A Statement ... About What Again?

Well, there’s no real point in overly dissecting the Hall of Fame ballot of MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. As you probably have heard by now, he authored the first public ballot to not have Greg Maddux on it. Well, look, he broke down his decision-making process and, sure, while he felt that Maddux’s peak of four consecutive Cy Young awards was strong, his decline phase was too ... no, I’m just kidding.

He only voted for Jack Morris in some sort of protest against something or other.

Now, I”m not kidding. From the article:

“Morris has flaws — a 3.90 ERA, for example. But he gets my vote for more than a decade of ace performance that included three 20-win seasons, Cy Young Award votes in seven seasons and Most Valuable Players votes in five. As for those who played during the period of PED use, I won’t vote for any of them.”

As I say, there’s really no point in over-dissecting here. Ken is a fine baseball writer, and I feel sure that, even though we disagree, he’s honestly trying to do what he believes is right.

I really only have two questions.

One is: Why Morris? I mean if you are going to make a vague statement against, you know, an entire generation of baseball players for reasons that are not entirely clear to anyone, why wouldn’t you just send in a blank ballot and leave it at that. Why would you draw this bizarre “period of PED use” line in the sand? Does Gurnick really believe steroids were invented in 1994? He’s not the only person I ask this question of, by the way. Do some people believe that the players of Jack Morris’ period were bulking up on milk and Frank Capra movies?

And if you DO believe that, why not vote for Lee Smith (who, apparently, Gurnick did vote for two years ago)? Smith threw 126 innings after Morris retired? Were these the deadly innings for Smith’s Hall of Fame case?

This is the the problem of drawing lines. Roger Clemens, when Morris retired, was 172-93 with a 147 ERA+, three Cy Young Awards and an MVP. That’s essentially Sandy Koufax’s career, maybe even a little bit better. Greg Maddux had won three Cy Young Awards too. Barry Bonds had already won three MVP awards.

What is it about Jack Morris that inspires this sense of innocent wonder, this recollection to an innocent time when players were just ... what? Hitting home runs for sick children in hospitals? Pitching to the score? Or is it those halcyon days of cocaine and amphetamines and excessive alcohol that we long for? It’s a shame because, as I’ve written many times, Morris was a very good pitcher and shouldn’t be at the center of a fight he wasn’t even in. But that’s just how the timing worked out.

But the second question is a baseball question: Does he really believe that a 3.90 ERA, three 20-win seasons, and those odd award qualifications are enough to go into the Hall of Fame? That’s it, that’s what we have here?

Because, if so, here are a few more nominees:

-- Wes Ferrell ... six 20-win seasons (Morris had three), runner up for the MVP award (Morris never finished Top 10), one of the best-hitting pitchers in baseball history (Morris batted five times and got zero hits).

-- Dave Stewart ... four 20-win seasons (Morris had three), top three in Cy Young three times (Morris had two) and a higher MVP finished (eighth) than Morris ever had.

-- Wilbur Wood ... four 20 win seasons (Morris had three), finished second in Cy Young (Morris never did), higher MVP finish (seventh) than Morris ever had.

-- Mike Cuellar ... four 20-win seasons (Morris had three), WON a Cy Young (Morris never did), higher MVP finish (eighth) than Morris ever had.

-- Luis Tiant ... four 20-win seasons (Morris had three), two ERA titles (Morris never had any) and a higher MVP finish (fifth) than Morris ever had.

-- Dave McNally ... four 20-win seasons (Morris had three), three Top 4 finished in Cy Young (same as Morris) and had a higher MVP finished (seventh) than Morris ever had.

-- Johnny Sain ... four 20-win seasons (Morris had three), was MVP runner up (Morris never was) and was part of the incredibly cool “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain” rhyme (the only cool words that rhyme with Morris are chorus, porous, thesaurus and brontosaurus).

-- Paul Derringer ... four 20-win seasons (Morris had three), was top five in the MVP race twice (Morris was never even once) and was picked for six All-Star Games (Morris was picked for five).

I guess I find it encouraging that even in a protest ballot we can still find some baseball analysis to argue about. That’s why we love this game.