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: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Orioles 10, Marlins 4Mark Trumbo had three hits including a solo home run, scored three runs and knocked in two. Jace Peterson knocked in four, including two with a two-run homer as the Orioles snapped a nine-game losing streak. It was the O’s first win at home in over a month as well. Dylan Bundy got his fifth win. The Orioles have only 20 total wins, giving him [mashes hands on old-timey adding machine) 25% of all of his team’s wins. That may seem like a big percentage but in 1972 Steve Carlton won 27 games for a 59-win Phillies team. That’s the gold standard for such things and ain’t no one touching that mark ever again.

Blue Jays 8, Nationals 6Randal Grichuk hit two solo homers and drew a bases loaded walk and Teoscar Hernandez and Yangervis Solarte hit back to back bombs in the eighth inning to break a 6-6 tie and give the Jays the win and the series sweep. Michael Taylor stole four bases for Washington. That’s kinda cool. Sadly, “kinda cool” doesn’t get you anything in the standings. Washington has lost five of six.

Indians 4, Twins 1: Shane Bieber allowed ten hits over five and two thirds but somehow only gave up one run and somehow got his first big league win. Not bad for a guy who was in Columbus the day before. I mean, I was in Columbus the day before and all I accomplished on Saturday was cleaning some bathrooms and making a Costco run. Which, hey, is pretty good, but it’s not like winning a game in the show. Yan Gomes hit a three run-double to break a 1-1 tie and that was that.

Braves 4, Padres 1: Julio Teheran tossed six no-hit innings and struck out 11. If he wasn’t just coming off the disabled list — and if it hadn’t taken him 95 pitches t get through those six innings — I suppose he would’ve had a chance to go longer. Of course if ifs and buts were candy and nuts we’d all have a happy Christmas. Tyler Flowers hit a two-run homer. He wouldn’t have even been in the game if it was not for Kurt Suzuki getting clocked in the noggin, so let’s just call all of that a bag of mixed nuts.

Reds 8, Pirates 6: Billy Hamilton went 3-for-4, stole two bases, scored three times and did this:

Eugenio Suarez homered, Joey Votto went 2-for-4 with two RBI and Scott Schebler homered and knocked in three.

Rays 3, Yankees 1: The Rays avoided a sweep in the four-game series by deploying Johnny Wholestaff effectively and shutting the Yankees’ offense down. Wilmer Font led the bullpen brigade, allowing one run in four and two-thirds, Matt Duffy drove in two and Carlos Gomez had an RBI double. All that came in the third inning. Other than that CC Sabathia was fantastic, pitching into the eighth and striking out ten. Unfortunately for him, all innings count.

Tigers 3, White Sox 1: Nicholas Castellanos hit a two-run homer and Blaine Hardy and the Tigers’ pen limited the White Sox to a Matt Davison homer and nothing else doing. Five wins in a row for the Tigers who, between a massive rebuild and a season-ending injury to Miguel Cabrera, are supposed to be terrible but somehow . . . aren’t. Playing nine games so far against Chicago has been helpful for that. Detroit is 8-1 vs. the Chisox.

Phillies 10, Brewers 9: Maikel Franco has been riding a lot of pine lately, but he started this one and homered and drove in four. Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera also homered as the Phillies took two of three. Eric Thames hit two homers in a losing cause for the Brewers, whose late rally fell short. In other news, Brewers reliever Adrian Houser barfed behind the mound while warming up in the eighth inning. While for you, me and most people, barfing is a get-out-of-work-free card, Hauser stayed in the game and faced two batters before barfing a second time. Then he STILL stayed in the game, faced three more hitters and finished the inning, having given up one run on an RBI double to Scott Kingery.

Gabe Kapler after the game:

“I have a lot of respect for anybody who would step behind the mound and throw up and step back on the mound and pitch”

It’s Kapler’s team but I, personally, think that people who are literally vomiting while on the mound shouldn’t be in the game and that a guy who barfs twice while giving up a run in a game you end up losing by a run might’ve been better served not in the game. But hey, what do I know?

Astros 7, Royals 4: Houston just refuses to lose. Carlos Correa hit a game-tying solo home run in the eighth and then got RBI singles from Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez that same inning to keep the momentum rolling. That’s the Astros’ 11th win in a row. Ten of those wins came on their 10-game road trip and now they get a nine-game homestand against the lowly Rays, Royals, and Blue Jays. Methinks this is the portion of the year that’ll appear in the year-in-review video that comes out next November under a heading like “The Turning Point” or some such.

Rangers 13, Rockies 12: Texas rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth, winning on a Jose Trevino two-run single. It was only Trevino’s third big league game and it came on Father’s Day, just a few days after he became a dad. Most of us go our whole lives wondering what is good in life and whether it will ever get better. Trevino may very well have had the best week of his life and he may very well know it, all at the tender age of 25. For the Rockies, it was yet another blown lead — their 21st loss after leading, which leads the bigs — this by their high-priced closer Wade Davis.

Athletics 6, Angels 5: Jonathan Lucroy hit a walkoff, bases-loaded RBI single in the 11th inning to give the A’s the win. It was a comeback win for Oakland, thanks to Mark Canha game-tying single with two outs in the ninth. He hit a two-run homer earlier. Mike Trout reached base five times for the Angels in a losing cause, but what else is new?

Red Sox 9, Mariners 3Rafael DeversJackie Bradley Jr., and Xander Bogaerts all homered and the Sox scored five in the third to put this one away early. Eduardo Rodriguez allowed two over six to pick up his ninth win on the year. The Red Sox are 13-1 in Rodriguez’s starts this season.

Giants 4, Dodgers 1: San Francisco salvages the series and avoids the sweep thanks to two-run homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt and one run over six from Chris Stratton, who normally gets roughed up pretty badly by Los Angeles. The Giants end a long, not-so-great road trip. They’ve had a lot of road trips so far this season and they’ve all been pretty not-so-great in fact. Now they get 20 of their next 26 at home and, following the All-Star break, begin just across the bridge in Oakland, which may as well be a home game. A nice respite for them, but they probably still wonder who the hell made this schedule.

Mets 5, Diamondbacks 3Brandon Nimmo and Asdrubal Cabrera homered to rally the Mets for four-runs in he ninth inning and bring them back from a 3-1 deficit for the win. You don’t see this kind of moxy from New York very often. The Mets split the four-game series in Arizona and won consecutive games for the first time since May 20-21.

Cardinals 5, Cubs 0: Jack Flaherty and four relievers combined for a four-hit shutout which helped the Cardinals avoid being swept at home by the arch rival Cubs. I wish I had an arch rival. I think it’d make life more interesting. Heck, I’d settle for a moderate nemesis.