Morris looking for final-ballot bounce into Hall of Fame
World Series hero fell short a year ago despite finishing second among candidates
Jack Morris is a candidate on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the 15th and final year. The Class of 2014 will be announced on Jan. 8. You can watch the announcement live at 2 p.m. ET on an MLB Network simulcast on MLB.com.
Jack Morris has been through all this before -- 14 times, to be exact.
Morris wonders if the results of this vote -- the last with his name on the ballot submitted each year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America -- is going to be the same as all the others.
"In my mind, the Hall of Fame is supposed to be a snapshot of every generation," Morris recently told MLB.com. "In my generation, I only won 40 more games than anybody else. I don't know what that means, but apparently it doesn't mean enough."
The right-hander, who won the World Series with Detroit, Minnesota and Toronto, and had 254 victories during his 18-year big league career, remembers all the anguish and the disappointment. So this year he said he may not be home hanging next to the phone with anticipation at the witching hour as he waits to learn whether his long personal nightmare will end.
"I don't know," Morris said. "If something comes up I just might go on vacation."
Perhaps this time he'll be elected. Beginning five years after their retirement, every candidate can remain on the BBWAA ballot for 15 years provided he maintains at least five percent of the vote each year. Like all elections for the Hall of Fame, Morris needs 75 percent of the vote for induction. Earlier this year, he finished second in the voting by appearing on 67.7 percent of the ballots, but the writers didn't vote any players into the Class of 2013.
If he doesn't make it this year, Morris will be eligible for the Expansion Era Committee's ballot when it comes around again in three years.
For now, he's on the ballot with several fellow great pitchers, including newly eligible former stars Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina, plus holdovers Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling.
Morris knows he's up again against a lot of stiff competition at his position.
"That's what I have to keep reminding myself -- it's just tough," Morris said. "Seventy-five percent is not an easy thing, especially when the numbers of writers and candidates keep growing. Many of those writers are sabermetricians, who don't really have knowledgeable eyes. And plus I'm getting more and more removed from this current generation. They didn't see me. They didn't know what I was about."
Two years ago, Morris was a long shot as Reds shortstop Barry Larkin was the sole player elected to the Class of 2012. His vote total leapt to 66.7 percent from 53.5 percent in 2011. But that figure remained static earlier this year, as Morris finished second behind Houston's Craig Biggio, whose 3,060 career hits were good enough for him to garner only 68.2 percent of the vote.
In terms of hard numbers, Morris' name turned up on 385 of the 569 ballots cast. Players had to have 427 votes in the most recent balloting to get in. So in this year of even stiffer competition, he must makeup 42 votes. The ballot has remained fairly static. In 2012, Morris needed to be named on 430 of the ballots cast.
"And that's the hard part," said Morris, who is now an in-season analyst for MLB.com. "I'm grateful for the guys who have hung in there with me or I would have been gone a long time ago. And for a couple of years now I think the whole steroids thing has put a twist in it. A bunch of us guys have been thrown under the bus because they didn't know what to do with the other pile. That's unfortunate. It is what it is and I'm not going to fix it. I'm not out there soliciting votes because I don't think I have to."
The good news is that Larkin had 62.1 percent of the vote in 2011 and soared right past the 430 mark to garner 86.4 percent in '12. He made it, but in only his third year on the ballot.
It should also be noted that Gil Hodges is the only player since Hall of Fame voting began in 1936 to amass better than 60 percent of the vote from the BBWAA and ultimately fail to make the Hall.
Here are some more recent positive examples for Morris:
Bert Blyleven, Morris' good friend, was elected in his 14th year of eligibility in 2011, when he was inducted along with second baseman Roberto Alomar. Blyleven was finally named on 60 percent of the ballots in '08.
Jim Rice, elected in his 15th year of eligibility in 2009, didn't hit 60 percent until his 12th. Bruce Sutter, elected in '06 in his 13th year of eligibility, crossed the 60-percent threshold the year prior to his election.
Like Rice, who was one of the American League's most prolific hitters during the 1980s, Morris was far and away the winningest pitcher in the AL of that decade. Nobody else was even close. Morris won 162 games from 1980-89. The runner-up was Blue Jays ace Dave Stieb, with 140.
"What I did should stand for itself," Morris said. "I'm proud of it. Pretty much every Hall of Famer comes up to me and reminds me of that."
In addition, Morris was 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA in 13 postseason starts and 4-2 with a 2.96 ERA in seven World Series starts. He won twice against the Padres in 1984 when the Tigers prevailed in five games, and he lost twice to the Braves when the Blue Jays won the '92 World Series in six games.
But Morris' signature performance came for the Twins in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series against the Braves at the Metrodome. He tossed 10 scoreless innings to outduel John Smoltz, winning the game, 1-0, to clinch the Series. Morris made three starts and gave up three runs over 23 innings in that Series, and he posted a 2.23 ERA for the full postseason.
"I don't think that will happen again," Morris said about the epic game played on Oct. 27, 1991. "I used to think, 'Oh, it will happen again. Somebody will do it.' But, heck, they won't even let one guy start three games in the World Series anymore.
"I can't understand that. For 80 years it was fine. The ace would pitch Games 1, 4 and 7. And now, it's, 'We can't overwork these guys.' It's different. It's definitely a different way of playing the game. There's less and less glory in it, I can tell you that."
For Game 7 of 1991 World Series alone, Morris has earned his way into the history books. And perhaps on Jan. 8 the phone will ring with good news about the Hall of Fame when he least expects it -- wherever he may be.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.