Giving up the anti-Jack Morris crusade

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Brace yourselves: Jack Morris For The Hall of Fame/Jack Morris Is Not A Hall of Famer season is coming. It’ll be the last season for it, as this is Morris’ final season of eligibility, so I assume the rhetoric will be particularly pitched. And particularly stupid at times too.

Here’s stupid for you: Jack Morris himself was quoted over the weekend saying that his ERA may have been high for a Hall of Famer, but that’s just because no one ever told him he needed to have a low ERA. Really. He actually said that. He said if his general manager or his manager told him that they wanted him to have a lower earned run average then “I probably would have led the league.” Jack Morris is a professional baseball analyst these days and he actually said that. And some people with Hall of Fame votes actually believe him. Just let that sink in for a bit.

But I don’t offer that little link and that little shake of my damn head as a means of firing up the engines on the Keep Jack Morris Out Of The Hall of Fame Outrage Express again.  I think I’m done manning any part of the controls of that beast. I’ve written a ton of stuff over the years on the Jack Morris Hall of Fame debate, and I’m kinda tired of it, actually. And though my position hasn’t changed — I wouldn’t vote for Morris if I had a vote — I have come around on one point that those who support his candidacy sometimes make: spending inordinate amounts of energy to argue that so-and-so shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame to the point it becomes a proxy war in some larger crusade is a negative experience.

Not that all Hall of Fame crusades are like that. The pro-Bert Blyleven thing of a few years ago was useful because it helped a lot of folks realize how overlooked the guy was. It may have educated some folks a bit about certain modes of baseball analysis. And, in the end, it was aimed at doing a good thing: honoring someone.

The Morris stuff? Also enlightening at times, yes, but when your argument is anti-something rather than pro-something, you’re going to end up in a negative place if you get too carried away with it. You have to remember after all that in those cases a “win” is a guy being told “no, you weren’t good enough.” Which, yes, is obviously the result of any process that seeks to elevate some over others, but it can be a drag. Best to state your case and get on with life rather than slog back into it again and again.

I liked Jack Morris as a pitcher when I was a kid. I’ve said all I feel like I need to have said about his case in the past — and, in hindsight, I’ve probably said way too much about it — so at this point I’m content to link that old stuff rather than rehash it all again because I’m simply not in the place now, as I may have been a year or two ago, where I feel like hating on the guy to make a political point leads to any positive returns. I’m content to live with a Jack Morris legacy that is not so tied to the black-or-white views the Hall of Fame debate forces us to have. To say that Jack Morris was a really good pitcher without feeling compelled to spend ten times more effort to say why he wasn’t a Hall of Famer. In my mind he wasn’t. If your mind is different about it I can think you’re wrong. But I am not obligated to think too hard about it.

As for the larger Hall of Fame case for Jack Morris? Well, no one’s mind is going to change on Morris based on any cogent analytical argument on the one hand or any emotional appeal to Game 7 and Morris’ winning quality on the other hand at this late date. If votes shift around it’ll be either because of some attention-seeking political reaction by a voter or else because other candidates on the ballot — like Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine — require people who may have once supported Morris to pull their support due to there being too many better choices. There is still technically one more Jack Morris battle to be fought in the form of this year’s balloting, but the shooting part of the war is essentially over.

If Jack Morris gets in I feel like it will be one of the poorer Hall of Fame choices in recent years, but the world won’t end. And at this point I don’t feel like arguing to prevent him from getting in is worth the added negativity.

Manoah, Merrifield lead Blue Jays to 3-1 win over Rays

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Alek Manoah pitched seven shutout innings, Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and the Toronto Blue Jays regained the top AL wild-card spot with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

The Blue Jays lead Tampa Bay by one game. The top wild card finisher will host all games in their best-of-three opening-round series, while the other two wild cards play strictly on the road.

Manoah (15-7) scattered four hits, walked two and struck out eight while throwing a season-high 113 pitches. The righty worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out Randy Arozarena and getting a flyout from David Peralta.

Jordan Romano replaced Tim Mayza with two on and two outs in the eighth and allowed pinch-hitter Harold Ramirez‘s RBI infield single but avoided further damage by striking out Manuel Margot. Romano finished the game to get his 35th save in 41 chances.

Tampa Bay starter Drew Rasmussen (10-7) gave up one run, three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five.

The teams combined for 31 runs, with the Rays accounting for 20, in the first two games of the series that were both won by Tampa Bay.

Arozarena got the Rays’ first hit off Manoah with a two-out double in the fourth. He became the first Tampa Bay player and 20th big leaguer to have 40 doubles, 20 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season.

Teoscar Hernandez ended Rasmussen’s night with a double in the seventh. Brooks Raley entered and, after a walk to pinch-hitter Danny Jansen, Merrifield made it 3-0 on his 10th homer of the season.

Merrifield homered twice in Thursday night’s 10-5 loss to the Rays.

Alejandro Kirk opened the second with a single before Rasmussen retired 12 in a row until Merrifield’s leadoff double in the sixth.

Plate umpire Corey Blaser took a hard foul ball by Margot on the mask in the eighth but remained in the game.

HONORING KK

The Rays posted a thank you on the message board for CF Kevin Kiermaier, who is out for the season following left hip surgery. Kiermaier is in the final season of a $53.5 million, six-year contract that includes a club option for 2023 that is expected to be declined.

TEAM AWARDS

Rays ace Shane McClanahan was voted the Don Zimmer MVP award winner by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. CF Jose Siri was selected as the outstanding rookie. 3B Yandy Diaz received the Paul C. Smith Champions award as the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (lat strain) allowed three runs and three hits over two-thirds of an inning for Triple-A Buffalo.

Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe (lower back) is done for the season.

UP NEXT

McClanahan (12-6), pulled from his start Tuesday in the fifth inning due to neck tightness, will face Blue Jays RHP Ross Stripling (8-4) on Sunday.