NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Having downed a carton of milk for breakfast before doing his show for MLB.com at baseball's winter meetings, possible Hall of Famer Jack Morris took a moment to discuss where he stands regarding Cooperstown.
After not breaking 25 percent of the vote from 2000-2003, Morris jumped to 66.7 percent in 2012. Anyone who ever has received that much support was eventually elected. Morris needs 75 percent to make it in his next-to-last year of eligibility on the writers' ballot. He'll find out, with the rest of us, Jan. 9.
"I'm optimistic but I've also come to terms with that it's an important lesson life: You don't always get what you want," Morris said. "No. 1, it's an honor to be honored every year and, two, I've been kind of a controversial figure in the Hall of Fame because of the cybernetics [sic] guys, the numbers guys, vs. the guys who use … call it 'the eyeball test.' You know, 'Were you there? Did you ever see me pitch?'"
Robot-like numbers-crunchers aside, Morris realizes the benefit he gets from those who remember his career highlights, notably Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, when he threw a complete-game shutout against the Braves in what many believe is one of the best performances in postseason history. But even Morris' shining moment, what he calls "the crowning achievement" of his career, has a downside.
"I think there's a lot more to my career than that, too," Morris said. "I kind of chuckle inside when people always talk to me about that. And it's like, 'Gosh, I pitched a lot of baseball games.' I threw three one-hitters, I threw a no-hitter. And they don't even talk about those."
Morris has a point, though it might not help his case for Cooperstown.
Morris had several dominating moments in his career — the '91 Series, the no-hitter against the White Sox in '84, the three one-hitters. And yet, his career stats have not added up to Hall of Fame. He didn't reach 300 victories (254), he missed 3,000 strikeouts (2,478) and his 3.90 ERA (105 ER adjusted) is not very far above average. Six of the 10 pitchers he was most like statistically are in the Hall of Fame (Bob Gibson, Red Ruffing, Amos Rusie, Burleigh Grimes, Bob Feller and Jim Bunning). Of course, that means four of them are not in the Hall. Has the time for Morris come?
"I've been through this a long time and I understand it," Morris said. "December's always a month when the talk starts all over again. The longer this goes on, the more I realize how much responsibility the writers have. It's not an easy thing for them to do. And more importantly, I think they all take it serious. They take a real hard look. I respect it more today than I did, say, 10 years ago."
That jibes with the growing (or is it grudging?) respect Morris has received from voters. If intimidating mustaches counted for anything, and they should, Morris would have been in Cooperstown long ago. His upper lip might even have its own wing. But the mustache has mellowed — and disappeared, into a goatee. And the stances against Morris have softened. Morris says he can see why it's taking so long — and might not happen for him (again) when new results are announced.
"I'm not out there seeking votes," Morris said. "I think my numbers should stand alone. If they do, they do. If they don't, they don't. It's still not going to take away from the fact that I've had a lot of good come of this. I'm actually grateful I'm in this situation."
And, by gosh, the wait might finally pay off.
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