything you want them to be," he said. "There's no number for measuring what you meant to your manager. Go ask any current manager what it meant to have a guy on his staff who, almost every game, was going to pitch into the seventh, eighth or ninth inning. To pitch 20 complete games a year. There's no number to measure what that means to a team, and to a staff, over the course of a season."

Well, there might be one number: How did the team fare? Morris was the No. 1 pitcher on three World Series champions -- Detroit in 1984, the Twins in 1991 and Toronto in 1992. Many of those who support Morris base their conviction on what is known as eye appeal, a criterion Morris clearly favors.

"What did you see with the naked eye?" he said.

"That's usually the way you pick a bride. I don't think any woman is going to be too pleased if you ask her to step on a scale, to check her numbers."

Heart and soul

A Hall of Famer? Morris would love to be elected, but even now, so close, he's not begging for votes. A man who admits he had a bad case of "self-centeredness and selfishness" as a player because of his life's purpose -- "win the next game" -- now sounds almost zen-like in his philosophy.

He's become a grandparent, owned a ranch, done baseball broadcasting and now works for MLB.com. Along the way, he says, he's learned to appreciate what he calls "the journey," and these 14 years on the ballot have been nothing if not a journey.

Life, he said, has taught him that you don't get everything you want, "no matter how much you want them." And so he'll let others debate his statistics, content in his belief that numbers alone will never tell the whole story of his career.

"What's in your heart?" Morris said.

"I played the game with my heart and soul, and gave everything I could. And what was in my soul was to win the next game, and I did pretty good at that."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: F. Doubront 5 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
Cincinnati - LP: A. Simon 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 3
Minnesota - LP: J. Burton 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: A. Miller 3
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 7 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: B. Colon 2
Miami - WP: J. Cosart 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: A. Harang 0
Boston - LP: A. Webster 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: J. Odorizzi 7
Cleveland - WP: J. Tomlin 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: S. Downs 2
Detroit - WP: K. Ryan 8 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: C. Bassitt 4
Texas - LP: P. Klein 0 FINAL
Houston - WP: S. Feldman 2
Colorado - WP: T. Matzek 2 FINAL
Arizona - LP: V. Nuno 0
Chicago Cubs - LP: T. Wada 2 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Gonzales 13
Los Angeles - LP: J. Wright 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Stauffer 2
Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers 1 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: J. Peavy 3
Oakland - LP: J. Samardzija 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: Y. Herrera 2
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 3 FINAL
Seattle - LP: R. Elias 1
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 FINAL
(23) North Carolina 56
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 16 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 48
Stephen F Austin 16 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 55
Fresno State 13 FINAL
(15) USC 52
Southern Miss 0 FINAL
Miss State 49
Texas-El Paso 31 FINAL
New Mexico 24
North Texas 7 FINAL
Texas 38
(1) Florida State 37 FINAL
Oklahoma State 31
(14) Wisconsin 24 FINAL
(13) LSU 28
Idaho 0 Postponed
Florida 0
South Dakota 13 FINAL
(3) Oregon 62
(25) Washington 17 FINAL
Hawaii 16
Utah State 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 FINAL
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
FC Dallas 0 FINAL
Chicago 1
Real Salt Lake 1 FINAL
San Jose 1
Portland 3 FINAL
Vancouver FC 0
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Chicago 70 FINAL
Indiana 77

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many fantasy football teams do you draft?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close