Slowly and quietly, Jack Morris' case for the Hall of Fame is gaining momentum. It's not enough to give him a good chance for induction this year. At this rate, it might not be enough by the time he runs out of years on the writers' ballot. But it's enough to demand attention for his case.
The percentage of ballots cast that had Morris selected for induction has risen in each of the last four years, including a 39-vote bump last year to 33 percent. He needs 75 percent for induction, of course, but to get there, he needs current voters to change their minds. So far, it's being done.
The debate on Morris whittles down to wins and postseason success versus a higher ERA than many voters are comfortable with. Nobody won more games in the '80s, and few players in the last 25 years have produced as many highlight performances in the playoffs as did Morris. By trading zeroes with John Smoltz in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series while with the Twins, he turned in a 10-inning shutout in one of the greatest-pitched games in the history of the Fall Classic.
Morris won three World Series with three different teams -- Detroit, Minnesota and Toronto -- and he was good enough to pitch Game 1 in each series. No other player on this year's ballot owns as many titles. While Reggie Jackson was Mr. October at the plate, Morris was arguably the equivalent on the mound.
In the regular season, Morris was the defining pitcher of the '80s, not just for the wins but for the mentality. His fiery competitiveness was well known around the league, and his no-hitter in 1984 is the defining image of the Tigers' regular-season run through the AL East en route to the franchise's most recent World Series victory.
The main criticism to his candidacy, in many voters' eyes, is a 3.90 lifetime ERA that sits less than two-tenths of a run under the league average over the course of his career. Most of the damage came during his final six seasons, when he finished with an ERA less than 4.00 in only one of the six years.
| Jack Morris' resume
Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays, Indians
254 wins, three World Series titles, 175 CG
Rookie of Year, '88, MVP '91
Best HOF vote Pct.:
33.3% in 2005
Peers in Hall:
Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton
More stats and bio >
The dichotomy between a high win total and a high ERA raised the question: Did Morris win because his teams were so good, or was his ERA uncharacteristically high for a great pitcher because he pitched to the score? The fact that he tossed a complete game in nearly one out of every three starts would help suggest the latter. The fact that he had more games with five or more runs of support than most of his peers in the American League argued the former.
During an interview with MLB.com last year, Morris suggested he pitched to the score.
"If I had a three-run lead, I was throwing fastballs down the [middle] trying to get the inning over," he said. "If I threw a fastball down the middle and they hit it out, they hit it out."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.