Resentment melts away as Jack Morris finally makes the Hall of Fame
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — There was a time when Jack Morris carried some resentment toward those who kept him from what many viewed as his rightful place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
On Monday, Dec. 11, after a 16-member panel of former players, executives and historians did what members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America never would, Morris made it clear there were no hard feelings.
"I want all the writers to know that I'm not mad at any of you," Morris, a St. Paul native and graduate of Highland Park High School, said at a news conference at baseball's annual winter meetings. "I appreciate and understand how difficult it had to be. I finally grew up and learned that there's reasons I maybe didn't deserve to be in."
Despite 254 career victories, including the highest win total for any pitcher in the 1980s, Morris never was able to secure the 75-percent support on the writers' ballot he needed for Cooperstown induction. He peaked at 67.7 percent in 2012, his second-to-last of 15 years on the ballot.
Seated on the dais with fellow Modern Baseball Era inductee Alan Trammell, his former teammate with the Detroit Tigers, Morris, 62, alluded to the sabermetrics-based case against his hall worthiness, one that pointed to his lack of statistical dominance in such areas as strikeout and walk rate, park-adjusted earned-run average and career Wins Above Replacement.
"I wasn't born and raised in the analytics that are in the game today," said Morris, a Fox Sports North TV analyst for a Twins team that now leans heavily toward analytics. "None of it was part of the game when we played. I always found it puzzling to wonder why I'm being judged on a criteria that didn't even exist while we played."
While Morris' election was mostly popular back home, it caused some backlash in the larger community of baseball followers. His career 3.90 ERA becomes the highest of any pitcher welcomed into Cooperstown, and the lack of so-called "black ink" — meaning annual awards and league-leading statistics — hampered his case, as well.
"Jack Morris is officially a Hall of Famer. He shouldn't be," Bill Baer of NBCSports.com wrote Sunday. "Statistically, Morris falls well short of Cooperstown standards."
Even in Detroit, where the '80s-era Tigers had been underrepresented aside from late manager Sparky Anderson, Morris' election caused some hand-wringing. While Trammell, a shortstop, fared well with 70.4 career Wins Above Replacement (WAR), as measured by Baseball-Reference.com, Morris' career rWAR of 43.8 paled by comparison to most other hall of fame players.
When adjusted for ballpark and normalized against the rest of the American League, Morris' career ERA-plus was 105 — or 5 percent above league average. As Baer noted, Morris' adjusted OPS falls more in line with the likes of Andy Benes (105), A.J. Burnett (104) and Jamie Moyer (103) than most of the game's all-time greats.
Morris and Trammell stayed on the writers' ballot for 15 years before their cases were sent to the veterans' committee. For Morris, who pitched 18 seasons in the majors and was part of four World Series winners, the golden ticket finally reached his hands Sunday evening.
"I have to thank this group of people that voted for us," Morris said. "It is somewhat more gratifying knowing that the guys that I tried to get out and the people that I competed against and the guys that worked the front office and made decisions are the people that helped us be here today. It's wonderful. I don't know how to describe it any other way."
The Modern Era Baseball Committee included fellow Hall of Fame players George Brett, Rod Carew, Dennis Eckersley, Don Sutton, Dave Winfield and Robin Yount; Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox; Hall of Fame executive John Schuerholz; Mets GM Sandy Alderson; former Blue Jays president Paul Beeston; owners Bob Castellini (Reds), Bill DeWitt (Cardinals) and David Glass (Royals); and media historians Bob Elliott (a hall of fame writer who covered Morris in Toronto), Steve Hirdt and Jayson Stark.