What he did: I gave Jack Morris a vote for my recent project on the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame. I even said he belonged in Cooperstown. Felt a little sheepish after I started counting votes– Morris, one of the more polarizing figures in baseball today, fell big in our rankings. After finishing No. 36 in the 2010 edition of the project, Morris plummeted all the way to a tie for 52nd with Rick Reuschel this year. It made sense in the respect that advanced research shows Morris to be somewhat overrated, and a lot of my voters this year were members of the Society for American Baseball Research.
Plenty of fans and old-school writers could care less about advanced research, though and bemoan Morris’s absence from Cooperstown. Needless to say, our voting wasn’t well-received by one person who commented:
Jack Morris not being included is a joke. 4 world series rings. WS MVP. Pitched the greatest game in WS history. If that was for the Yankees, he would have been in the hall years ago.
It’s a joke.
I don’t agree, particularly since Don Larsen isn’t in the Hall of Fame or our Top 50, and he pitched the actual greatest game in World Series history and did it for the Yankees to boot. Still, the comment made me think.
Morris sports a 254-190 lifetime record and 1991 World Series heroics that grow more mythical by the year. He also won the most games of any pitcher in the 1980s, maybe helped by the fact he was on winning Detroit Tiger teams nine of those years (Detroit finally went 59-103 in 1989 and an injury-plagued Morris staggered to 6-14.) Still, the biggest thing keeping Morris out of Cooperstown might be his 3.90 ERA, higher than any man enshrined. Morris didn’t need Yankee pinstripes for a Hall of Fame plaque. He needed an era where his ERA could have been lower.
Era he might have thrived in: With his durability, good for at least 240 innings ten times in his career, Morris might have been well-suited for the 1960s. The pitcher-friendly era might take somewhere close to one run off his ERA, and on the 1968 Tigers, Morris could stand in for Mickey Lolich who had postseason brilliance of his own that year, winning three games in the World Series. That all might be enough for Cooperstown.
Why: Hall of Fame voting doesn’t always deal in context. Morris could take his exact same abilities, his 105 ERA+ and 39.3 WAR which rank near the bottom for enshrined pitchers and have passable surface stats in the right era. Playing his best years in the 1960s, this could mean an ERA somewhere in the lower half of the 3.00s. If that didn’t satisfy the Baseball Writers Association of America in its Hall voting, Morris would at least probably be honored by the Veterans Committee.
There’s a tool on Baseball-Reference.com that converts stats between different eras based largely on average number of runs scored. Since earned run average directly relates to this, it’s a good tool to see how Morris’s ERA might fare with the ’68 Tigers. In short, he’d do well with them for any number of seasons from his career. Take 1986, where Morris went 21-8 with a 3.27 for Detroit; that’d be good for 16-13 with a 2.60 ERA in 1968. Or there’s the strike-shortened 1981 season where Morris led the American League with 14 wins against seven losses and a 3.05 ERA; in 1968, that would come to 20-14 with a 2.53 ERA.
Whatever the case, it’d be a huge benefit for a man who, in real life, never had a season with a sub-3.00 ERA. Then there’s the fact that playing prior to 1980 when four-man rotations were common, Morris might get enough additional starts over the course of his career for 300 wins. Heck, Morris wouldn’t need a fairytale ten-inning shutout in Game 7 of a World Series for his plaque. Fans would have to find another non-enshrined player to get angry about.
Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.
Others in this series: Al Simmons, Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, Bad News Rockies,Barry Bonds, Billy Beane, Billy Martin, Bob Caruthers, Bob Feller, Bob Watson,Bobby Veach, Carl Mays, Charles Victory Faust, Chris von der Ahe,Denny McLain, Dom DiMaggio, Don Drysdale, Eddie Lopat, Frank Howard, Fritz Maisel, Gavvy Cravath, George Case, George Weiss, Harmon Killebrew, Harry Walker, Home Run Baker, Honus Wagner, Hugh Casey, Ichiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jackie Robinson, Jim Abbott, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Posnanski, Johnny Antonelli, Johnny Frederick, Josh Hamilton, Ken Griffey Jr., Lefty Grove, Lefty O’Doul, Major League (1989 film),Matty Alou, Michael Jordan, Monte Irvin, Nate Colbert, Ollie Carnegie, Paul Derringer, Pedro Martinez, Pee Wee Reese, Pete Rose, Prince Fielder, Ralph Kiner, Rick Ankiel, Rickey Henderson,Roberto Clemente, Rogers Hornsby, Sam Crawford, Sam Thompson,Sandy Koufax, Satchel Paige, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, The Meusel Brothers, Ty Cobb, Vada Pinson, Wally Bunker, Wes Ferrell, Will Clark, Willie Mays