Former Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays and Indians hurler Jack Morris is about to be placed on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot for the 15th and final time, and, as such, Morris and his advocates are once again campaining for his induction. I don't support his case, mostly because Morris gave up runs too often and at too high a rate (3.90 ERA, 4.27 R/G, 105 ERA+) by Cooperstown standards.
Those stumping for Morris have long pushed back against the idea by positing that he "pitched to the score" -- i.e., he let up when staked to a comfortable lead -- despite there being no evidence that was the case. Now, in a conversation with blogger Murray Chass, Morris has unveiled another angle of attack on the "too many runs" argument. A brief excerpt:
And what might Morris have done if the general manager or his manager have said they wanted him to have a lower earned run average?
“I probably would have led the league,” he said.
This is bizarre, to put it chariably. Is it not understood that a pitcher's job is to keep runs off the board? This needs to be expressly asked of him? And that unspoken request was all that was standing between Morris and regular appearances at the top of the ERA leaderboards?
To be fair, Chass was "leading the witness" a bit with his question, and I certainly don't blame Morris for having a sense of self-investment. With that said, the "his ERA was high because no one told him to have a low ERA" counterpoint should not persuade anyone taking part in the Morris/Hall of Fame debate, even for a moment.