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Friday, January 6, 2012
One more thought on Jack Morris

By David Schoenfield

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:

Jack Morris
Jack 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?

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?