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Thursday, December 30, 2010
Jack Morris just doesn't pass muster

Jack Morris
The debate about whether Jack Morris deserves to be in the Hall of Fame continues.
In the latest entry in Joe Posnanski's Hall of Fame blowout, Joe gives the thumbs-down -- reluctantly, I'm sure, because Joe's such a nice guy -- to Harold Baines, John Franco, Juan Gonzalez, Don Mattingly, John Olerud, Dave Parker, Lee Smith, and ... Jack Morris.

Morris is the key figure here, because of course Morris is the cause célčbre of so many Hall of Fame voters. Joe writes at some length about all those fine players listed above, because that's what Joe does (and does so brilliantly). All of Joe's words are useful and valuable, because each of those players have Hall of Fame qualifications, and each has his fans. But with the possible exception of Lee Smith, Morris is the only one of these candidates with any real chance of election in the foreseeable future.

These words mean more coming from Joe than they would coming from me, because Joe is a longtime Hall of Fame voter and also (in case I didn't mention this already) a really nice guy. He can get away with calling the arguments for Morris intellectually dishonest (or terribly misguided) in a way that perhaps I can't. Whether that means that at least a few voters will actually change their minds because of what Joe's written, I don't know. But at least he's fighting the good fight.

Posnanski's timing is excellent, as just today one of my favorite voters weighs in on the subject of changing one's Hall of Fame opinions. Here's Bob Ryan:

Well, Bob, you're batting .500.

Look, I appreciate the possibility that Morris was better than his ERA, that he really did "pitch to win the game" rather than "protect his stats." But there's no need to blindly "buy into the notion" or not, because WE HAVE THE MATH.

And it's not even the Bill James New Math. It's just the basic, everyday math that's been around for something like a century. It's just a matter of taking the time and doing the work. And here's the really crazy thing: It was done nearly seven years ago.

Seriously. Eight years ago, Joe Sheehan engaged in The Jack Morris Project, in the process of which Joe went through Morris' entire career, start by start by start by start, looking for whatever evidence might be found to support the notion that Morris "pitched to the score" any more than other pitchers do.

Joe's conclusion?

There's just no reason to guess. If you don't trust Joe's conclusion simply because I published it, all you have to do -- and by "you" I mean you, Bob Ryan -- is click on that link and spend 10 or 15 minutes reading everything that comes before Joe's conclusion. It's a lot of material and a lot of numbers and even a little bit of math, but it really seems like a small thing.

After all, the Hall of Fame is forever.