Jack, More Than Bert, Deserves a Call from the Hall

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Earlier this week former Twins pitcher and current TV color personality Bert Blyleven was denied entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the thinnest of margins. While this was disappointing to many in Twins Territory, it all but assures the former hurler’s entry into Cooperstown in 2011.

While Blyleven’s candidacy has been the cause célèbre in the Upper Midwest for years, I believe another former Twin is more deserving of induction into baseball’s most hallowed shrine. Jack Morris was the game’s winningest pitcher during the 1980s, the bonafide ace of three World Series champions and pitched what could arguably be called the greatest game of all time

In my opinion, Blyleven deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but at the same time, I understand the argument against him. Blyleven was never “the man”, only once did he receive more than 6% of the Cy Young vote, he was an All Star only twice, won 20 games just once and while his career record of 287-250 speaks to his remarkable durability and longevity, it hardly inspires awe. Blyleven’s saving grace are his 3,701 strikeouts and stellar 3.31 career ERA.

I believe much of the passion for Blyleven’s cause is due to his popularity as an announcer and his shameless, if not endearing, self promotion. For instance, you don’t hear much outcry for Jim Kaat, who posted a career record of 283-237 and won a staggering 16 Gold Gloves. The mild mannered Kaat never received more than 29.6% of the Hall vote during his 15 years of eligibility which ended in 2003.

Enough about Bert, let’s talk about Jack. Morris compiled a 254-186 record in his 18-year career, won 20 games 4 times, was a 5-time All Star and holds the major league record with 14 consecutive opening day starts (1980-93) with 3 different teams. Both Morris and Blyleven led the league in strikeouts exactly once while Morris’ .577 career winning percentage dwarfs Blyleven’s .534 and ranks ahead of Hall of Famers Steve Carlton and Catfish Hunter.

Critics point to Morris’ 3.90 career ERA as the reason behind his lack of Hall votes, but for Morris, it wasn’t about style points. If a Morris led team scored 6 runs, he would give up 4. If the day called for a pitcher’s duel, he would rise to the occasion. The St. Paul native led the AL in shutouts in 1986 and finished in the top 5 three other times. Morris was about the intangibles. When he was on the mound his team believed they were going to win; the bigger the game, the bigger Morris pitched.

Nothing illustrates the above point better than Game 7 of 1991 World Series. In that legendary game of course, Morris held the Atlanta Braves scoreless for 10 innings. He willed the Twins to a world championship and was the named the Series MVP. Postseason heroics alone don’t make a Hall of Fame candidacy, but when you’re close like Morris is they should put you over-the-top.

Maybe after Blyleven is finally inducted next year, the voters and campaigners will start paying more attention to Morris. Jack may not be as personable, popular or self-effacing as Bert, but he was a better pitcher.

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