One more thought on Jack Morris

January, 6, 2012
1/06/12
1:21
PM ET
I wrote about Jack Morris the other day, but I heard this on TV last night while at the gym: He was the ace on three World Series champions. I think it's at least something to consider that I didn't include in my original analysis.

Now, I would say we use that term loosely. For example, check out the 1984 Tigers:

[+] EnlargeJack Morris
File Photo/US PresswireJack Morris was the ace of three World Series champions.
Morris: 19-11, 3.60 ERA, 240.1 IP, 221 H, 87 BB, 148 SO, 1.28 WHIP
Dan Petry: 18-8, 3.24 ERA, 233.1 IP, 231 H, 66 BB, 144 SO, 1.27 WHIP

You can't get much more identical than that. But Morris was the ace of that team. He started the first game of the playoffs.

Or the 1991 Twins:

Morris: 18-12, 3.43 ERA, 246.2 IP, 226 H, 92 BB, 163 SO, 1.29 WHIP
Kevin Tapani: 16-9, 2.99 ERA, 244 IP, 225 H, 40 BB, 135 SO, 1.09 WHIP
Scott Erickson: 20-8, 3.18 ERA, 204 IP, 189, 71 BB, 108 SO, 1.28 WHIP

Tapani was clearly a little better that season and Erickson pretty good as well, but it was Morris who started the first game of the playoffs and the pitcher Tom Kelly lined up to start three times in the World Series. When there was a big game, Morris was the guy his manager believed in. Is that so easily dismissed?

1992 Blue Jays:

Morris: 21-6, 4.04 ERA, 240.2 IP, 222 H, 80 BB, 132 SO, 1.26 WHIP
Jimmy Key: 13-13, 3.53 ERA, 216.2 IP, 205 H, 59 BB, 117 SO, 1.22 WHIP
Juan Guzman: 16-5, 2.64 ERA, 180.2 IP, 135 H, 72 BB, 165 SO, 1.15 WHIP
David Cone: 4-3, 2.55 ERA, 53 IP, 39 H, 29 BB, 47 SO, 1.28 WHIP

Cito Gaston had several options, including late-season trade acquisition Cone. But Morris, again, was his guy. He started the first game of the playoffs and the World Series (he didn't pitch well that postseason, but the Jays won anyway).

So how many other starters have been the ace of three World Series champions?

  • Whitey Ford: He started Game 1 of the World Series eight times (let's see that record broken) and the Yankees won four of those World Series.
  • Allie Reynolds: When the Yankees won five straight championships from 1949-53, Reynolds started the World Series opener four times. The '53 start was most interesting because Reynolds had spend the season alternating between starting (15 starts) and relieving (13 saves). But Reynolds had a strong World Series track record and Casey Stengel gave him the ball over Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat or a young Ford.
  • Red Ruffing: He started Game 1 of the World Series six times between 1932 and 1942, with the Yankees winning in '32, '36, '38, '39 and '41. You can argue that Spud Chandler or Marius Russo were just as good in '41, but Ruffing was clearly the ace of the other five teams (which included Hall of Famer Lefty Gomez). By the way, the pitcher in the Hall of Fame with the highest career ERA? Red Ruffing, at 3.80. (He was 39-96, 4.61 with terrible Red Sox teams, got traded to the Yankees and went 231-124, 3.47 with them.)
  • Waite Hoyt: Started Game 1 for the Yankees in 1923, 1927 and 1928. He's a very marginal Hall of Fame, helped by his "ace" status on three World Series winners.
  • Chief Bender: The Game 1 starter for three Philadelphia A's World Series winners, Bender wasn't the clear ace (fellow Hall of Famer Eddie Plank was on those teams), but Connie Mack clearly believed in Bender as his No. 1 guy.


And to my accounting, that's it. Ken Holtzman started Game 1 of the World Series for the 1972, '73 and '74 champion A's, but that was after an additional round of playoffs had started. You could argue that Catfish Hunter was the ace of all three of those Oakland teams, but Vida Blue started the first game of the '73 playoffs (and no, not because of end-of-season rotation issues -- the A's had five days off between the end of the season and the first game of the ALCS). When the Yankees won four titles in five seasons from 1996 to 2000, four different starters opened the playoffs: Cone, David Wells, Orlando Hernandez and Roger Clemens. That was a team of aces.

So I believe that's the list: Four Yankees, a guy from 100 years ago and Jack Morris.

Does that help his Hall of Fame case? It's not anything that shows up in the statistics, but it is, I believe, an important factor for his argument. But is it enough to sway voters?

David Schoenfield | email

SweetSpot blogger

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