This is the year Hall of Fame ballot reality catches up with Jack Morris

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I, like many, believe four players will get elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame today: Greg Maddux will be elected almost unanimously (I suspect at least four people will not vote for him), Tom Glavine will be in the mid-to-high 90s in percentage, Frank Thomas will go in comfortably and Craig Biggio will just barely slip in.

Mike Piazza will fall short, I think, but end up in that on-deck circle spot that Biggio had last year. Jeff Bagwell may lose a little bit of ground, which is weird but perhaps the consequence of an overloaded ballot. Tim Raines, I hope, will continue his slow but steady march toward election.

And … of course I have a couple of final thoughts about Jack Morris. I don’t believe Morris will be elected. I actually think he will lost a little support in his final year, which almost never happens. Morris’ voting pattern has continuously baffled me, which is part of the reason I’ve written so much about him, but I think I’ve figured something out.

You know the story, presumably, of Luis Tiant. His career numbers are remarkably similar to that of his Hall of fame contemporary Catfish Hunter — I actually think Tiant was a better pitcher — and when he came on the ballot in 1988 it was just after Hunter was elected. Tiant received 31% of the vote. That was a terrific first ballot showing and, by BBWAA history, almost guaranteed that he would be elected to the Hall of Fame at some point.

But that percentage was an illusion. Tiant had entered the last ballot for a decade that did not have a compelling starting pitching candidate on there. The best candidate was Jim Bunning, but he was already in his 12th year on the ballot and just wasn’t exciting the electorate. After that, you had Mickey Lolich and Don Larsen and Wilbur Wood — Tiant was the exciting new face of the Hall of Fame ballot and so a good chunk of voters picked him. Many more probably thought they would get to Tiant eventually. But it wasn’t meant to go that way.

The next year, Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins came on the ballot. Suddenly, Tiant was the third or fourth best pitcher on the ballot. His support plummeted all the way down to 10.5%. The next year, Perry, Jenkins and Bunning were all STILL on the ballot. Tiant’s support went down again. Then Jim Palmer came on. Tiant’s support went down YET AGAIN. The next year, it was Rollie Fingers. Then Tom Seaver. Then Phil Niekro. Then Steve Carlton and Don Sutton. It was an avalanche of great pitchers and 300-game winners and Tiant was swept away as were other terrific pitchers like Jim Kaat and Ron Guidry and Tommy John.

Tiant never even got 20% of the vote after his first year.

So, that story is familiar. But the Morris story, I now think, is PRECISELY THE OPPOSITE of the Tiant story. While Tiant came on the ballot at precisely the wrong time, Morris came on at precisely the right time. The last starting pitcher to be elected by the BBWAA was Bert Blyleven in 2011. Before that, it was — are you ready for this — Nolan Ryan in 1999. That’s an 11-year gap without a single starting pitcher getting elected (not counting Dennis Eckersley who went in more for his relief work, I think, than his starting pitching).

Well, guess who was on all 11 of those ballots. Yep. Jack Morris. Morris came on the ballot in 2000 — just as Nolan Ryan ended an era. Morris received 22% of the vote — quite a bit less than Tiant his first year. His support went down in Year 2. He seemed on a similar voting track to Lew Burdette and Johnny Vander Meer and even Mickey Lolich — that is, it seemed his support would never really go any higher.

But from that point on, look who were the best people added to the ballot each year.

2001: Dave Stewart
2002: Frank Viola
2003: Fernando Valenzuela
2004: Dennis Martinez and Dave Stieb and Jimmy Key
2005: Black Jack McDowell (or Jim Abbott for overcoming odds)
2006: Orel Hershiser
2007: Bret Saberhagen
2008: Chuck Finley
2009: David Cone
2010: Kevin Appier
2011: Kevin Brown

You could argue persuasively that some of these pitchers were better than Morris, but the point is that none of them interested the BBWAA in the least. Only Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser even made a second ballot. That meant that for a dozen years, Morris (and Blyleven) more or less had the ballot to themselves. And they both built up momentum — Blyleven through his impeccable stats and a concerted effort by some people on the Interned, Morris through his Game 7 heroics and a “you had to be there” charisma.

Morris went from 26% in his fifth year, to 41% in his seventh year, to 52% in his 11th year to 66.7% in his 13th year.

But last year, for the first time, a couple of more interesting Hall of Fame candidates than Morris appeared on the ballot — Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling. Neither one was able to garner much momentum for themselves for different reasons, but they slowed the Morris train. This year, with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina joining, I think Morris’ support will go down even though it’s his 15th year on the ballot and there is much sentiment for him.

As I’ve said before, the best thing that can happen to Morris is for him to get off this BBWAA ballot and be a candidate for the Veteran’s Committee. Maybe someday soon we’ll see a Veteran’s ballot with Morris, Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell on it.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Cardinals 5, Dodgers 3: The Cards had a 3-0 lead that the Dodgers erased by the seventh inning. It remained tied until the ninth when Dave Roberts called on his just-activated closer, Kenley Jansen. Jansen said he was healthy before he came in and he said he felt fine after he came out but in between he gave up ninth inning homers to Jedd Gyorko — a pinch hit number — and Matt Carpenter to take the L. Los Angeles stranded 14 baserunners. The Cardinals won their 15th game in the month of August, the most in all of baseball.

Giants 2, Mets 1: Derek Holland allowed a Wilmer Flores RBI double in the first inning and then he and six relievers shut the Mets out for the game’s final 12 frames. Zack Wheeler allowed only one run over seven innings while striking out 10, and relievers continued that fine work until the 13th. Some fine work can be undone, however, in the blink of an eye:

That allowed Andrew McCutchen to score what turned out to be the winning run. His comment about it after the game:

“Laughed all the way to the dugout. Everybody’s eyes were about as big as that big-eyed emoji. It was pretty crazy. Everyone was pretty stunned, but everyone was going to be stunned when something like that happens.”

It was the Mets, though, so is “stunned” really the right word here?

Athletics 9, Rangers 0: Mike Fiers allowed only one hit in seven shutout innings and the Rangers were the third team shut out overall on Monday night. Ramon Laureano hit two homers for Oakland. Khris Davis hit one, but it was a special one. Before the game Davis met with some kids from the Make a Wish Foundation, and one of them — Anthony Slocumb — autographed Davis’ jersey. Davis, still wearing the jersey in the game, launched a monster home run with Anthony’s name on the back:

Davis, after the game:

“I thought about him around the bases. There’s not a better feeling than hitting a home run, so hopefully he got some excitement and joy from watching that.”

And, I presume, he got the jersey too.

Mariners 7, Astros 4: Seattle helped Oakland back in to a first place tie in the West by beating the Astros thanks to a three-run homer from Robinson Cano in the eighth which broke a 4-4 tie. Felix Hernandez made his return to the rotation after a brief foray into relief work. He wasn’t great — he allowed four runs in five innings — but the M’s got to Houston’s pen, tying things up on a sixth inning and taking him off the hook for a loss when Mitch Haniger singled in a run, setting the stage for Cano’s heroics.

Braves 1, Pirates 0: When you have a 20 year-old rookie pitcher making his big league debut you don’t want to have him make one first inning run hold up, but that’s what the Braves did to Bryse Wilson. Wilson responded, however, tossing five shutout innings with five relievers keeping up the goose eggs the rest of the way. The Pirates, meanwhile, have allowed a single run in five straight games . . . and they’ve lost three of those games. When the opposition makes defensive plays like this one made by Ender Inciarte, however, stuff like that is going to happen:

Indians 5, Red Sox 4: Boston jumped out to a 3-0 lead in this potential playoff preview, but homers from Melky Cabrera and Michael Brantley in the fifth and six tied it up and a two-run homer from Greg Allen in the seventh put Cleveland up 5-3. Rick Porcello surrendered all of those bombs. Just before the Allen bomb he had been hit in the gut with a comebacker, which knocked the wind out of him. He said he was fine and no one blamed the blast on the effects of that comebacker. Porcello just said he hung a crappy pitch. Corey Kluber pitched in the seventh inning for Cleveland and got his 16th win on the year, tying him for the league lead.

Blue Jays 5, Orioles 3: Kendrys Morales smacked two homers, accounting for four of the Jays’ five runs. Toronto has taken 10 of 11 games against Baltimore this year and all eight at home.

White Sox 8, Twins 5: White Sox manager Rick Renteria was taken to a hospital before the game due to lightheadedness and stayed overnight for observation. If there was a TV in his room he observed Matt Davidson hit a homer and drove in three runs, Jose Abreu get two hits and two RBI and Lucas Giolito allow three runs and five hits in his second straight win. He also observed the Sox win their fourth game in five outings. Here’s hoping that, and whatever medical care he needed, got him feeling better and that he’s back with the club today.

Rays 1, Royals 0: The Rays bullpenned it up once again and saw four pitchers combine on the shutout, with second pitcher Ryan Yarbrough working the most innings. Willy Adames third inning RBI single was the game’s only scoring. Eight pitchers were used in all in this 1-0 game. I wonder if there were any nine-inning, no-rain-dealy 1-0 games that involved this many pitchers in all of baseball history before, say, 1990. I bet there wasn’t.

Brewers 5, Reds 2: Chase Anderson gave up early solo homers to Reds batters — he does that — but Travis Shaw and Christian Yelich homered — Shaw’s was a two-run shot — to give the Brewers a 3-2 lead by the sixth inning and they just added from there.