Morris builds momentum but falls shy in Hall bid

Morris builds momentum but falls shy in Hall bid

Morris builds momentum but falls shy in Hall bid
The wait for the Hall of Fame goes on for Jack Morris, but with a lot more hope. And like his World Series duel with John Smoltz in 1991, it's going to come down to the end.

"The older I get, the more I realize the process," Morris told on Monday in a phone conversation. "Maybe my day will come, maybe it won't."

Morris received 382 votes out of 573 ballots cast for the Hall of Fame this year, announced Monday by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He didn't get the 75 percent of votes required for induction, but he got his 11th consecutive year with a bump up from the previous ballot.

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This jump was his biggest yet, from 53.5 percent last year to 66.7 percent this time.

"That's got to be a good sign for me," Morris said. "Today, as we talk, that's an encouraging thing for me. I have to thank the guys who jumped on board and voted for me and the guys who continue to vote for me and help this along." 

Morris will head into next year with the highest vote total of anyone still on the ballot. The challenge will be to try to keep the attention going into next year, when so many prominent players join the ballot for the first time.

Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa and Curt Schilling, to name a handful, become eligible for consideration next year. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina, Frank Thomas and Jeff Kent become eligible the following year.

With just two more years of eligibility on the writers' ballot, the urgency for Morris kicks in now. But at just over eight percent shy of induction, the goal is in sight.

"It's like life: Every day, there's a new set of circumstances," Morris said. "Obviously the steroid [era] guys are coming in and the big controversy, and you guys are going to have more conversations amongst each other than ever before.

"The truth is, I don't assume a thing. Trust me, I don't assume that since my numbers have come to this level that I'm going to get in."

Percentage-wise, Morris' jump was the third largest of anyone on this year's ballot, trailing just Larkin's 24 percent leap and Jeff Bagwell's bump. Morris' Tigers teammate, Alan Trammell, had the next-highest jump, from 24.3 percent last year to 36.8 percent now, likely a carryover from the momentum given to Larkin.

Morris made a point, more than once, to say that this is Larkin's day. His ties with the newest Hall of Famer go all the way back to Larkin's college days at the University of Michigan, where Morris was working out one winter in the early years of his Major League career.

Morris saw Larkin work out, talked with coaches about him, and knew he was looking at a Major Leaguer. He didn't know he was looking at a future Hall of Famer.

"It's his day, and he deserves it," Morris said. "He's a class guy and he had a great career. He's endured a little bit being in his third year, but at least he's been through a little bit of the process."

With more than a decade on the ballot, Morris knows the process all too well, and yet he's still amazed by it. He hasn't thrown a pitch since 1994, yet his case for induction has been evolving, steadily picking up votes each year. While the evolution of statistics amazingly hasn't shed any new light on his 18-year career, his status as the winningest pitcher of the 1980s and a three-time World Series champion hasn't lost any luster.

Morris' 3.90 career ERA would be the highest of a Hall of Fame pitcher, but every Hall-eligible pitcher who has led a previous decade in wins has been inducted. That group includes Jim Palmer, Juan Marichal, Warren Spahn, Hal Newhouser, Lefty Grove, Burleigh Grimes, Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson.

"It's not necessarily an easy vote," Morris said. "Obviously, the guys that are into the number thing and the ERA got their point to make. It is what it is, and the process does what it does. I'm just grateful for the process, because if it was just a one-year deal, and you either got in or you didn't, it would be over." 

Morris is also the man with the best chance to give the 1984 Tigers a long-deserved Hall of Fame player. The only member of that team in the Hall is its manager, Sparky Anderson.

Expect the debate on both sides to grow even louder next offseason now that he's so close. But with so many votes in his favor, he doesn't have too many more voters to win over to gain admission to Cooperstown.

Still, he insists, he won't take it for granted.

"At this point, after being through this so many years, I just wait and see," Morris said. "I know it sounds like a cliché, coming from a guy like me, but the truth is I don't have any control."

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.