One of the best things about this year's Hall of Fame result beyond the election of terrific talent and better person Barry Larkin is that ace righthander Jack Morris, author of a great decade, unbelievable game and superb career, took a substantial leap from 53 percent of the vote all the way up to 67 percent, leaving him close to the cusp of the 75 percent needed for election.
Only one player has ever reached so much as 50 percent and still never gotten into the Hall of Fame (Gil Hodges, who got as high as 63 percent), so it looks good for Morris. But his ultimate election remains no certainty, as he only has two years remaining on the ballot, and a group of huge names joining it the next two years, including Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio and Curt Schilling next year, and Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine the year after that.
Morris' detractors generally point to one unextraordinary number, and while it's an important number, it should not define his career. His lifetime ERA of 3.90 would be the highest of any pitcher in the Hall of Fame, and his ERA plus of 105 is barely above average. But Morris pitched deep into his games and deep into his middle age, trampling his lifetime ERA. Morris is known by teammates to have pitched to the score, which enabled him to win more games than anyone else in the '80s and 254 games overall. (The leading winners in the seven preceding decades are all in the Hall.) In seven seasons, he received Cy Young votes. So he had plenty of great years.
Morris was a bulldog who refused to leave games. He completed 175 of them, and that doesn't even count Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, in which he turned in one of the greatest pitching performances in baseball history to help his hometown Twins beat the Braves 1-0 and win the Series. Morris was considered a great pitcher during his career, not someone who was defined by less meaningful games that dragged his ERA up beyond a representative number.
Numbers shouldn't be the be all and end all of Hall of Fame arguments. But here's an interesting one, courtesy of Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated. Thirteen pitchers since 1901 have had at least 10 seasons with both 15 wins and 235 innings, and the other 12 are in Cooperstown. Here's the list: Warren Spahn 16, Grover Alexander and Walter Johnson 15, Gaylord Perry, Eddie Plank and Christy Mathewson 13, Steve Carlton and Tom Seaver 12, Morris 11 and Bert Blyleven, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro and Lefty Grove 10.
Beyond that, Morris was tha ace of three World Series winners, and started Game 1 of six postseason series. He also started 14 Opening Days, joining obvious Hall of Famers Carlton, Randy Johnson, Walter Johnson, Young and Seaver as the vaunted sextet to accomplish that feat. His detractors will claim he was aided by circumstance or luck. But Morris made his own luck. The guys who played with him understand his greatness, even if the back of his baseball card doesn't quite do him justice.