Jack Morris gets another shot at Baseball Hall of Fame

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Charlie Neibergall, ASSOCIATED PRESS – AP
Former Minnesota Twins pitcher Jack Morris

Jack Morris has been at this point before. Exactly 15 times.

He spent 15 years on the Hall of Fame ballot presented to the Baseball Writers of America. And 15 times, he failed to get elected. His support rose to 67.7 percent in 2013, his 14th year on the ballot, providing hope that the next year would be the year he broke through the 75 percent threshold to be enshrined in Cooperstown. But he dipped to 61.5 percent in his final year on the ballot.

Now Morris’ case has been kicked to a higher court. On Sunday, the Modern Baseball Era committee will meet in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to go over a list of 10 candidates — including Morris — before voting on them. The results will be announced at 5 p.m. Sunday, with a news conference involving the winners, if any, on Monday.

So the St. Paul native is back at the entrance to Cooperstown, waiting and wondering if he can slip past the velvet rope this time.

“You can look at it two ways,” Morris said. “It is a little nerve-racking. But I think what happens is time and age and wisdom and all the stuff that gives you gray hair, you become more appreciative and you realize that it is an honor just to be on the ballot.

“I think I have to look at it that way because I can’t expect anything.”

The 16-member committee, which includes Hall of Fame players, former executives and writers, will include Morris supporters in Twins great Rod Carew, former Toronto executive Paul Beeston and former Braves executive John Schuerholz. But a candidate must receive 75 percent — or 12 votes — to win election. Committee members can only vote for up to four candidates.

The other candidates are Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant and Alan Trammell.

Morris will be on hand for the announcement, as he is working for MLB.com during the winter meetings, something he has done the past several years.

“I realize how difficult this is,” Morris said of veterans committee setup.

Morris’ candidacy has become one of the more interesting cases in recent Hall of Fame voting history. He was the winningest pitcher in the 1980s and earned World Series titles with the Tigers, Twins and Blue Jays. He won 20 games three times. His 10-inning, 1-0 shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series for the Twins against Atlanta is one of the most memorable single-game performances in sports history.

His contemporaries remember him as one tough nut to crack, but his body of work was not enough to sway the BBWAA voters. His career record is 254-186. His 3.90 ERA would be the highest of any pitcher in the Hall of Fame.

Sports Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe, who does exhaustive research of Hall of Fame candidates, points out that Morris’ career WAR of 44.1 — a measurement of a player’s contributions to a team — is well below the average WAR of 73.9 for starting pitchers already in the Hall.

“Morris was gritty, gruff and exceptionally durable, and he saved his bullpens a whole lot of work,” Jaffe wrote in his analysis of Morris, “but he simply didn’t prevent runs in the manner of an elite pitcher.”

But his voting percentages of 67.7 in 2013 and 61.5 in 2014 show that many voters felt differently. Gil Hodges is the only player to receive at least 60 percent of the BBWAA vote and not eventually be elected to the Hall.

Even Jaffe added in his Morris piece, “His election appears to be an inevitability given his level of BBWAA support alone.”

So here we are with Morris. He was a reliable pitcher and fierce competitor whose numbers aren’t eye-popping but who is remembered for a few games in which he was unstoppable.

Will that be enough to get him past a new set of gatekeepers?

“It would be quite a reality TV show if they actually showed the meeting,” Morris said. “It’s not going to be easy for anyone. I’m pulling for everyone on the ballot. It’s just not easy. They’ve got four they can vote for and there’s only 16 members and 10 candidates. Do the math. They have to overwhelmingly be in agreement.”

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