Twelve times during his career, Jack Morris won at least 15 games, but 15 wasn’t enough for Morris, as the former Detroit Tigers’ pitcher failed in his 15th – and final – try on the baseball writers ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. His fate in regards to Cooperstown status now remains uncertain.
Teammate Alan Trammell, in his 13th year on the Hall of Fame ballot, received just 20.8% support, taking a step back to before his 2009 levels. Trammell seems certain to fail to earn election via the baseball writers as well.
Morris garnered 61.5% support, shy of the 75% needed for election. Eligible former major league ballplayers can be on the baseball writers ballot for a maximum of 15 years, as long as they receive at least 5% in every election. Morris started out 22% in 2000 and dipped below 20% in his second year on the ballot. From there, the 254-game winner gradually climbed his way up the ballot, peaking at 67.7% in 2013, but with many superstars on the ballot in 2014, Morris took a step backward. Voters can only write up to 10 names on their ballots, and Morris not only ran out of time, but he also ran up against more qualified candidates this year.
There have been few candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame who have been more controversial than Morris. His detractors point to his 3.90 ERA (it would be the highest of any pitcher in the Hall), and they claim he pitched for very good teams, which accounts for his high win totals. Other critics leave Morris off their ballot because he didn’t win 300 games, never won a Cy Young Award, or had that one dominant, flashy season.
Supporters of Morris point to him as the most consistent, winningest pitcher of his era, encompassing the late 1970s into the early 1990s. Morris threw a no-hitter, was the ace of three World Series champion teams, started 14 opening day games, won seven postseason games, and of course he pitched and won The Game in the ’91 Series. In the seventh game of the 1991 Fall Classic, Morris pitched his heart out for his hometown Minnesota Twins. In that game he outdueled young John Smoltz and the Atlanta Braves, going 10 shutout innings and allowing just nine baserunners. One game can’t make a Hall of Fame pitcher, but supporters of Morris point out that The Game epitomized his career as a workhorse who refused to lose when the chips were down. The victory in that seventh game at the Metrodome ran Morris’ postseason record to an incredible 7-1, making him the most dominant October pitcher since Bob Gibson. The following year he won 21 games for the Toronto Blue Jays helping them to the playoffs, but he lost three games in the postseason despite the fact that the Jays won the title.
As proponents of statistical analysis came to criticize Morris as a Hall of Fame candidate, traditional baseball followers gathered to his side. Some also questioned whether Morris’s combative personality and disdain for the media during his career cost him votes.
With former teammate Alan Trammell also failing to earn enough votes to be elected in his 13th appearance on the ballot, the 1984 Detroit Tigers remain one of the few World Championship teams to not have at least one player in the Baseball Hall of Fame. With Greg Maddux earning election this year, every World Series-winning team prior to 1997 has at least one Hall of Fame inductee except the ’84 Detroit Tigers and the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers.
Now that Morris has exhausted his 15 years on the baseball writers ballot, his only chance to become a Hall of Famer is to be chosen by the veterans committee, which meets every three years to consider players from the “expansion era” from which he played. The next time that committee, which is made up of a handful of Hall of Fame players, managers, and sportswriters and historians, meets is in 2016.
– – – – – – – – –
Jack Morris on the Hall of Fame Ballot
2000 (22.2%) 2001 (19.6%) 2002 (20.6%) 2003 (22.8%) 2004 (26.3%) 2005 (33.3%) 2006 (41.2%) 2007 (37.1%) 2008 (42.9%) 2009 (44.0%) 2010 (52.3%) 2011 (53.5%) 2012 (66.7%) 2013 (67.7%) 2014 (61.5%)