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Inducting Jack Morris would lower the bar for the Hall of Fame

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I’ve covered this territory before, and I realize I’m mostly preaching to the choir here. Still, it needs to be written again: Jack Morris did not have a Hall of Fame career.

The funny thing is that the writers once knew this. When Morris debuted on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2000, he received 22 percent of the vote. His support dipped to 20 percent in 2001, and he only reached 30 percent on his sixth try in 2005. Now he’s all of the way up to 66.7 percent, still for no good reason that I can see.

Morris’ backers say he was the best pitcher of the 1980s and that he pitched one of the greatest games of all-time to clinch the 1991 World Series for the Twins. I take no issue with the latter statement; Morris’ stellar duel with the Braves’ John Smoltz in which he went the distance for a 1-0, 10-inning victory was a true masterpiece and should never be forgotten. And it won’t be.

The rest of the case for Morris is weak.

Morris is only a candidate for “best pitcher of the 1980s” because it just so happens that no elite starters showed up during that 1975-1980 timeframe and had their peak years during the 1980s. No one would ever think of Morris as the top pitcher of the 1970s or 1990s had his 1980s happened in another decade.

Also, one can put together a pretty good argument that Dave Stieb was actually the best pitcher of the 1980s. Morris topped Stieb in wins 162-140, but it was closer in winning percentage (.577 to .562), even though Morris played for superior teams. Morris had a 3.66 ERA and a 109 ERA+ for the decade, while Stieb came in at 3.32 and 126.

Even if you still want to give Morris “best pitcher of the 1980s” honors, he certainly wasn’t the best pitcher of the first half of the decade (Steve Carlton, 88-47, 2.91 ERA; Morris 86-62, 3.66 ERA) or anywhere near the best pitcher of the second half of the decade (Roger Clemens 86-41, 2.92 ERA; Morris 76-57, 3.67 ERA).

And Morris wasn’t the best pitcher in any season of the decade. Not only did he never win a Cy Young Award, but he never even finished second.

It’s the Cy Young balloting that is particularly telling, in my opinion. Some of those who argue for Morris like to tell us that we weren’t there, that we didn’t see Morris when he was winning all of those big games.

Well, look at the people that were there. Morris pitched for 18 seasons, all of them in a 14-team American League. During that time, there were 504 ballots cast for the Cy Young Award. Morris received a first-place vote on five of those ballots. One percent. He got two first-place votes in 1983, when he finished third in the balloting behind the immortal LaMarr Hoyt and a reliever in Dan Quisenberry. He got the other three in 1991, when he finished fourth behind Clemens, Scott Erickson and Jim Abbott.

And while I wasn’t covering baseball in those years, I was there, at least for the latter half of Morris’ career. I think everyone respected Morris. I don’t think anyone was afraid of him. No opposing fan ever went to the ballpark and said “we’ve got no shot today, Morris is starting.” Morris was a workhorse, a battler. There’s no evidence to support the pitching to the score argument, but Morris worked deep into games and usually gave his team a chance to win. And his team did more often than not (it helped that those Tigers had two guys who really should be in the Hall of Fame in Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker).

Of course, having to be the game’s best pitcher shouldn’t be the standard for the Hall of Fame. Bert Blyleven and Don Sutton were never the best in their leagues. Tom Glavine and Curt Schilling weren’t either, yet both of them should be enshrined.

Morris, though, still doesn’t compare. His 3.90 ERA would be the worst in Cooperstown. Even in seemingly weak fields, his best AL ERA finish was fifth place. He led the league in wins twice; once in the strike-shortened 1981 season with 14 and later in 1992 when he went 21-6 with a 4.04 ERA. He led the league in innings and strikeouts once apiece. His win total of 254 is pretty good, but it’s still behind that of 41 other starters in history and it’s really the strong point of his case. Also, it should be noted that the AL was the weaker of the two leagues during Morris’ career. He was facing easier competition than his NL counterparts.

Jack Morris was a very good pitcher, one of the last to average 250 innings and 10 complete games per season in his prime. He turned in one of the greatest postseason starts in history. That’s how he should be remembered. He just doesn’t come all that close to meeting the current standards for Hall of Fame enshrinement, and voting him in would be a mistake.

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 27: Manager Mike Scioscia #14 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim talks with umpires Adam Hamari and Dan Bellino as he protests Raul Mondesi's #27 of the Kansas City Royals two-run bunt single in the seventh inning at Kauffman Stadium on July 27, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Hi folks. Sorry about being gone for a few days. I was in New York, a place for which the phrase “nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there” was invented. It was nice to visit. I don’t want to live there. It’s like the people who say that know me.

Anyway, here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Nationals 4, Indians 1: In nine of yesterday’s 15 games the losing team scored one run. Just warning you now, that’s gonna make for a lot of “[pitcher] tossed [X] [Y]-hit innings, allowing only [Z] runs . . .” summaries, with X being a number 6 or greater, Y being a number 6 or lower and Z being a value of 1 or 0. There could be a hit caveats addressed via “scattering” subroutine, but we’ll deal with that on a case-by-case basis. I realize that’s a lot of info you don’t need, but as I’ve been trying to automate “And That Happened” so it will live on forever, even past my death, these are the sorts of challenges I deal with. Anyway, Stephen Strasburg is the first to be plugged into this equation, having allowed zero runs on three hits over seven innings against the Tribe. He picked up his 14th win.

Marlins 11, Phillies 1: Here it was Adam Conley, tossing shutout ball into the seventh while scattering eight hits. He obviously had offensive help too, with Giancarlo Stanton providing enough for them to win the game with a first inning two-run homer followed by a lot of piling on. This from a team that was in an offensive drought just a couple of days ago.

Padres 8, Blue Jays 4Adam Rosales hit a two-run home run, Alex Dickerson and Brett Wallace each hit solo shots. The Padres have tied an NL record for consecutive games in which someone hit a homer. Because, of course, when you think “Padres” you think “power-hitting accomplishments.”

Tigers 4, Red Sox 3: I watched part of this game at a bar in LaGuardia waiting to fly home yesterday. Living in non-MLB cities for one’s entire adult life makes one forget that there are places where you don’t have to specifically ask for them to turn on a baseball game on the bar TV. Seriously, Columbus, Ohio sports bars will put on televised sports talk shows in which someone may mention college football in passing before showing the ballgame. All the better considering that the sound is off. And there’s nothing better than going into a bar in October and seeing five TVs with the random second-tier Thursday night Big West game and one with the frickin’ World Series on it. Anyway: Michael Fulmer pitched well until he ran out of gas on a hot afternoon, allowing the Sox to tie it late, but Miguel Cabrera saved the day with a ninth inning homer.

Rays 3, Dodgers 1: Matt Moore allowed one run in six and two-thirds but it was unearned thanks to it coming on a throwing error during a stolen base attempt. That error was by the catcher, Luke Maile, but he atoned with an RBI double in the fourth. Evan Longoria hit a two-run homer just before that.

Reds 2, Giants 1: Dan Straily outdueled Madison Bumgarner, allowing one run in seven and two-thirds to MadBum’s two — one earned — in eight. Jay Bruce‘s seventh inning homer broke the 1-1 tie in the seventh.

Rockies 3, Orioles 1: Jon Gray with one run over seven, allowing five hits. A pair of sixth inning homers from Nick Hundly and David Dahl were all the offense he needed.

Pirates 10, Mariners 1: Gerrit Cole pitched a three-hit, one run Maddux, needing only 94 pitches to do it. Andrew McCutchen and Jung Ho Kang each drove in four runs. It was pretty close until the seventh, but by then Cole could just throw it down the middle and dare the M’s to hit something. They didn’t.

Cardinals 5, Mets 4: Yadier Molina and Kolten Wong each hit RBI doubles in the ninth to rally the Cards from a run down. The Mets had their own rally in the seventh inning, scoring three to take the lead, capped by a Yoenis Cespedes homer off Adam Wainwright, but it was all for naught. This was Jeurys Familia‘s first blown save in almost a year. His streak began on July 30, 2015. Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact.

Cubs 8, White Sox 1: Another game that was close until late, at which point the Cubs broke out the boomsticks, getting homers from Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Addison Russell, whose bomb was a grand slam. Aroldis Chapman made his Cubs debut in a non-save situation. He struck out two of the three batters he faced and hit 103 on the gun. If the past few days have shown us anything it’s that Chapman tends to do best when he lets his pitching do the talking

Athletics 6, Rangers 4: Khris Davis homered twice, because that’s what Khris Davis does. This was his fifth multi-homer game this year. He has ten in his two full + two partial seasons. Both he and Coco Crisp hit two-run homers off of Matt Bush in the eighth. I guess if you’re Bush you can always say that whatever happened on the baseball field isn’t the worst thing to ever happen to you, but still, bad day for him.

Diamondbacks 8, Brewers 1: Yasmany Tomas had two homers and drove in five while Archie Bradley allowed one run over seven innings. The Brewers committed five errors, three by right fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis and two by shortstop Jonathan Villar. I’m sure that made Craig Counsell super happy.

Braves 9, Twins 7: Freddie Freeman homered, doubled and drove in five in a game in which he reached base five times. After the game Major League Baseball’s scheduler was put on trail in front of an international tribunal at The Hague for putting this series on the calendar.

Astros 4, Yankees 1: Lance McCullers allowed one run over six and struck out ten. Colby Rasmus hit a two-run homer in the Astros’ three-run third. The homer broke an 0-for-29 skid for Rasmus. Or briefly interrupted a 1-for__ skid if he goes on another slump. Baseball is weird like that. It never ends and it allows you to frame anything in almost any way.

Royals 7, Angels 5: The Angels took a lead into the bottom of the seventh, but Kansas City scored six runs in the seventh and eighth. It wasn’t the longball, though: Raul Mondesi hit two infield singles in those innings which plated three thanks to throwing errors and the inherit chaos of speed. The first one was a bunt single and it was Mondesi’s first big league hit. It occasioned an over six minute replay delay, however, as Mike Scioscia thought Modesi ran out of the baseline and interfered with the throw to first. When he lost the replay he protested the game. Afterward he said “I would not have protested if I was not 100 percent correct on this.” Guess we’ll see.

Cardinals snap Familia’s saves streak, rally past Mets 5-4

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NEW YORK — Yadier Molina and pinch-hitter Kolten Wong each stroked an RBI double in the ninth inning, and the St. Louis Cardinals ended Jeurys Familia‘s streak of 52 straight saves in rallying past the New York Mets 5-4 on Wednesday night.

Yoenis Cespedes hit a go-ahead homer off Adam Wainwright to cap a three-run comeback in the seventh that gave the Mets a 4-3 lead. But then Familia, who hadn’t blown a regular-season save opportunity since July 30 last year, finally faltered.

Jedd Gyorko drew a one-out walk in the ninth and was replaced by pinch-runner Randal Grichuk. Molina hit the next pitch to deep center field, and Grichuk scored standing up to tie it.

Molina was thrown out at third by Familia (2-2) on pinch-hitter Jeremy Hazelbaker’s comebacker, but Hazelbaker stole second and scored when Wong lined a double just inside the left-field line.

Familia’s franchise-record saves streak was the third-longest in major league history behind Tom Gordon (54) and Eric Gagne (84).

Jonathan Broxton (3-2) tossed a scoreless eighth and Seung Hwan Oh got three quick outs for his sixth save.

Including a split of Tuesday’s doubleheader, St. Louis took two of three from the Mets in a matchup of NL wild-card contenders. It was only the second time in the past decade that the Cardinals have won a road series against the Mets.

Logan Verrett pitched seven efficient innings and slumping Neil Walker went 3 for 3 with a base on balls for the third-place Mets, who have alternated wins and losses in their last 13 games. They dropped 5 1/2 games behind NL East-leading Washington.

New York did manage to keep Gyorko and the rest of St. Louis’ hitters in the ballpark after the Cardinals had homered in 17 consecutive games – their longest streak since a club-record run of 19 games in 2006.

Gyorko went deep in both ends of Tuesday’s doubleheader, giving him seven homers in nine games.

Matt Holliday hit a two-run double off Verrett with two outs in the third, and Matt Adams followed with an RBI double that made it 3-1.

Wainwright, who entered 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in July, nursed that lead until the seventh – repeatedly pitching out of trouble. He nearly did so again after striking out Curtis Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera with runners at the corners.

But then Travis d'Arnaud scored on a wild pitch and Cespedes socked a two-run homer off the facing of the second deck in left-center on the 117th and final pitch from the 34-year-old Wainwright.