In the recent balloting for this year's Baseball Hall of Fame inductions, former Tigers, Twins and Blue Jays pitcher Jack Morris' vote total increased to 382, 66 percent of the ballots cast, in his 13th season of eligibility. He fell short of election by 48 votes.
Many voters insist that Morris deserves Hall induction; they claim his relatively high career ERA (3.90) is because he "pitched to the score"; in other words, when his team was scoring a lot of runs, he figured he could give up almost as many. (Personally, I think that's utter nonsense.) I don't think Morris is Hall-worthy; if the voters would simply admit they're essentially voting for him because he pitched one fantastic game in the 1991 World Series, at least they'd be honest with us.
Because if you're going to admit Jack Morris to the Hall of Fame, you probably have to at least consider voting for Jamie Moyer, who appears likely to pitch in his 25th major league season in 2012 with the Colorado Rockies.
Yes, really. If you look at their numbers, these two men who share the same initials are actually quite similar.
- Wins: Hall voters seem to adore wins, and Moyer has more wins than Morris, 267 to 254. In careers begun in the expansion era -- since 1961 -- 17 pitchers have registerd 267 or more wins. All those on that list who are eligible are in the Hall except Tommy John (who should be) and Jim Kaat (who's got a case).
- Games started: Moyer ranks 16th on the all-time list with 626. All the eligible pitchers ahead of him (except Tommy John) are in the Hall. With 20 starts this year, he'd move up a spot, passing Tom Seaver.
- 20-win seasons: Morris had three. Moyer had two. Almost the same!
- Postseason appearances: Morris had three, including his famous one with the Twins in 1991. Moyer appeared in four postseasons, with a postseason ERA nearly as good as Morris' (4.14, to Morris' 3.83), and started and won Game 3 of the 2008 World Series, helping the Phillies defeat the Rays.
- Strikeouts: If Moyer strikes out 74 hitters this season, he will have more than Morris -- with more than 200 fewer walks.
Some of the nay-sayers will remind me that Moyer is the career leader in home runs allowed, with 511. The correct response is: "You have to be good to do that." The rest of the top 10 on that list are: Robin Roberts, Fergie Jenkins, Phil Niekro, Don Sutton, Frank Tanana, Warren Spahn, Bert Blyleven, Tim Wakefield and Steve Carlton. That's seven Hall of Famers and a couple of other pretty good pitchers.
I'm kidding here ... sort of. Jamie Moyer's Hall of Fame credentials consist primarily of sticking around for a really long time and finding himself on several very good teams (the Mariners from 2000-03 when they won 90+ games each year, or the recent incarnations of the Phillies). He has received Cy Young votes only three times and made just one All-Star team. Early in his career, he was unconditionally released three times (by the Cubs, Cardinals and Rangers) before finally settling in and pitching solidly, if unspectacularly, for two decades.
And yet, there is value in that. A decade after most pitchers would have hung it up, Moyer had Tommy John surgery and is planning a comeback. He's 103-79 with a 4.40 ERA (99 ERA+) and 1.33 WHIP in 1497⅔ innings since he turned 40. Only Niekro pitched more successfully after age 40; Moyer's post-age-40 numbers stack up well against Hall members such as Spahn and Gaylord Perry and future inductees Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson.
In Moyer's case, longevity is one of his qualifications. He is unique in baseball history in being able to be an effective back-of-the-rotation starter into his late 40s. He'll be 50 in November; no one has ever been able to do what he's trying to do at his age.
In some ways, therefore, Moyer is more qualified than Morris -- who did not pitch a single major-league inning after the age of 40 -- to be a Hall of Famer. If you're considering Morris, you've got to consider Moyer -- and maybe give the latter the nod.