Jack Morris is widely considered to be the greatest pitcher of the 1980s, and no one will ever forget his Game 7 complete game in theWorld Series. He was very durable and consistent. Yet, he was on the Hall of Fame ballot for 15 years (2000 – 2014) without getting elected, and it took a Veteran’s Committee (VC) vote in 2018 to get him inducted. Why is that?
Well, first of all the “fact” that he was the best pitcher of the 80s, is sort of an arbitrary measuring point. Would anyone know off the top of their head, who was the best pitcher from 1974 to 1984? Or 1987 to 1997? What is special about a 10 year period that starts at the beginning of a decade? Mark Grace led the majors in hits throughout the 1990s. That didn’t stop voters from dropping him off the ballot after his first year of eligibility. Besides, he probably wasn’t even the best pitcher in his own division. A cursory look at the stats will show that recognition should go to Toronto’s Dave Stieb (who also dropped off the ballot after one year) and his decade ERA of 3.32 to Morris’ 3.66. His contemporaries included Steve Carlton, Roger Clemens, Dwight Gooden, Jim Palmer, Ron Guidry and others who just didn’t have the good fortune to start their careers prior to 1980 and finish after 1989.Morris’ raw numbers may seem good looking back, because he pitched in a much lower scoring environment than we have now. He had a very respectable 3.90 career ERA, but never once had a season below 3.00. In fact during his playing years 37 times pitchers posted seasonal ERAs better than his career best. This is borne out by his barely above average career ERA+ of 105. Even during his peak during the “greatest pitcher of the decade” 1980s, his ERA+ was 109. For comparison sake, that’s what Mark Gubicza, who pitched at that same time had for his whole career. For those of you who don’t remember Gubicza, current pitchers Carlos Carrasco or Alex Wood, (who are both decent starters who’ve received a few Cy Young votes throughout their careers, but nobody is thinking Cooperstown for them) beat that with their current career 110 ERA+. If you want to get more sabermetric all of the following pitchers whose careers overlapped with Morris had career WARs above 50 and have been excluded from the Hall of Fame: Rick Reuschel, Kevin Brown, Luis Tiant, David Cone, Tommy John, Bret Saberhagen, Chuck Finley, Jerry Koosman, Frank Tanana, Kevin Appier and the aforementioned Dave Stieb. Jack Morris fell short of 40 for his career.
Without this mistake, Morris does not get a shutout or even a win in this game.
Morris was a good pitcher. Maybe he does deserve induction into the Hall of Very Good. But he certainly shouldn’t be a Hall of Famer.