Author: Matthew Pouliot


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


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.

Diamondbacks considering trading Jason Kubel

Gerardo Parra

The Diamondbacks have already parted with their center fielder in Chris Young, and their right fielder, Justin Upton, has been a hot topic in trade rumors for a full year now. Now they’re also considering a change in left field, as’s Jon Morosi reports that they’ve discussed Jason Kubel with multiple teams.

Kubel is due $7.5 million next year in the final guaranteed year of his contract. There’s also a $7.5 million mutual option on his deal for 2015.

Signed last winter in a surprising deal, Kubel hit .253/.327/.506 with 30 homers and 90 RBI in his first year with the Diamondbacks. If Arizona moves him, then Gerardo Parra would likely be restored to everyday status in left field. As is, Adam Eaton and Parra are set to battle for time in center.

Morosi doesn’t go into specifics about what teams have discussed Kubel, but the Rangers, Mariners and Orioles would seem to be some of the most likely suitors. Those are also the three AL teams linked to Adam LaRoche, a left-handed bat of similar quality (though one with quite a bit more defensive value).

Mariners, Diamondbacks discuss Justin Upton

Justin Upton
12 Comments’s Jon Heyman reports that the Mariners and Diamondbacks met tonight to discuss Justin Upton.

Heyman’s report is just a tweet, so there are no details on the meeting. Heyman does, however, speculate on whether an offer of top prospect Taijuan Walker and Nick Franklin might be enough get a deal done.

Such a package would certainly intrigue the Diamondbacks, who seem to have their hearts set on acquiring a long-term shortstop for Upton. Franklin isn’t a can’t-miss guy, but he is one of the better shortstop prospects in the minors. He hit .322/.394/.502 in 205 at-bats in Double-A and .243/.310/.416 in 267 at-bats in Triple-A as a 21-year-old last season. He also batted .338/.422/.519 in the offense-heavy Arizona Fall League.

Walker, 20, is regarded as one of the game’s best pitching prospects, though he didn’t excel statistically last season. As one of the youngest players in the Southern League, he went 7-10 with a 4.69 ERA and a 118/50 K/BB ratio in 126 2/3 innings for Double-A Jacksonville.

Danny Hultzen and James Paxton are two other top pitching prospects the Mariners probably discussed with the Diamondbacks.

Upton, 25, is perhaps the most intriguing trade property out there right now, even though he’s coming off a down year in which he hit .280/.355/.430 with 17 homers in 554 at-bats. He’d be a terrific foundation piece for the Mariners’ rebuilding efforts. Adding him would give the team a 2013 lineup that looks something like this:

2B Dustin Ackley
3B Kyle Seager
RF Justin Upton
C/DH John Jaso
1B Justin Smoak
DH/C Jesus Montero
LF Michael Saunders
CF Franklin Gutierrez
SS Brendan Ryan

A look at the future of Shane Victorino

Shane Victorino

Earlier today I tried taking a gander at Angel Pagan’s fate by looking at what some similar players did after age 31. I created a list of players who had OPSs between .720-.780, no more than 50 homers and at least 50 steals from ages 28-30 (Pagan had a .749 OPS, 26 HR and 98 SB during those three seasons).

Not making that list of comparables was Shane Victorino. He was a bit too good from 2009-11, his age 28-30 seasons, finishing those years with an .800 OPS. However, after a down 2012 season, Victorino would have fit perfectly in the Pagan range there for his age 29-31 seasons. Victorino has a .766 OPS, 46 homers and 92 steals the last three years.

So, I’ve decided to create a similar list for Victorino. This one won’t be quite as long as Pagan’s. Besides Victorino, there are nine center fielders in history to post OPSs from .730-.800, hit between 20-60 homers and steal at least 50 bases from 29-31. One was Alex Rios, who happens to be the same age as Victorino, so he doesn’t tell us anything. Here’s what the other eight did from 32 onward:

Cesar Cedeno: .263/.320/.401, 99 OPS+ in 1,086 AB
Willie Davis: .283/.312/.422, 106 OPS+ in 2,893 AB
Marquis Grissom: .266/.303/.422, 87 OPS+ in 3,275 AB
Stan Javier: .284/.362/.384, 99 OPS+ in 2,151 AB
Ron LeFlore: .263/.326/.353, 92+ OPS in 1,192 AB
Mickey Rivers: .287/.314/.366, 93 OPS+ in 1,089 AB
Devon White: .273/.333/.432, 100 OPS+ in 2,829 AB
Mookie Wilson: .264/.299/.364, 87 OPS+ in 1,694 AB

So, of the eight players most similar to Victorino, Davis, Javier and White lasted as quality regulars after 32. Javier was actually rarely a regular before turning 30, but he ended up being a much better old player than a young one. LaFlore might have lasted as a regular too if not for his cocaine problem.

Personally, I’d be too scared off by Victorino’s decline in 2012 to give him a three-year deal. My suspicion is that he could well be a fourth outfielder come 2014 or ’15. Still, it’s worth noting players like him haven’t aged that badly. Speed oftentimes does age better than power, which is one of the factors in Victorino’s favor.

Cubs tell Carlos Marmol that he’s on the block

Carlos Marmol
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Carlos Marmol appeared pretty excited last month upon learning he was being traded to the Angels for Dan Haren, only to see the deal fall through because of medical concerns about Haren’s hip. Still a Cub, Marmol has been told he is a trade candidate, but that the team won’t “give him away,” reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Marmol is owed $9.8 million next season in the final year of his deal. It’d be a high price to pay for an inconsistent closer, but the Cubs would likely be willing to absorb some of that cash if it meant getting a legitimate prospect in return.

If the Cubs do trade Marmol, then newly signed Japanese import Kyuji Fujikawa will likely take over closing duties. He could steal the job away from Marmol regardless. While Marmol did put together a nice second half in 2012, he hasn’t been lights out since 2010.