Claim to fame: Morris put together a solid career and was among the best pitchers of the 1980s, going 162-119 in the decade and winning at least 15 games all but two of its years. That said, everything Morris did was topped by the 1991 World Series and his epic, 10-inning shutout in Game Seven that gave the Minnesota Twins the title over the Atlanta Braves. Like Bill Mazeroski and his championship-winning home run in the 1960 World Series, I suspect one single, brilliant day of Morris’s career might be enough to get him enshrined.
Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Morris has made 11 appearances on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot for Cooperstown and peaked at 52.3 percent in 2010. He has four more tries with the writers and then could be eligible with the Veterans Committee.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? It’s hard for me to go wild over Morris’s bid, from his 3.90 ERA — which would be the highest of any pitcher in Cooperstown — to his rather pedestrian 1.296 WHIP to his 39.3 career Wins Above Replacement ranking, well below many other non-enshrined pitchers. Simply on career stats, Morris is a fringe case, at best near the bottom of the pack for hurlers who’ve already been inducted.
Now of course, the argument can (and will) be made that Morris’s postseason accomplishments should be considered with his bid. Fair enough– I recently said the same about Joe Carter. Truth is, though, if Morris is enshrined primarily for what he did in 1991, then a few comparable pitchers belong in Cooperstown for their postseason heroics as well, from Orel Hershiser in 1988 to Mickey Lolich in 1968 to Ron Guidry in 1977, 1978, and again in 1981. Morris wasn’t markedly better than those men in the playoffs. He’s simply gotten better hype.
I’ll offer two charts. The first compares career stats for the four pitchers. Morris leads only in wins and All Star appearances and has the worst ERA, WHIP and WAR.
And here’s a chart with their lifetime postseason records:
Some may argue we simply should consider Morris’s World Series record. Even there, he lags. Guidry and Lolich both have World Series ERAs a full run below Morris, and Hershiser would too if he hadn’t been bombed a couple times late in his career when he was a different pitcher than the ace of his early years.
Lolich also has a WHIP under 1.00 and three wins from the 1968 World Series. I included him, with Morris and Hershiser, in a recent list of the 10 best postseason pitching performances in baseball history. And while Guidry might not have been iconic in any single World Series, he went 3-1 lifetime with a 1.69 ERA over three Fall Classics. Hershiser, meanwhile, went 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA and a save for the Dodgers between the 1988 NLCS and World Series. Of course he was MVP for both stages of the postseason.
Interestingly, neither Guidry, Hershiser, nor Lolich ever had much chance of being enshrined by the writers. Lolich went the full 15 years of eligibility on the ballot but peaked at just 25.5 percent of the vote in 1988. Guidry hung near the bottom of the vote for nine years, never getting more than 10 percent. Hershiser lasted just two years with the writers.
With better understanding of their accomplishments, one can only wonder if Guidry, Lolich, and Hershiser would have plaques now.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.
Others in this series: Al Oliver, Albert Belle, Bert Blyleven, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Dan Quisenberry, Dave Parker, Don Mattingly, Don Newcombe, George Steinbrenner, Joe Carter, Keith Hernandez, Maury Wills, Mel Harder, Pete Browning, Rocky Colavito, Steve Garvey, Thurman Munson, Tim Raines