Jack Morris: Hall of Famer or Not?

If the world of offseason news were to be compared to the Earth, Minnesota would be the Atacama Desert at this point. There's hardly been so much as a mention of the Twins in connection to anything substantial as of late. They've been tagged just twice in a post since December 22 over at MLBTR. Ouch.

There's life outside active players, however, and the recent Hall of Fame voting is certainly relevant to those of us who call Twins Territory our home.

The sole inductee from this year's class was Barry Larkin -- a well-deserved honor for one of the game's all-time greats at shortstop. Larkin racked up an impressive 86.4% of the vote in his third year on the ballot, earning the lifelong Cincinnati Red a permanent shrine in Cooperstown. Second on the list? The man who pitched arguably the greatest game in Twins history: Jack Morris.

Morris pulled in 66.7% of the vote in his 13th year of eligibility, a large number, but still well short of the required 75% number required to be inducted alongside Larkin.

Morris' candidacy has been debated to the high heavens. His detractors will point to stats such as his 3.90 career ERA (which would be the highest of any pitcher in Cooperstown), or his ERA+ of merely 105 (with 100 being league average) -- the same mark as that of current Yankees ace pitcher dude with a pulse runny-nosed tattoo enthusiast A.J. Burnett. Morris fell well short of the magic 300 win plateau (254), reached 20 wins only twice, and never finished higher than third place in any Cy Young voting. Those may not all be the best measuring sticks of a pitcher's talent, obviously, but they're things that factor into voting.

On the other hand, Morris' supporters will say that he's one of the greatest "big game pitchers" in history. They'll point to Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, as well as his three All-Star Game starts, his status as an annual Opening Day starter, and his overall aura as a "number one" kind of guy. Morris threw a no-hitter in his second start of the 1984 season, and he finished it by throwing complete game victories in Game 1 and Game 4 of the World Series. He was a bulldog on the mound who ate innings like Jose Mijares eats General Tso's chicken (and anything else in sight) at a Chinese buffet and hated to leave any game. He reached 200 innings in 11 of his 16 full seasons as a starting pitcher, and two of his misses were by less than three innings. From 1979-1992, Morris averaged 241 innings per season; that includes surpassing the 240 inning mark each season from age 35-37. It's impressive longevity, there's no denying that.

You can draw your own conclusions about Morris' candidacy, but personally, to me, he's not quite there. Morris was a consistently good pitcher who showed flashes of greatness, but I'm of the school that looks at numbers more than narrative. I'll concede that Game 7 of the 1991 World Series is one of the single greatest postseason performances in the sport's history, given not only the results, but the stakes. A 10-inning shutout on that kind of stage is the stuff of legend, and Morris will forever hold a special place in my heart for the memory of that season and that game.

Regardless of my own personal feelings, I think Morris is close enough to the prize that it's conceivable to say he'll make the cut in one of the next two seasons. If that happens, there will be lots of backlash from the stat community pointing out that Morris "doesn't deserve" Cooperstown immortality. Admittedly, Morris wouldn't make my theoretical ballot, but I can say this: if he's inducted, I'll be on-hand the day they honor him at Target Field, cheering with the rest of Minnesota and thanking him for making the one season he spent with his hometown team one of his best ever. 1991 was a special year for him and for all of us, and I'm damn glad he was a part of that team.

What do you think?

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