It has been a very long time since a Detroit Tiger was inducted into the hallowed corridors of baseball’s Hall-of-Fame. Will that change when the vote is announced this Wednesday?
Jack Morris has received a lot of attention in this round of Hall-of-Fame voting. Most without votes seem to feel Morris is long overdue for his place in Cooperstown. A candidate needs 75 percent of voters to include him on their ballots to be enshrined. Morris has had 14 chances at hitting that mark, but has fallen short each time. If he fails to get elected this time, he will permanently drop off the ballot, but can be selected via the veteran’s committee beginning in 2016 (20 years after retirement).
Morris received 67.7 percent of the vote last year. While this is somewhat encouraging, a cause for concern is the high-caliber of first-time candidates this year, including Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Craig Biggio, Mike Mussina, and Jeff Kent. While voters can choose up to 10 players, they rarely vote to enshrine a large class.
Maddux and Glavine played the prime of their careers after Morris’ era and each have lofty stats. Both won 300 games and have respectable ERAs. Morris boasts a 3.90 ERA and won 254 games. HOF voters often only use statistics as their guide when selected players to the Hall, and this has been Morris’ biggest problem. Another problem was that he was kind of a dick to sportswriters. And sportswriters who cast these ballots have LONG memories for such infractions.
The voters fail to take into account that Morris was the pitcher of the 1980’s, winning the most games in the decade and was perhaps one of the best big game pitchers in baseball history. Sadly it came after he left Detroit, but Morris’ performance in pitching 10 innings in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series should be enough to warrant enshrinement.
Voters have shown a willingness to occasionally listen to intangibles. There has been a groundswell of support for Curt Schilling. He received 38.8 percent of the vote in his first shot last year. By many accounts, its just a matter of years before he’s enshrined and he certainly won’t have to wait the next 15 years.
Schilling has less wins than Morris (216), but a better ERA (3.46). Where people give Schilling credit is his 11-2 postseason record. Sounds eerily familiar to Morris’ pedigree, so what gives?
Schilling works for ESPN, has a gregarious personality, and was a focal point of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. Morris toiled for teams usually ignored by the sports media in Detroit, Minnesota and Toronto, and was somewhat aloof.
Moving on, let’s take a look at the career statistics for two players. One is a Hall-of-Famer and the other barely keeps enough votes to stay on the annual ballot.
19 seasons: 1,257 runs, 2,460 hits, 402 doubles, 69 triples, 28 homers, 793 RBIs, .978 fielding percentage
20 seasons: 1,231 runs, 2,365 hits, 412 doubles, 55 triples, 185 homers, 1,003 RBIs, .977 fielding percentage
The first line is for Ozzie Smith, who was inducted on the first ballot in 2002. The second is for Alan Trammell, who never receives more than 50 percent of the vote and will be in his final year of eligibility in 2015.
Those lines are almost identical if you consider there is some better numbers for Smith and some better numbers for Tram. Of course, Tram never did back flips in the World Series.
If you put Tram’s numbers in the prism of the WAR-based JAWS statistic, you’ll see he ranks 11th all time for shortstops. This means he is the highest ranking shortstop in the modern era not already in the Hall-of-Fame, and is ahead of several Hall-of-Famers including Barry Larkin, Lou Boudreau, Pee Wee Reese, and others.
A similar case can be made for Lou Whitaker, as his numbers stack up well against several Hall-of-Fame second basemen, however he is not even on the current ballot. Sweet Lou was ruled ineligible by not receiving five percent of the vote on his first try.
Tigers’ fans should be pissed about this. Detroit sports fans frequently cry that their teams are ignored nationally. The fact that Morris, Trammell and Whitaker will not be elected to the Hall anytime soon (though Morris does have a so-so shot this year) is proof of that. Had any of these players played for the Yankees or other East Coast teams, their mugs would already be hanging on the walls of Cooperstown.