Thursday, December 15, 2011

Is Morris a HOFer? 2012 is last best chance

Ballots for the National Baseball Hall of Fame were distributed a couple weeks ago and voters have some tough choices ahead of them for the Class of 2012. Among the first time candidates, there are names like Bernie Williams, Javy Lopez, and former Twins player Brad Radke but none of these players are going to jump out at voters. This would leave Barry Larkin and Jack Morris as the top two candidates left from last year's ballot. Larkin is only in his third year as a candidate while Morris is entering his 12th year of eligibility. In recent weeks, the Golden Era Committee selected Ron Santo as a member of this year's class.

Could Morris, the St. Paul native, also be picked as one of the all-time greats?

It might be the last best chance for Morris to make the HOF in 2013 because of the crop of players that will be eligible for election starting in 2013. The list of players who will be eligible for the first time in 2013 include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, and Craig Biggio. The names of Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, and Piazza have all been connected to the steroid era in baseball and that could make voting dicey for the baseball writers. These candidates have a much stronger case than Morris for the Hall and the list of first time candidates in 2014 gets even better as Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, and Jeff Kent will all be eligible for the first time.

Multiple writers have made the case for and against Morris as he has seen his percentages grow in the Hall of Fame balloting. In last year's voting, he finished with 53.5% of the vote in fourth place behind Bert Blyleven, Roberto Alomar, and Larkin. He had the most wins out of any pitcher in the 1980's. His 162 wins place him on the top of the list and the next closest pitcher does not have more than 140 victories to their name. He reached the peak of his playing career in an era that saw great pitchers like Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, and Tom Seaver who were finishing their careers. Another crop of top pitchers that included Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, and Greg Maddux were just getting their careers off of the ground.

It seems nearly impossible for Morris to make the 21.5% jump he would need to make in the voting at this point in his candidacy. The biggest percentage increase he made in his 12 years on the ballot was 8.4% from the 2009 to the 2010 ballot. In last year's vote, he only was able to move up 1.2% and it was only the second time he has gotten over 50% of the vote. This leaves only three more shots for Morris to see a big push made in his favor by the voters and it seems like that push may never come his way.

As a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, I am asked every year to cast a ballot for those that I think should be enshrined in Cooperstown. In last year's ballot, I voted for seven players and one of those players happened to be Mr. Morris. You could call it a nostalgic vote for a player that provided one of the best moments in Twins franchise history. His standing as arguably one of the best pitchers of the 1980's helps his candidacy but it might be an era that gets ignored by the voters because of the lack of statistical data to prove Morris belongs in the HOF.

With only three more chances on being elected, it seems that the current balloting of the BWAA will be the last best shot for Morris to be enshrined in the state of New York. The upcoming classes of first time nominees will include a lot of players whose resumes outshine that of Morris. Besides those odds being stacked against him, it seems the voters' look for somethings extra-special in the starting pitchers who make the cut. Until Blyleven was elected last year, the writers had not elected a starting pitcher since Nolan Ryan got the call in 1999.

It would be nice for Morris to be honored for his career but it would seem that his numbers won't be able to stand the test of time. But for Twins fans, there will always be the magic he produced on the mound in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

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