MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Making a Hall of Fame case for Morris

Making a Hall of Fame case for Morris

Making a Hall of Fame case for Morris

Jack Morris has come closer to being elected to the Hall of Fame than anybody who was ever denied admittance, but in this, his 15th and final year on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot, Morris still faces long odds.

It's a shame.

Morris could well be victim of the new reliance on statistical analysis.

In the world of baseball stats, four does not always equal four. Evaluations need to be based on eras, and for his era, Morris was the most dominant pitcher in the game.

Morris spent his entire big league career pitching in the American League and facing the designated hitter, which was adopted in 1973 -- four seasons before Morris made his late-season debut with Detroit.

There are 12 starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame who performed during the DH era. None of the 12 spent his entire career in the AL.

Only two of them even faced a DH in more than half of their big league games: Bert Blyleven pitched 483 of his 692 games in the AL after the addition of the DH. Jim Palmer made all 558 of his appearances with the Baltimore Orioles, but only 354 of them came after the addition of the DH.

And yes, the DH does change the challenges of working through a lineup, putting additional pressures on a pitcher.

The 10 other starters who faced the DH in their careers are Don Sutton (174 of 774 appearances against lineups with the DH), Tom Seaver (97 of 656 appearances), Nolan Ryan (381 of 807 appearances), Gaylord Perry (277 of 777 appearances), Phil Niekro (124 of 740 appearances), Juan Marichal (11 of 471 appearances), Ferguson Jenkins (255 of 664 appearances), Catfish Hunter (214 of 500 appearances) and Steve Carlton (46 of 741 appearances).

Rollie Fingers (inducted in 1992), Dennis Eckersley, (2004), Bruce Sutter ('06) and Goose Gossage ('08) were enshrined for their work as relievers rather than starters.

Winning ways

Morris' 254 wins tie him with Red Faber for 43rd on the all-time list. There are 13 pitchers ahead of Morris who are not enshrined.

Of them, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina are on the ballot for the first time this year. Randy Johnson, Jamie Moyer and Andy Pettitte aren't eligible yet. Tony Mullane (1881-94), Bobby Mathews (1871-87), Jim McCormick (1878-87) and Gus Weyhing (1887-1901) were products of the 1800s.

Roger Clemens was eligible for the first time a year ago, but he was one of the targets of the voters who protested PED usage. And then there is Tommy John, who ranks 26th all time, with 288 wins, and Jim Kaat, who ranks 31st, with 283 wins.

Top gun

Morris was the winningest pitcher of his era. He broke in with Detroit, making cameo appearances in 1977-78 before making the big leagues for good.

From his debut until 1994, Morris' final season, he won 254 games. Dennis Martinez, who also pitched in each of those seasons, is a distant second for that 18-season stretch, with 218 wins, followed by Bob Welch (211), Ryan (202) and Frank Tanana (189).

Posting up

Morris appeared in seven postseason series and won three World Series: in 1984 with Detroit, '91 with Minnesota and '92 with Toronto.

Morris started Game 1 in six of those seven playoff series, earning the selection from three managers: Sparky Anderson in Detroit, Tom Kelly in Minnesota and Cito Gaston in Toronto.

The one time Morris missed a Game 1 start was with Detroit against Minnesota in the 1987 AL Championship Series. But Morris started for the Tigers in Game 161 of the regular season that year -- and tossed a complete game -- earning an extra day of rest before appearing in the postseason.

Morris was 4-2 with a 2.96 ERA in seven career World Series starts, working three complete games, including a 1-0, 10-inning Game 7 win for Minnesota against Atlanta in 1991.

FYI

• Morris' career ERA was 3.90. The highest ERA of a Hall of Fame pitcher is Red Ruffing's 3.80.

• Morris received 67.7 percent of the votes last year, falling 42 votes shy of election. Since his first year on the ballot, his vote total has increased in 12 of the last 13 years, including each of the last six.

• Morris was a five-time All-Star selection, and he finished in the top 10 in the AL Cy Young Award voting seven times.

• Morris was the '91 World Series Most Valuable Player and the 1981 The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year.

• Morris worked 175 complete games, which is more than Maddux (109) and Glavine (56) combined. Among the eight starting pitchers on this year's ballot, Clemens is second with 118 complete games, followed by Maddux (109), Curt Schilling (83), Mussina (57), Glavine (56), Kenny Rogers (36) and Hideo Nomo (16).

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.