DAVE CAMPBELL, AP Sports Writer
Mirroring his career as one of the sport’s toughest starting pitchers, the case for making Jack Morris a Hall of Famer has grown stronger as the game has gone on.
To leave this metaphorical mound with one more victory, though, Morris needs a furious late rally behind him. The results will be announced on Wednesday.
“The trend has been that when you get to that point, there’s that last push to get you over the hump, so I’m hoping that’s the case,” former teammate Alan Trammell said.
Bert Blyleven was elected in his 14th year in 2011. Jim Rice made it in his 15th year in 2009. Bruce Sutter was inducted in his 13th year in 2006.
Morris finished second on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot last year with 67.7 percent of the vote, behind Craig Biggio with 68.2 percent. Election requires three-quarters or more of all ballots cast, so Morris was 42 votes short.
The 10-player maximum per ballot rule could ultimately cost Morris a spot in his 15th and final year of eligibility. Newcomers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina, all premier starting pitchers of their generation, have warranted heavy consideration by BBWAA voters along with slugger Frank Thomas. The performance-enhancing-drug specter over many of the sluggers still eligible has slowed the pace of inductions over the past five or so years, crowding the ballot more than ever. Nobody was elected in 2013.
Steroids helped Morris with at least one voter, though. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, a former reporter for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, revealed the only player he voted for was Morris. He said he excluded everybody from the Steroids Era.
“I just don’t know who did and who didn’t,” Gurnick said, adding: “Some people quibble over when the era starts, but the bulk of his career was in my opinion well before all of the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs.”
Morris has 254 wins, which ranks 43rd. He’s 32nd in strikeouts and 50th in innings on the career lists, and his 3.90 ERA would be the highest of any pitcher in the Hall.
Over his best decade of work from 1983-92, identifying a better starting pitcher other than Roger Clemens is difficult.
Morris made 34 or more starts in all but one of those seasons, averaging 247 innings per year. He led the American League in strikeouts and innings in 1983, shutouts in 1986, complete games in 1990 and wins in 1992. Then there are the three World Series rings: with Detroit in 1984, Minnesota in 1991 and Toronto in 1992.
“Going back to our era, I think he was as good as there was for that period of time,” Trammell said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “And I think those are the kinds of qualifications that get people into the Hall of Fame.”
Morris has declined interview requests about his final candidacy.
“That’s kind of Jack. If you get him to start to talk about it, I think he’ll open up like a lot of us,” Trammell said. “A lot of times to get that first conversation is the hard part, where he’s like, ‘OK, I don’t really want to talk about it.’ Because, really, what else can you do at this point in time? The numbers are there. And it kind of gets a little redundant.”
Just like in that 1991 World Series, when the Twins beat Atlanta 1-0 behind 10 shutout innings from Morris, he could still get another chance to be a winner if he doesn’t make the cut this time. He could appear on the ballot of the expansion-era committee, which meets every third year to consider overlooked players along with managers, umpires and executives.
Tammell is headed for that route, too, with only 33.6 percent of the vote received last year, his 12th of eligibility. Someday, Trammell has been hoping, he and his former double-play partner Lou Whitaker would get in together. Whitaker only got 15 votes in 2001 and was dropped from future BBWAA ballots.
The Tigers went 104-58 in 1984 and lost only once in the postseason, but the call from Cooperstown, N.Y., has not come for anyone from that team.
“We would’ve liked to have won more. We didn’t,” Trammell said. “But we were pretty darn good for a long period of time. And I think that would be a little feather in all of our caps to say that we had a Hall of Famer in that group, which I do believe that we do.”
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