Jack Morris was the leading vote-getter on last year’s Hall of Fame ballot who didn’t make it. This is his 14th year up for consideration by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Dale Murphy is on the ballot for the 15th time. Don Mattingly is on the list for the 13th time. Alan Trammell is on the ballot for the 12th time. Lee Smith is a candidate for the 11th time.
As the voting for the 2013 class nears its end it’s pretty obvious that some of these fine ballplayers are never going to get into the Hall of Fame unless a Veterans Committe takes another look somewhere down the line. With the influx of at least five new candidates with better statistical credentials than these players have, some might not even survive to stay on the ballot any longer. But since it takes just five percent of the approximately 600 voters to carry a player’s name over, then most of them should, even if they don’t make any progress in obtaining a higher percentage of the vote.
The balloting for next year’s Hall class closes Dec. 31. A player can stay on the modern era ballot up to 15 years. Murphy, the one-time star catcher and outfielder for the Atlanta Braves, received 14.5 percent of the vote last year when it takes 75 percent to be approved. So clearly, he is not going to get in before his name is removed from the ballot. Mattingly received 17.8 percent, so he is not battering down the door, either. Smith did receive 50.6 percent of the vote and with a few years remaining he does still have hope.
The most intriguing of the holdover candidates that is nearing the end of his time on the ballot is Morris. Last year he was named on 66.7 percent of the ballots. In a year when no fresh candidates with superior statistics became first-time eligible Morris would be the leading contender for 2013. But among the newbies are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Craig Biggio, and Mike Piazza. It’s hard to know just what the voters are going to do with that crowd.
The reason why Morris has been on the ballot for 14 years is because he has many solid credentials, but is not a slam dunk, so voters have been ambivalent. He won 254 games and played 18 seasons. That’s to the good. So is the fact that he pitched 3,824 innings. But his earned run average was just 3.90. By comparison, Curt Schilling, a new candidate this year, had a lifetime ERA of 3.46. Morris was a five-time All-Star, but didn’t win a Cy Young Award. He led the American League in innings pitched, wins, complete games, and strikeouts once each, but his strikeout total of 2,478 is not overwhelming.
Morris was a three-time 20-game winner and posted five additional seasons with 17-to-19 victories. Starring for the Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins (and a little bit for Toronto, too), Morris established himself as a big-game pitcher in the playoffs and World Series–more bonus points.
Yet while Morris was a star during his era, it still seems that he falls short of being considered an immortal. That high earned run average is tough to get past. It seems that some of those others who have been listed on the ballot for more than a decade are more deserving than Morris, from Smith to Trammell and more recent nominees who have been up for consideration for several years, including Edgar Martinez, Jeff Bagwell and Fred McGriff.
This is one funky year for the electorate, with allegations of performance-enhancing drugs staining the candidacies of several players. Some voters have publicly said they won’t vote for those players. That thinking could elevate Morris. But even when all of the those players weren’t on the ballot, Morris couldn’t muster the necessary votes in 13 previous tries, so it’s hard to see him pulling this off at the 11th hour. It seems Jack Morris is going to strike out on the Hall ballot.