Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Morris awaits call to Hall

Workhorse pitcher in 15th and final year of eligibility

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Mirroring his career as one of the sport's toughest starting pitchers, the case for making Jack Morris a Hall of Famer has grown stronger as the game has gone on.

To leave this metaphorical mound with one more victory, though, Morris needs a furious late rally behind him. The results will be announced today.

"The trend has been that when you get to that point, there's that last push to get you over the hump, so I'm hoping that's the case," former teammate Alan Trammell said.

Bert Blyleven was elected in his 14th year in 2011. Jim Rice made it in his 15th year in 2009. Bruce Sutter was inducted in his 13th year in 2006.

Morris finished second on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot last year with 67.7 per cent of the vote, behind Craig Biggio with 68.2 per cent. Election requires three-quarters or more of all ballots cast, so Morris was 42 votes short.

The 10-player maximum per ballot rule could ultimately cost Morris a spot in his 15th and final year of eligibility. Newcomers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina, all premier starting pitchers of their generation, have warranted heavy consideration by BBWAA voters along with slugger Frank Thomas. The performance-enhancing-drug spectre over many of the sluggers still eligible has slowed the pace of inductions over the past five or so years, crowding the ballot more than ever. Nobody was elected in 2013.

Steroids helped Morris with at least one voter, though. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, a former reporter for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, revealed the only player he voted for was Morris. He said he excluded everybody from the steroids era.

"I just don't know who did and who didn't," Gurnick said, adding: "Some people quibble over when the era starts, but the bulk of his career was in my opinion well before all of the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs."

Morris has 254 wins, which ranks 43rd. He's 32nd in strikeouts and 50th in innings on the career lists and his 3.90 ERA would be the highest of any pitcher in the Hall.

Over his best decade of work from 1983-92, identifying a better starting pitcher other than Roger Clemens is difficult.

Morris made 34 or more starts in all but one of those seasons, averaging 247 innings per year. He led the American League in strikeouts and innings in 1983, shutouts in 1986, complete games in 1990 and wins in 1992. Then there are the three World Series rings: with Detroit in 1984, Minnesota in 1991 and Toronto in 1992.

"Going back to our era, I think he was as good as there was for that period of time," Trammell said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "And I think those are the kinds of qualifications that get people into the Hall of Fame."

Morris has declined interview requests about his final candidacy.

"That's kind of Jack. If you get him to start to talk about it, I think he'll open up like a lot of us," Trammell said.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 8, 2014 0

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