Jack Morris of the Detroit Tigers pitches during an MLB game at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois. Jack Morris played for the Detroit Tigers from 1977-1990. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Jack Morris will be the top holdover on next year's Hall of Fame ballot, which bodes well for his candidacy. But what about all those superstars who will join Morris on the ballot?
Monday, the Hall of Fame announced the results of the 2012 Baseball Writers' Association of America election:
And only Barry Larkin.
Of course, without a single strong newcomer to the ballot, many of the holdovers gained support, which doesn't make sense because their stats didn't get better but that's just how the electorate does things. Some of the holdovers gained a great deal of support. And Jack Morris, in his 13th year on the ballot, moved from 54 percent in 2011 to 67 percent this year.
According to Hall of Fame expert Jay Jaffe, Morris's ultimate election is now "as inevitable as Jim Rice".
I'm not exactly sure what means. Jim Rice's election looks inevitable now, because he's been elected. But before he was elected, how inevitable was it, really? He didn't make it until his 15th -- and by rule, his last -- appearance on the ballot. He needed 405 votes, and he got 412. He could have missed. (He should have missed, that's an argument for another day.)
It's absolutely true that when candidates reach a certain level of support, they tend to do better and better until they're actually elected. Morris reached 67 percent this time, way up from 54 percent last year. I might be wrong about this, but I don't believe that any player has reached 67 percent and not eventually been elected. I believe the record is held by Gil Hodges, who hit 60.1 percent twice before topping out at 63.4 percent in his last season of eligibility. Of course there's a pretty good chance the Veterans Committee will elect him eventually (because eventually the Veterans Committee elects everyone).
But Jaffe seems to be suggesting that because nobody's ever reached 67 percent and not been elected, nobody can reach 67 percent and not be elected.
We know that holdover candidates are impacted by new candidates. And next year there are some killer new candidates: Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Curt Schilling, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa. Also Kenny Lofton, who might have better a case than you think. A lot of voters won't vote for some of those guys; but a lot of voters will.
To those players, you may add Morris's fellow holdovers: Jeff Bagwell, Lee Smith and , all of whom received significant support in this year's balloting.
So that's nine candidates who should receive significant support, and of course many others will draw insignificant support (however unfairly). And Morris has the distinct disadvantage of being the worst player among them all (with the possible exception of Lee Smith).
I mean, it's actually sort of ridiculous. Not that Wins Above Replacement is the only thing that matters, but if you make a list of the players on next year's BBWAA ballot, Morris ranks 22nd in WAR. Maybe this is why Jim Caple keeps agitating for a larger ballot: So he can keep voting for Morris, but without having to worry about, you know, all those pesky facts.
Jack Morris was a good, exceptionally durable starting pitcher. He never won a Cy Young Award, nor deserved to. He won fewer games than both Jim Kaat and Tommy John -- neither of whom came close to being elected by the BBWAA -- with an adjusted ERA worse than both of them.
Morris's supporters like to argue that his ERA is irrelevant because he "pitched to the score", which would be a compelling argument were it true. It is not true.
Morris won more games than any other pitcher in the 1980s because he was good, because he was durable, and because he pitched for good teams.
Morris's supporters also like to argue that his postseason performance should count for a great deal of extra credit.
Hey, I'm all for extra credit. Morris, all by his lonesome, won one of the biggest World Series games ever. If he were a borderline Hall of Fame candidate -- say, Jim Kaat or Tommy John -- that might do it for me. That single brilliant game might put him over the top.
But Morris isn't borderline. He was no better than Rick Reuschel, nor as good as Kevin Brown.
David Wells joins Morris on the ballot next year. David Wells won 15 fewer games than Morris, but lost 29 fewer. His adjusted ERA is slightly better. Jack Morris is famous for his brilliant postseason pitching. In the real world, the one in which I usually live, Morris went 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA in postseason games. Same world, David Wells went 10-5 with a 3.17 ERA.
Very few voters will vote for David Wells, and many will vote for Jack Morris. But that says a lot more about the voters than about the pitchers.