Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hall of Fame (with Update)

We learned yesterday that longtime Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin was the only person elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, although Jack Morris is now considerably closer to election than he has been in the past. The requirement is to be named on 75% of the ballots; Larkin got 86%, while Morris got 66%. Historically, if you reach 66%, you eventually get in.

First, there's no question that Larkin deserved the honor. Two of his contemporaries are in the HOF:  Cal Ripken and Ozzie Smith. Ripken is in because of his offense and his amazing durability, while Smith is in because of his defensive prowess. Larkin had a little bit of both -- he was a power/speed guy and was consistently one of the best defensive players in the National League throughout his long career with the Reds.

When I think about that era of shortstops, one other guy strikes me as a worthy candidate for the HOF. That would be Alan Trammell. In fact, I would argue that both Trammell and his longtime double-play partner, Lou Whitaker, are both deserving of the honor, although Trammell was the greater player of the two. The Detroit Tiger teams of the 1980s were consistently contending for the championship and they were dominant in 1984. The key players on those teams were Trammell, Whitaker and Morris. Throughout the 1980s, you would often see Trammell and Whitaker compared to the two HOF members of my beloved Brewers, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. There was never any question concerning Yount or Molitor's qualifications and if you look at the numbers, Trammell and Whitaker weren't as productive offensively. They were a tremendous duo, though, and they were always considered to be among the best players of their time.

We tend to think about Morris a little more in Minnesota because of the one glorious year that he spent with the Twins. Morris was one of three great players from St. Paul who were dominant players; the others were Molitor and Dave Winfield. Morris gets dragged down by some because his career ERA (3.90) isn't outstanding. I think you have to consider the context in which Morris pitched, though. A pitcher of an earlier generation who made the HOF easily was Catfish Hunter, who was the ace of the Oakland A's staff of the 1970s. When you look at the numbers, you see that Hunter's ERA was considerably better. However, he won less games and pitched in one of the best pitcher's parks around, the Oakland Coliseum. He also pitched in an era where overall offensive numbers weren't as high as they were later on. When you look at it in context, I think Morris has a pretty good argument.

What do you think?

Update:  From the comments, Night Writer offers a post he did a few years back concerning the fateful 1987 Twins/Tigers series. As with all NW enterprises, it's definitely worth your time.


Night Writer said...

I've never styled myself as one of the gate-keepers to baseball glory, but I think Morris belongs in the Hall. He was the dominant pitcher of his era while pitching in a bandbox. As I recall, none of his pitches were exceptional - there were those who threw harder or had better curves - but they were above average, and when combined with his demeanor (definitely major league nasty) and competitive will gave him an edge. In the 80s there was no one you'd rather have on the mound in a big game. I'll give you that Maddux was smoother and slyer and statistically more successful (and was no slouch in the competitive department either) but "Black Jack" was the guy.

On a related note, it reminds me of a post I did looking back at 1980s baseball that includes Morris, Trammell and Whitaker: http://thenightwriterblog.com/2007/03/27/we-were-young/

Mr. D said...

That's the way I see it too. I think Maddux (and Glavine and Smoltz, for that matter) are better than Morris. But that doesn't mean Morris doesn't belong in the Hall.

If the purpose of the HOF is to honor the greatest players, and the history of the game, then it's difficult to see why Jack Morris should be on the outs.

First Ringer said...

Great link to NW, D.

It certainly betrays my young age, but my mother pulled me out of school to watch Game 5 - for reasons I didn't fully grasp until years after I had become fully aware of my home state's glorious history of championship angst.