The broadcast is about him from the very first moment: as soon as the CBS logo has disappeared from the screen, the hosts are talking about his postseason success so far in the games leading up to this, Game 7 of the World Series, the biggest night on the grandest stage of his career. Then they discuss the girl who sang the national anthem, but they don't spend long on her; meandering back to the baseball at hand, they remark that before the game tonight, it is only fitting to retrace the steps that brought them here. They transition into a highlight reel for a tall, moustached, intense pitcher; they don't bother to identify him. There's no need. I've never seen this man before, but I recognize Jack Morris immediately.

Morris, who retired following the 1994 season, has been on the ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame since 2000. The rules are simple: five years after a player retires, he is eligible for the Hall. If he receives a vote from 75 percent or more of the participating members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, he is inducted into the Hall. If he receives a vote from five percent or fewer of those voters, he is off the ballot. If he receives a vote from any percentage of the electorate between those two extremes, he remains on the ballot for the following year. After his fifteenth year on the ballot without induction, a player is removed from consideration.

Jack Morris has spent 13 years on the ballot. He does not have much time left. He should take heart, however; just one year after his candidacy seemed dead in the water, his percentage of ballots increasing from 52.3 percent in 2010 to only 53.5 percent in 2011, Morris has renewed life: his name was present on 66.7 percent of the ballots submitted for the Hall of Fame's 2012 class, putting him in second place behind Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, who was elected to the Hall after receiving votes on 86.4 percent of the ballots.

Morris, who was the face of the Detroit Tigers' pitching staff for the entirety of the eighties before spending the early nineties hopping between the Twins, Blue Jays, and Indians, has every right to be thrilled at the news. And the rest of us, especially those who were too young to see him pitch, have every right to ask…why Jack Morris? Why now?

To answer that question, I decide to watch the most famous performance of his career, the game that proved once and for all that he was a true ace and a true winner. Without commercial breaks, Game 7 runs just under two hours and 45 minutes. The starting pitchers are Morris for the Twins and John Smoltz for the Braves. Jack Buck is there, too; he probably doesn't know it yet, but this will be the last televised baseball game he ever calls for CBS Sports. The reason for his departure, Tim McCarver, is sitting next to him in the booth. Over the next few hours, Jack Morris will throw 10 shutout innings of baseball. He will allow seven hits and strike out eight batters while only walking two, one of whom he will walk intentionally. The Twins will win 1-0 in the bottom of the 10th, winning the second World Series title in franchise history and solidifying Jack Morris's place in baseball history.

And when it's over, I will be more convinced than ever that Jack Morris is not a Hall of Fame pitcher.


Article Five of the Baseball Writers' Association of America Election Rules codifies the qualifications of a Hall of Fame player. It reads in full:

5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

Exactly 23 words long, Article Five is by far the shortest of the Election Rules' nine articles. This is intentional: the Hall of Fame wants its electors to have as much leeway as possible when deciding who best deserves the highest honor that professional baseball can confer on its practitioners.

But of the six criteria listed, the very first is "record." This does not refer to the winning percentage of the teams the candidate played for, nor does it refer to an individual pitcher’s wins weighed against his losses. In this context, a player's "record" is, broadly speaking, that which he’s accomplished in the game. In baseball, that record is composed of two things: the statistics that quantify what he did in the games he played, and the awards that define his excellence among his peers.

Before we can talk about what Jack Morris's Hall of Fame candidacy is, we must first establish precisely what it is not. Morris's candidacy is not, in any credible way, based on his record. For the most part, not even his supporters pretend it is.

Nevertheless, it's instructive to see just how much of a non-factor Morris's stats are in this discussion, no matter what sort of metrics are used, and to do that, we must understand how the voters approach baseball stats in general. To almost criminally oversimplify the past 20 years, a vast gap has opened in the ranks of those who analyze the sport on a professional and sometimes near-theological level, splitting baseball writers into two vague camps.

On one edge of the chasm stand the traditionalists, favoring the familiar statistical tradition descended from Henry Chadwick, the father of baseball scorekeeping: Pitcher Wins and Losses, Earned Run Average, Batting Average, Runs Batted In, and eventually, Saves. They favor counting stats and are likely to use milestone numbers—300 Pitcher Wins, for instance, or 3000 strikeouts—but if one were to summarize their ethics in one word, it would not be "volume" but "consistency," for the latter begets the former: consistent, sustained levels of superior play lead to superior numbers.

On the other edge stand the sabermetricians, who represent a new school of thought that can be very loosely traced back to Bill James, though he is certainly not responsible for all—or even most—of its innovations: Wins Above Replacement Player, Equalized Runs Created, Fielding Independent Pitching, Win Shares, Strikeouts Per Nine Innings, Walks Per Nine Innings, Stikeout-to-Walk Percentage, and perhaps the narrative root of the entire movement, On-Base Percentage and On-Base Plus Slugging. There are almost as many sabermetric statistics as there are sabermetricians, but if their ethics were to be summarized in one word, it would be "efficiency." After all, the entire loose school of thought is built around the concept that baseball's most important unit of measure is the out, and baseball's most important question is how best to record or avoid making one.

These are, of course, imperfect, broad-brush distinctions; there are many who straddle the gap. It is entirely reasonable to put no faith in pitcher wins but believe ERA is a very useful tool, or that K/9 and BB/9 are reliable indicators of pitcher ability but that HR/9 is suspect because the pitcher has no influence on whether a flyball will become a homerun, or conversely that most advanced pitching stats are fine but that pitchers can influence the kind of contact hitters make on their pitches and therefore a stat like xFIP, which normalizes a pitcher's HR/9, is unreliable. But in general, the two camps are very real—and neither of them likes Jack Morris's record a whole lot.

First, the old school.

Jack Morris: 254W, 2478K, 3.90 ERA (105 ERA+)

These three stats—pitcher wins, strikeouts, and ERA—form the backbone of any starting pitcher's Hall of Fame bid from a traditionalist perspective, and they don't do Morris many favors. In an 18-year professional career, Morris racked up 254 wins, which ties him for 42nd all-time. The milestone he needed to reach was 300, and he fell far short. Additionally, he had only three 20-win seasons (1981, 1986, and 1992) over the course of his career. His 2478 career strikeouts put him 32nd overall but 522 short of the fabled 3000 milestone, and he recorded 157 of them per season on average, which is good but not especially great. Of course not every pitcher needs 300 wins and 3000 strikeouts to make the Hall, but those totals certainly help.

Finally, and most damningly, we come to Morris's ERA. ERA is the best pitching metric in the traditionalist arsenal—over large enough sample sizes, it generally correlates with most advanced metrics—and Morris's 3.90 is mediocre at best. In fact, that's what the 105 ERA+ right next to it means: on the whole, Jack Morris was very slightly better than league average at preventing runs from scoring. That 3.90 puts him 738th all-time. It's very telling that this is the only rate stat, as opposed to counting stat, the traditionalists really use for pitching performance, and it's the one that hurts him the most: ERA doesn't care that Morris pitched for 18 years.

There are other things brought up to help bolster Morris's case from this camp—Opening Day starts, for instance (Morris had 14)—but while these look like stats, they're really something else that we'll get to in a bit. There are additional pitching stats that traditionalists look for from starters, such as complete games and shutouts, but there's no reason to move to those: Jack Morris did not reach a prestigious milestone in either wins or strikeouts and had a career ERA that is not worthy of consideration for the Hall. Were he inducted, his ERA would be the highest of any pitcher in Cooperstown, a full tenth of a run more than Red Ruffing's 3.80. So, excluding those Opening Day starts for now, there is no traditionalist statistical case for his candidacy.

The other component of Morris's traditionalist record would be his awards, which would tell us to what extent the writers of his day thought he excelled against his peers. But Jack Morris has none. The highest he ever finished in Cy Young voting was third, which he did twice in 1981 and 1983. No complex archival search necessary—if Jack Morris had been regarded as a great pitcher during his career, he would have some hardware to prove it. He doesn't. The lack of a Cy Young doesn't torpedo his case, but never finishing higher than third in award voting doesn't help it, and right now Morris needs all the help he can get.

Now, the new school.

Jack Morris: 5.8 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.78 K/BB, 4.54 FRA, 33.4 WARP

There’s a wide array of sabermetric stats we could use to analyze Morris, but we'll use strikeouts per nine, walks per nine, strikeout-to-walk ratio, Fair Run Average and Wins Above Replacement Player. The first three form the basis of all pitcher peripherals, because strikeouts and walks are the two outcomes the pitcher has the most direct control over, with the least statistical "noise" from the defense behind him and the environment around him. The latter two are proprietary stats, the first of which applies situational linear weights to ERA as well as adjusting for defense and park, and the second of which is a component-based counting stat that quantifies the positive (or negative) value of the player's outcomes on the field. In short, you want to have a low FRA and a high WARP.

Morris's peripherals are underwhelming, but not bad. A 5.8 K/9 is middle-of-the-pack for Hall of Fame starters since integration and barely above league-average for the years in which he pitched. A 3.3 BB/9 would be fifth-highest behind Bob Feller, were Morris to get in. A 1.78 K/BB ratio would put him well into the bottom third of this portion of the Hall, 18th of 22. The only real conclusion to draw from this is that, compared to other Hall of Fame pitchers from the modern era, or even his non-Hall of Fame contemporaries, Morris was not particularly successful at striking out batters or preventing batters from walking, and he did not strike out noticeably more batters than he walked. None of this is good news for him.

That brings us to his FRA, which for a Hall of Fame candidate is atrocious. Read FRA the same way you would ERA, in terms of runs per nine innings. As Jay Jaffe has already covered, Morris's induction would make him the third-worst starter in the Hall by FRA; the average FRA for a pitcher in the Hall is 4.05. No help there. Then there's his WARP of 33.4, which is less than two-thirds the average WARP of a Hall of Fame pitcher.

That's no help, then. But Jack Morris does have some pretty good playoff stats, right? Not really. They look a lot like his regular stats: seven wins, four losses, 3.80 ERA in 92.1 IP, 6.2 K/9, 3.1 BB/9. What that overall survey misses, though, is that he has two elite postseasons (1984: 3-0, 1.80 ERA, 17 K, four BB; 1991: 4-0, 2.23 ERA, 22 K, 10 BB) and two horrific ones (1987: 0-1, 6.75 ERA, seven K, three BB; 1992: 0-3, 7.43 ERA, 18 K, 15 BB). That's not very consistent at all, which makes sense, because Morris's 92.1 playoff innings came in four separate chunks across a decade. Either way, it's hard to make a case that his playoff numbers should put him in Cooperstown.

So if he's not in by the old stats, and he's not in by the new stats, and his playoff stats are inconclusive, then what is the statistical case for putting Jack Morris in the Hall of Fame?

It's this:

3824 IP

Jack Morris pitched a lot of innings. A whole lot of innings. Once he became a full-time starter, Morris averaged 229 IP per season, and he was among the top three in innings pitched in the 1981, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1990, and 1991 seasons. Now, these numbers look more impressive in 2012 than they did in the 1980s because of how the game and the use of starting pitchers has changed, but in 1983, Morris topped out at 293 innings pitched—the man was a workhorse, and not getting injured is as much a physical talent as any tool in baseball.

Innings pitched is something of a bridge stat between the traditionalists and the sabermetricians when it comes to pitchers, because it has implications for both consistency and efficiency: a high number of innings pitched in a season for a starter shows that he is durable, dependable, and able to go deep into games, while it also means that he has more opportunities to provide value to his team than a pitcher with fewer innings pitched over the same period of time. From a team-oriented perspective, the more often you can use your good pitchers, the less you have to use your bad ones, and Morris was a good pitcher.

There will be many articles in support of Jack Morris's candidacy written over the next year, especially as the 2013 ballot submission deadline approaches. When reading them, if you find Jack Morris at the top of any list of his contemporaries, check what modifiers the writer is using to make the list, specifically the years the list spans and the average number of innings pitched on the list. For example, let's look at the top 10 pitchers in MLB by Adjusted ERA+ from 1982 to 1987 who averaged 210 IP per year or better:

Dave Stieb 131 ERA+ 1488.1 IP
Jack Morris 116 ERA+ 1590.1 IP
Charlie Hough 116 ERA+ 1512.0 IP
Bob Welch 116 ERA+ 1273.0 IP
Fernando Valenzuela 113 ERA+ 1595.2 IP
Floyd Bannister 110 ERA+ 1287.0 IP
Rick Rhoden 110 ERA+ 1361.2 IP
Jim Clancy 109 ERA+ 1298.2 IP
Frank Viola 106 ERA+ 1341.2 IP
Joe Niekro 100 ERA+ 1280.0 IP

On first glance, this list makes it seem like the mid-eighties were a bad time for starting pitching, but that after Dave Steib, who was head and shoulders above the pack, Jack Morris was among the best in the league for a six-year stretch. On second glance, this list is misleading and utterly useless.

Putting aside the arbitrary endpoints that effectively write guys like Gooden or Clemens out of the picture, 210 innings per year for six years is 1260 innings total. Between 1982 and 1987, Bert Blyleven pitched 1254.0 innings of 120 ERA+ ball, and John Tudor pitched 1239.2 innings of 124 ERA+ ball. If we change that 210 IP per year to 205 per year, Morris goes from second to fourth on the chart. If we go with 205 IP per year for the entirety of the 80s, he drops to seventh. And all of this ignores that if during a starting pitcher's peak—which the 1982 to 1987 time frame represents for Morris—the best he can do is a 116 ERA+, he's not a credible Hall of Fame pitcher.

And that's really Jack Morris's record in a nutshell: during the best stretch of his career, Dave Stieb was still better in every way. Dave Stieb received seven Hall of Fame votes in 2004. It was his only year on the ballot.


Morris and Smoltz are both impressive early, matching each other nearly pitch-for-pitch in the first inning. The Twins ace throws 12 pitches in the top of the first, inducing an easy flyball to right, a weak grounder to Kent Hrbek at first base, and then getting Ron Gant to strike out swinging to retire the side. Gant, a right-handed hitter, begins what will be a particularly frustrating night at the plate by jumping ahead in the count 2-0, then fouling off a fastball in the lower part of the zone and reaching for and missing a fastball low and outside.

"He can't be any more of a number one guy," McCarver is saying all the while. "He started the first game of the season for the Twins, he pitched in the All-Star game, he pitched the first game of the American League Championship Series, and he pitched in the first game of the World Series. He won all four of those games." McCarver is wrong, of course; Jimmy Key of the Blue Jays was the winning pitcher of record in the 1991 All-Star Game. But Jack Morris is a winner, and it fits the story McCarver's telling better if he wins the All-Star Game, too.

Gant whiffs on a fastball away and tosses his helmet and bat in disgust.

When Smoltz comes out to pitch the bottom of the first, Buck takes over. Aside from pointing out how many wins Smoltz had to end the regular season, McCarver is silent for the first three minutes of the inning. Perhaps he's mesmerized by Smoltz's slider: nasty and quick, coming in low and fast and twisting away out of the hitting window even faster, it's the best pitch in his arsenal and the one for which he'll become famous. Twins leadoff man Dan Gladden swings and misses on a slider, lays off a high fastball, swings and misses on another slider, fouls off a high fastball, then swings and misses on a third slider to make the first Minnesota out of the game. The Twins will not have much more success trying to solve that pitch the rest of the evening.

It takes only five more pitches for Smoltz to retire Chuck Knoblauch and Kirby Puckett, again using the slider to get the number two and three hitters in pitcher's counts and swinging at balls in less than ideal places.

At the end of the first inning, each man has a strikeout and neither has allowed a baserunner, but more importantly, both have figured out that home plate umpire Don Denkinger is calling just about everything low and in the vicinity of home plate a strike, especially if it's low and away on right-handed batters.

The top of the second begins with David Justice taking the first pitch he sees out of Jack Morris's hand into center field for the first hit of the game, and sure enough, Tim McCarver's back, remarking on how deep Puckett plays in center, and how if he’d played in a little more, that single would have been an out. He has nothing to say about the pitch, which was a straight fastball right down the middle of the plate.


If Morris's case is not based on his record, then what is it based on?


Recalling Article Five, a player's record is only one of six criteria a voter is supposed to consider when deciding whether or not to vote for a player to go into the Hall of Fame. The others are playing ability (which can reasonably be rolled into a discussion of the player's stats), integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the teams for which he played. At those final four, and especially the final two, Jack Morris would seem to excel.

Earlier, Morris's 14 consecutive Opening Day starts were mentioned, a major-league record that stands to this day. This is not a statistic in any conventional sense; it describes nothing about what Jack Morris did on the mound and gives us no new information about his ability to pitch. In fact, the only thing it has in common with an actual baseball stat is that it's a number. What those 14 consecutive starts represent, instead, are Morris's character and the role he filled on his teams.

Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci, who did not vote for Morris this year, attached a rider to the column explaining his ballot that argued for Morris's induction and implied that he might find room for the man the next time around. It correctly noted that there was no statistical argument to be made for the man, and just as correctly noted that this was only one aspect of a Hall of Fame candidacy. It even had a gerrymandered list: “Pitchers with the Most Seasons of 15 or More Wins and 235 or more Innings Pitched since 1901,” with Morris coming in ninth; every other pitcher on the list was in the Hall. However, the most ridiculous (yet revealing) thing Verducci had to say was the following:

"No, the advanced numbers don't make Morris a Hall of Famer. But the comparison to [Dennis] Martinez indicates the danger in trusting only those numbers. What if Morris' one great skill that was so valued by baseball people—pitching as a true ace for 14 years with more wins and more innings than anybody else—was so extraordinary, like the glove of Ozzie Smith or the bat control of Rod Carew, as to make him a Hall of Famer? Can that skill define him as a Hall of Famer even without a great ERA?"

It seems some sort of bizarre performance art: one of the most respected national baseball writers currently working asserts that having a moustache and being gruffly confident is the secret sixth tool of baseball; will anyone call him on it? But what Verducci is doing, either in good faith or just to drive his hits counter, is making the case that all of Morris's supporters are tip-toeing around when they try to talk about his Wins or his Opening Day starts: if Hall of Fame voters are sufficiently enamored of the narrative they've constructed around a player for whatever reason, then that alone is a good enough case to put him in. And under Article Five of the Election Rules, that's their right.

But a couple paragraphs before he wonders if the big, bushy right-hander is indeed the Truest Ace of All Time, Verducci writes, "This ground-level definition of an ace is what shapes Morris' candidacy. It's not about his ERA+ and it's not even about Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, which has been overblown as defining his candidacy."

He's wrong. Since the moment he hit the ballot, all the "pitching to the score" and "true ace" stuff has been at best a condiment, adding flavor to the argument instead of substance. No, the meat, the bone, the heart and the soul of Jack Morris's Hall of Fame candidacy has always been his 10-inning shutout win against the Braves, the narrative climax of a season and a career. Besides run support, it's just about the only tangible accomplishment he has going for him that, say, Jamie Moyer doesn't. It was the greatest night of Morris's career and quite likely his entire life.

But here's the thing about that narrative: Jack Morris should have lost Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.


By the top of the eighth, the big right-hander is cruising. Morris hasn't allowed a baserunner since the fifth and has thrown only 20 pitches over the last two innings. He struck out Greg Olson to start off the seventh and Rafael Belliard to end it; now he steps to the rubber and stares down towards home as designated hitter Lonnie Smith stands in. Smith, the Braves' leadoff man, is 1-2 with a walk and a bunt single; that bunt single, back in the top of the fifth, marks the last time a Brave reached first base.

The first pitch is a fastball low and inside on the right-handed Smith; catcher Brian Harper sets the target at the knees, but the ball arrives almost in the dirt. Smith wisely lays off; the Twins ace steps back, kicks some dirt, takes the sign. Delivers.

Smith checks his swing at the last moment; if he doesn't, he's probably either standing on second base or back in the dugout. Instead, he chips the ball into shallow right field for a leadoff single. As Smith reaches the bag, the ball almost takes a high bounce over Shane Mack's head, but the right fielder leaps up to glove it and Smith retreats to first base.

That brings up Braves third baseman and National League batting champion Terry Pendleton. As Braves third base coach Jimy Williams gives Smith and Pendleton their signs, Buck and McCarver ruminate from the announcers’ booth on whether manager Bobby Cox is going to bunt Smith over, hit and run, order a steal, or just play it straight. Williams's antics cease, and Pendleton steps into the left-hand batters' box.

The first pitch is a ball way outside.

Tim McCarver helpfully informs the listeners at home that Cox probably will not order the best hitter in the National League to bunt a runner over with no outs and a speedster on first.  While he chatters, Morris throws over to first to make sure Smith knows he hasn't been forgotten. "You see Tom Kelly pointing to his head," McCarver says as the CBS camera shows the Twins manager doing precisely that, "we'll see if Harper does the same thing—I think that's the sign to throw over to first base!"

Morris steps and delivers a called strike on the outside corner.

Pendleton stares into the right-hand batter’s box; the pitch was at least six inches off the black. He is not amused. McCarver, oblivious, continues to explain that Kelly touching his head is the sign to throw to first as the count goes even with a ball and a strike.

Now Morris starts throwing over to first; he does it twice, and Smith gets back both times. Cut to the Minnesota bullpen: relievers Steve Bedrosian and Mark Guthrie are warming up. Kelly, clearly worried about the baserunner, wants arms warm and ready if things go south.

The third pitch is a fastball letter-high and away, but in the zone. Pendleton swings and fouls it into the seats on the third base side. Morris watches it go, then twitches his moustache, runs his right hand fast through his hair and wipes it on his cap, and walks to the front of the mound to get a new ball from Denkinger.

The fourth pitch of the at-bat is the split-fingered fastball low and almost in the dirt of the left-hand batter’s box—the pitch and location that Morris has been tormenting the Braves' right-handed hitters with all night. But whereas the pitch is low and away to them, to Pendleton it's low and in. Like them, he goes after it, and at first Twins fans think Morris has recorded his seventh punchout of the night, but Denkinger brushes his hands together into the air—a foul tip. The catcher Harper appeals to third and Denkinger allows it, but third base umpire Terry Tata confirms the call and Terry Pendleton remains alive with a ball and two strikes.

Morris shakes his head, grumbles something towards home, then takes a walk around the mound. He's a very demonstrative, emotional pitcher, at least in this game—always shouting something, swearing, fist-pumping, jumping up and down. The actual act of pitching is the least interesting thing he does, because it's the same every time; once the ball is in play, though, the big man coils up as the play unfolds and then bounces around the infield grass once it resolves, cursing or celebrating as the situation demands, never letting it get in the way of being where he needs to be defensively. If there's any game where this is an understandable approach, it's Game 7 of the World Series.

We don't get to see him after the next pitch, though, because Pendleton takes a fastball on the outside half of the plate the other way into the gap out to left center. It hits the pale, washed-out artificial turf and bounces high off the plexiglass that lines the top of the Metrodome's outfield wall, almost like the boards of a hockey rink. The ball caroms back to the field, Twins left fielder Dan Gladden grabs it on the way down and spins to the infield—

—Where a mortified Lonnie Smith, wide-eyed and helmetless, is just now arriving at third base at a dead run, Pendleton pulling into second in the background behind him. Jack Buck has barely finished calling the play before he tells us what he, McCarver, Smith and everyone in the stadium already know: "—it's off the wall, Lonnie Smith is held up at third and he didn't do very good baserunning. That was terrible by Lonnie."

"He didn't pick the ball up," McCarver says. "He stopped when he reached second base!"

What happens is this:

Lonnie Smith breaks for second on contact; as soon as the ball leaves Pendleton's bat into left, Smith is running full-speed towards second. Halfway there, just as he shifts from his secondary lead and puts on the jets, he loses his batting helmet. As he loses his batting helmet, he loses sight of the baseball.

Smith, helmet gone, disoriented, with no idea where the baseball is, slows slightly as he approaches second base, trying to pick up the play. Instead he picks up Chuck Knoblauch, the Minnesota second baseman, flipping the ball to shortstop Greg Gagne, who is charging towards the second base bag to force Smith out. Smith speeds up, but Gagne beats him to the bag—just as the ball lands in left center. The Braves' leadoff man rounds second, looking out into left now to gauge whether he should try for third. He's lost some time, but he's more than fast enough to make it home from second on a gapper.

But now Smith makes his second mistake: he forgets about the glass atop the outfield wall. He's not the only one. As the ball slams into the turf and shoots up towards the left field seats, Buck's call is that "the ball is down and that's a bad…oh, it's off the wall!" Buck might as well have been calling Smith's internal monologue, because just as he realizes that he's been badly fooled by Knoblauch and Gagne, he sees the ball shoot up above the dark teal outfield wall. In any other stadium in the majors, that's a ground rule double, meaning the ball is dead and Smith will advance to third base but no further. Imagine his surprise, then, when it hits the plexiglass wall and bounces back into play, completely live. Smith spends a full five seconds hopping back and forth off of second base, indecisive about whether or not to advance, before breaking for third. He reaches safely as Dan Gladden returns the ball to the infield.

Gant grounds out weakly to first. The Twins intentionally walk Justice to load the bases. Sid Bream grounds into a double play. Inning over.

Five seconds. The fastest man on the Atlanta Braves stands off of second base staring into the outfield for five seconds on a hit and run, and Jack Morris keeps his shutout.


Immediately following Article Five of the BBWAA's Election Rules is Article Six, as one might expect, and it reads in full:

6. Automatic Elections: No automatic elections based on performances such as a batting average of .400 or more for one (1) year, pitching a perfect game or similar outstanding achievement shall be permitted.

Lonnie Smith's terrible mistake in the top of the eighth inning is precisely why this rule exists. Obviously, no one is talking about automatically inducting Jack Morris into the Hall because of a 10-inning shutout, but the spirit of the Article's prohibition applies. It underscores that residency in Cooperstown is meant to immortalize complete players, not the brightest-burning moments in their lives. In the absence of any other compelling reason, a Hall of Fame bust should not be awarded because Lonnie Smith lost his helmet.

Because if he keeps the helmet and scores from first, and Kelly doesn't pull Morris for either Bedrosian or Guthrie, the Twins lose. The way Morris pitched after the Pendleton double represented the best possible outcome for Minnesota; Morris would not allow another baserunner following the intentional walk to Justice, and there is no particularly compelling reason to assume that Morris leaving the game would have led the Twins hitters to do anything against the Braves in the seventh, eighth, or ninth. If Smith scores and everything else remains the same—with Pendleton on second and first base open, the Twins still would have pitched to Gant, then walked Justice to get to Bream with the double play in order regardless of whether or not there was a man on third—Jack Morris, at best, takes a hard-luck complete game shutout loss in Game 7 of the World Series. Think about how that would change the narrative.

That is essentially where Morris stands going into next year's voting. Unless one votes purely based on pitcher wins (and some do), he has no real statistical case, and his narrative case hinges on an overemphasis of an impressive pitching performance in the most important game of his career, two decades of good character and locker room leadership, and a bunch of Opening Day starts.

In the end, whether or not Jack Morris is elected into the Hall of Fame is in many ways less important than why Jack Morris is or is not elected to the Hall of Fame. There are plenty of players less accomplished than he is in the Hall, though the majority of them were added by the Veterans Committee and not the writers. No, the debate over Morris stopped being about the pitcher himself some time ago; some point to Bert Blyleven's induction as the turning point, and it's fair to say that his eventual success might have led to some backlash. Whatever the reason, Morris is now a test case to see if a candidate with a strong enough narrative, no matter how groundless, imaginary, or overblown it might be, can make the Hall simply because his supporters repeated it so often and so loudly that one morning the world woke up and found it was true.

None of this is to say Morris wasn't a very good pitcher. It's not at all easy to be one of the top pitchers in Major League Baseball for any length of time, let alone for a decade and change, but Jack Morris was. Perhaps the saddest thing about the madness surrounding his candidacy is that there's an entire generation of new fans and writers coming to the conversation who never got to see Morris pitch, who look at that 3.90 ERA and then over at his Hall of Fame vote totals, who read some of the overexcited praise of Wins and True Aceiness and other things they've learned are never to be taken seriously and start to look at Jack Morris as a punchline instead of an extremely accomplished pitcher.

There's no shame in "only" being one of the top two or three hundred human beings to throw a baseball in the history of the sport. But by design, the Hall of Fame is an even more exclusive honor than that.

But Jack Morris shouldn't worry. He'll make the Hall yet. He is, after all, a winner.

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Curious as to why McCarver was the reason the game was the last for Buck at CBS sports. Appreciate the game analysis--I initially thought you were simply checking the box marked "you had to see him play" for benefit of the Old Schoolers (and I'm old BTW). No, Morris does not belong and I do believe his accelerated ascendancy is Old School backlash from Blyleven's election. The only thing missing in the Morris narrative is "fear" which might be forthcoming given his moustache and intensity. The Jim Rice of pitchers--just say NO!
Agreed, he's the Jim Rice of pitchers and shouldn't be in the Hall.

But this game was one of the best I've ever seen. Both pitchers were awesome and to go 10 IP in Game 7 of the WS is probably something we won't see again.
So is Tim McCarver the Jim Rice of the Ford C. Frick Award?
Jonathan, this had me enthralled from the get-go all the way through the final sentence. Superbly well-written and argued.

Very nice piece.
I don't see Morris as a Hall-of-Famer. But your review of the game is sad. Morris pitched an unbelievable game - and he did it in the biggest of games. It was a shutout. You are playing a negative version of shoulda-woulda-coulda. There are few instances where shutouts happen without a little luck, extraordinary defense or gamesmanship. If Gladden had made an impossible diving catch, would you reach the same conclusion? Would you say a hard hit ball that shouldn't have been caught detracts from Morris' performance? The fact that the players (Knoblauch & Gagne) orchestrated a perfect feint is really no different. In either example the shutout pitcher has to have teammates perform a little magic. Watch it again and enjoy the game.
I don't think Jonathan is really arguing that Morris didn't pitch well in Game 7. He's just pointing out that the outcome could have been very different had one play transpired a little differently. Of course, it's not unusual for the outcome of a single game to hinge on one play ("game of inches," etc.). But if the outcome of an entire Hall of Fame candidacy rests on one play--and it's difficult to imagine Morris having received quite the same support had Smith scored--that candidacy might be resting on a fairly shaky foundation. [Ed: tags fixed]
And the HTML tag I was looking for there was . Sorry, comments section.
Bummer not being able to edit comments, right?
I'm all for piling on McCarver, but he said "he pitched in the All-Star game" not that he WON the all-star game.
Are you saying he typed the quote wrong? Because the quoted language from McCarver very clearly does say he won the All-Star Game.
I stand corrected. McCarver's second sentence clarifies it.
It's amazing how, with all the talk about Morris and the HOF, no one thought to do a piece like the one done here. Bravo.
I've often argued the same thing about Curt Schilling and his bloody sock legend. Had his teammates not won three straight games in miraculous fashion, the last image of Schilling would have been him crying in the dugout after getting thrashed in game one of the ALCS, while Mussina toyed with a perfect game into the 7th inning. He was lucky enough to get a 2nd chance and he took advantage of it. Additionally, the Yanks were in full-on pressing mode by game 7, and I think just about any decent starter would have dominated them at that point.
I believe Schilling pitched game 6, and Lowe pitched game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.

Ah yes, I stand corrected... point remains valid, though...
Not really, though. The bloody sock thing only added to what was already a considerable post-season legacy for Schilling. No one really leans on the sock game as the key point in a narrative supporting Schilling's enshrinement, nor will anyone need to when the time comes.
I agree, but the point remains, his final moment on the big stage:

a) crying in the dugout, after being shelled

Turned into:

b) legendary moment in baseball history


Because his team gave him a 2nd chance, against the odds.

This isn't meant to negate Schilling's accomplishments, only to reiterate the point made in the one game analysis in the above article. Luck plays a big part in reputations.
You're right in those particular points, however my point is that the manner in which you made your first comment ("I've often argued the same thing about Curt Schilling and his bloody sock legend") inappropriately places it at the same narrative level as Morris' game, when no one uses it in the same way.
Fair enough.... never intended it that way.
Schilling also benefitted greatly from yet another miracle comeback from his teammates in the 2001 series. Of course, he pitched lights out that series, but if my memory serves me correctly, he gave up a 7th inning HR to Alfonso soriano and left game 7 down 2-1 before his teammates came back in 9th. Without that comeback, he gets the game 7 loss and certainly doesn't share the WS MVP award.

Conversely, there are a number of pitchers who pitched lights out in the post, yet their teammates failed and that pitcher never got credit as the "big game" pitcher as a result. Mussina is a great example of this.
Schilling was a better pitcher than Morris. Schilling deserves entry to the HOF. And I say that as someone who thinks he's a total douche.
Schilling has the best K/BB ratio of any pitcher since the deadball era.

His postseason numbers are 11-2, 2.2 era, .98 whip.

Schilling IS the pitcher Morris boosters think Morris is.
Of course this is true... never claimed otherwise.
I think of Schilling's post season legend due to 2001 with Johnson and the Diamondbacks. The bloody sock adds some color, but not nearly the same thing as this game 7.
Just wait until Heyman's rhetorical hard-ons for the bloody sock game hit the airwaves.... it will be epic.
Thank-you for this article, I enjoyed it.

It makes me feel sad that my favorite team, the San Diego Padres, have been guilty of bestowing high honor on a "magic moment" ... by retiring Steve Garvey's #6 ... and thereby furthering it as acceptable practice :-(
Great article.
Outstanding article, outsanding argument.
I anticipate being voted down into oblivion for this, but I'd like to make an argument for Morris. In my view, "record" includes all baseball accomplishments. I have occasionally wanted to see those who accomplish difficult or amazing feats enshrined (Roger Maris, for example) of note. This is subjective, of course, but that's the point of HoF voting.

Jack Morris pitched, in my opinion and perhaps others', the greatest game in baseball history.

I wouldn't vote for him, but I don't mind others doing so, and I'll be glad when he gets in.
Honestly, you're not alone. I'm not so sure that there ISN'T a sabermetric case to be made....if one includes his postseason accomplishments. I recall seeing an article that argued somewhat convincingly that in terms of value-added-to-franchise or something, his game 7 performance was worth something like 50 regular season WAR. For the life of me I can't find it (I think Joe Sheehan linked to it once)...

Of course one would have to account for his whole postseason career including the less-than-legendary performances, and then figure out how to incorporate that into JAWS (I don't think negative postseason performance really hurts the value of the team, so you can't just add postseason WAR to regular season), and then recalculate JAWS standards for everyone... it gets complicated, and better left to someone smarter and less busy than I, but I don't think it's safe or correct to assume that the postseason stuff just washes out overall. For better or for worse, it's about winning World Series, and that game 7 was perhaps the best individual performance in terms of winning one. And an overall 2.96 ERA in 52 WS innings is pretty great as well.
Not sure if this is what you're thinking of, but:
Hmm, I didn't think it was a BP article, but that's pretty much exactly what I was thinking of, so thanks!
"Jack Morris pitched, in my opinion and perhaps others', the greatest game in baseball history."


Why is Morris' 7th game WS shutout better then these WS 7th game shutouts:

1965 Sandy Koufax (on 2 days rest) beats Minnesota 2-0
1962 Ralph Terry beats SF Giants 1-0
1957 Lew Burdette beats Yankees 5-0 (3 WS victories for Burdette that year)
1955 Johnny Podres beats Yankees 2-0 (1st Brooklyn WS championship)

All 4 pitchers won their 7th game on the road while Morris won his at home.

The 4 losing teams were all better hitting teams (based on wRC+) than the 1991 Braves:

1965 Minnesota - 101 (3rd in ML)
1962 SF Giants - 111 (1st in ML)
1957 Yankees - 107 (2nd in ML)
1955 Yankees - 108 (2nd in ML)

1991 Braves - 100 (8th in ML)

And although Larsen's perfect game wasn't in the 7th game, it was against a great hitting team in the Dodgers.

If you include regular season, what about these to name a couple:

Nuxhall's 12 perfect innings or
The 1-0 16-inning complete game pitched by both Spahn and Marichal

The hyperbole regarding Morris' 7th game WS victory will just never go away.

Harvey Haddix says hi, too.
Harvey Haddix (not Nuxhall) it is. Thanks
"Why is Morris' 7th game WS shutout better then these WS 7th game shutouts:"

Because it was a 1-0 game that went into extra innings as a 0-0 tie.
I understand why there is a "debate" over Morris' Hall worthiness in the general media and among traditional pundits. But in sabrmetric circles there really shouldn't be any debate at all. He's not close to the cutoff from an analytical point. He, emphatically, does not belong in the HOF.
kasgard, I wondered the same thing. This is what I found on Buck's wikipedia entry:

'After two years of calling baseball telecasts (including the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week, All-Star Game, National League Championship Series, and World Series), Buck was dismissed by CBS. The official reasoning behind Buck's ouster was that he simply had poor chemistry with lead analyst Tim McCarver.[1][2][3] Buck was soon replaced by Boston Red Sox announcer Sean McDonough. Buck later rued that "CBS never got that baseball play-by-play draws word-pictures. All they knew was that football stars analysts. So they said, 'Let McCarver run the show...In television, all they want you to do is shut up. I'm not very good at shutting up." '
I found the article lacking...but then I actually watched game 7 as it happened on TV. To boil one of the outstanding pressure games of my lifetime into Smith should have scored therefore Morris got lucky idea is the same narrative bias the author claims he is fighting against. I have seen better pitched games in my life (turning on the TV for a random end of season RedSox game and watching Clemens strikeout 20 again is my personal favorite), but this one is certainly in the top 5.

One of the things that I think some of the youngsters overlook is the historical context of what the 1991 season represented. Two last place teams from 1990 were competing in the World Series...and one had to win. For those of us who followed teams that had little success (or no success to that point in the case of the Rangers), there was a sense of optimism because someone had gone from the bottom to the top.

I don't think Morris would be in my Hall of Fame for his career achievements, and I understand and accept the sabermetric arguments that his production was just above league average. But if he gets in and I take my children to the Hall of Fame, my narrative to them when I see his plaque would be about a great end to an unexpected season which brought a lot of hope and joy to folks who enjoy the game of baseball.
I found the article brilliant...but then I actually watched game 7 as it happened in person.

I just don't think Jack Morris deserves all the credit from the entire historical significance of the 1991 season. Or even some of it, really; his performance ensured one last-to-first team beat the other last-to-first team. It was a great performance, but it's still very possible (more possible than it would be otherwise, I suppose) to seriously over-stress its significance. Like by putting him in the Hall.
Tremendously structured piece. Extraordinarily well-crafted.
Great article.
"Whatever the reason, Morris is now a test case to see if a candidate with a strong enough narrative, no matter how groundless, imaginary, or overblown it might be, can make the Hall simply because his supporters repeated it so often and so loudly that one morning the world woke up and found it was true."

That test case has already been written with Jim Rice.

A thought experiment: Take the best/most important/biggest impact game each HOF pitcher ever pitched out of their records; pretend it never happened. Would that affect their HOF case?

I imagine there would be very few pitchers for whom the answer would be "Yes," and those would be players who arguably don't belong in the Hall to begin with.
This is a very powerful argument. Do that with Morris, and even if you believe (as I do) that the value of being routinely a very good, but not great, pitcher in an exceptionally large number of innings per year is underestimated, he still isn't exactly in scintillating company. In many regards his closest comparable among HoF pitchers is then Catfish Hunter, who is a reasonable claimant to the title "worst pitcher in the Hall of Fame."

Incidentally, one conclusion that I'm reaching from all this is that the guy who has been positively screwed by the way 1980s-era pitchers are viewed is Dave Stieb. All of the things in favor of Morris' candidacy, with the single exception of that World Series game, are also true of Stieb, and in the bargain, he was a much better pitcher.
I remember being a pitcher in little league and high school during the 1980's and always pretended I had the following arsenal:

Ryan's heater
Stieb's slider
Blyleven's curveball
I greatly enjoyed this.

Some commenters are taking issue with the author denying Morris credit for the win, but I don't think that is what he is doing, even when he says Morris shouldn't have won the game. He is putting a spotlight on one of the most bizarre and unfortunate baserunning gaffes you'll see. Smith should have scored.

It just makes you wonder how things would have been different, even had the Twins won 2-1 in 9 innings with Morris getting the win. That would still have been one of the best games and narratives in the game's history. But a ten inning shutout? That is what really makes Jack Morris into Paul Bunyan.
It's funny to note -- and I'm not sure I did a real good job of emphasizing this in the article -- but even with the deke that Knoblauch and Gagne pulled, Lonnie Smith could have still scored from second standing up. It's staring out at left field and watching the ball bounce up and off the glass wall that fools him into stopping.

It didn't fool Braves 3B coach Jimy Williams, though, who is well aware of the ground rules and is windmilling his right arm the whole time. If Smith is watching Williams as he comes around second instead of worrying about what's going on in center, he scores regardless of any Twins' middle infielder trickery.
My first thought was, surely the 3B coach is paying attention, a quick glance would make things pretty clear. I'm sure it is much harder to do in the moment, to forget about the ball entirely and rely on the coach. But if your helmet falls off, and you fall for the juke, at some point you gotta admit you're not in control of the situation.
Thanks for this.
I'm an old-timer (though it's only at saber-inclined websites that I really feel like I need a rocking chair and an evocative nickname) who, as a fan of an AL team, saw Jack Morris a lot in the 80s. And I completely agree that he's not a hall of famer (Stieb was better, Jimmy Key was better, Teddy Higuera was better until he blew out his arm, etc.).

But I keep thinking the interesting thing about Morris is why his vote total is surging *now*. You mention that at the beginning of the article, but don't touch on it later on. I mean, this was 1991. It didn't just happen. It's sort of odd that Morris has a defining moment that elicits (near) induction in 2012 and a collective shrug in 2000. Why is that?

I think it's just that complete-game shutouts of more than 9 innings used to be rare but then virtually disappeared after this game. In the decade before Morris' game 7 win (1982-1991), there were 11 regular-season CG shutouts, including Dave Stewart's 11 inning 1-0 win over my beloved Mariners, spoiling Erik Hanson's 10 IP, 0R, 0BB, 11K no decision. (F@#$ you, Mike Schooler). Jack Morris himself managed another one when he beat the Yankees in 10IP in 1986.

In the decade after this game, from 1992-2001, there were exactly no 10IP+ complete-game wins. Zero. We've had two since, but clearly, they're exceedingly rare now. As CGs themselves decline, extra-inning CGs become freakish. So I wonder if what happened is that the voters who covered Morris (and the 1980s) saw it as a great game, a top performance in a clutch spot, like walk-off HR in the bottom of the ninth, and voters who came later got hung up on the 10 innings of it - it wasn't like a HR, it was like running a marathon and then throwing a no-hitter, in Game 7.
Another argument the Morris Crowd uses is he was the Ace of the three different WS champions. The cold truth is he was not the best pitcher on any of those teams.

Morris had a wonderful career, but the "specialness" of it is all driven by the great teammates he had.
Really enjoyed this article, thanks for the great work. Also, has anyone ever seen Morris and Randy Johnson in the same room at the same time? We can confirm that they are different people, right?
That's like asking if Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny are the same person.
I think the fixation on Smith's brain freeze may have led the author to understate what Morris accomplished. Look at it this way: if that game 7 had been played in the outfield configuration the Twins were using a few years later - no plexiglass - Pendleton's double would have bounced into the stands and Smith would have had to stop at 3rd regardless of how befuddled he was.

Now focus on the jam that Morris was in. The Braves had runners at 2nd and 3rd with nobody out and the heart of the order coming up. There was every reason to believe that the first team to score would win the World Series. Morris had to keep Gant in the infield - and he did. After walking Justice, he had to get a DP out of Sid Bream - and he did. To remain in the game, he had to keep the Braves off the bases in the 9th and 10th - and he did.

On the biggest stage, with the championship on the line, Smith's mistake gave Morris the opportunity for greatness, but he still had to seize it. Give him his props - he did it. On that night, at least. There's a good case to be made that Morris' HOF candidacy is built on an attempt to project the attributes he displayed in that game onto his entire, marginal career. But I don't think we have to downplay his game 7 performance in order to show that his HOF case is weak.
I don't think the author is attempting to downplay Morris' fantastic start...I think the argument goes more like this:

* Jack Morris pitched a fantastic, amazing game, but nearly lost.

* Had the Twins lost that game, Jack Morris probably isn't anywhere near being on the brink of being enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

* Any player for whom a single bounce -- or a single game -- makes that big a difference, is not a Hall of Famer to begin with.


The grand irony, of course, is had Morris lost 1-0, some of these same beat writers would call it "choking on the big stage" while Mother's Basement Spreadsheet Guys would still acknowledge it as a great pitching performance...
Great article. And I watched that game live, and I agree with the implication of Jonathan Bernhardt's comment on this: the real "villain" was the damn Twinkiedome, a travesty of a baseball field. Here I'll expose my own bias: put the Twins in a real stadium and they don't win the Series in 87 or 91. Jack Morris. Jeez.
There is precedent for Jack Morris to make it into the Hall of Fame, and it surprises me that I haven't read the parallel yet: Bill Mazeroski. Mazeroski was a very good defensive 2B for many years. Couldn't hit worth a damn, though, but he had one very famous, very clutch home run. His team was badly outplayed throughout the series, but managed to win three close games while getting blown out three times. In a very topsy turvy game 7, the Pirates trailed 7-3 going into the bottom of the 8th. Featuring a 3-run home run by backup catcher Hal Smith, the Bucs put up a 5-spot. Mazeroski was not even a participant, having GIDP'ed to end the bottom of the 7th.

The Yankees, now trailing by two rallied to tie the game at 9-9 in the top of the 9th. Maz led off the bottom and made history.

Mazeroski was not voted in by the writers, as his career did not merit that level of support. Maz debuted with 6.1% of the vote in 1978.
1979 - 8.3%
1980 - 8.6% (BTW - this was the 20th highest vote total that year, representative the previous two years)
1981 - 9.5%
1982 - 6.7%
1983 (big leap) - 12.8%
1984 - 18.4% (5.7% behind Lew Burdette)
1985 - 22% (Burdette eating his dust)
1986 - 23.5%
1987 - 30.3%
1988 - 33.5% (7th best mark on the ballot, although only two guys above him - Bunning and Cepeda - would eventually be enshrined)
1989 - 30%
1990 - 29.5%
1991 - 32.1%
and finally, 1992 - 42.3%.

Maybe Morris was a bit better/more valuable than Mazeroski, but there is no way that Maz gets elected without Game 7, 1960, and there is no way that Morris is polling above 40% without Game 7, 1991.
To me, the Hall lost their credibility when Jim Rice got in. It's the Hall of Very Good. Jack Morris will fit in beautifully.
It's pretty funny to watch the voters snub Raines while electing Rice Dawson and perhaps Morris. Dummies.
It's been said many many times already, but I have to say it again: excellent work, Jonathan. A highly enjoyable, entertaining, and informational read and an impressive job of writing. Well done, sir.
For what it's worth, here's an article with Smith's explanation. Nothing about plexiglass, just didn't see the ball soon enough.,6687849