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morris on the throne

the experts are still discussing the deal matt morris got from the giants. hardball times' dave studeman weighed in yesterday with the opinion that $9m a year for morris is right in step with the market. he does some quick analysis to back up that assertion, then quickly adds: "I'm not saying it makes sense. Only that it is."

baseball think factory's dan szymborski sums up the deal in one word -- "overpriced" -- but still thinks the giants made a smart play. he adds: "Note to the Cardinals: This is not the best time to lose patience with Jason Marquis. Please hold off until you guys finally land a pitcher that you're going after."

it's a split decision at baseball prospectus (quotes culled from bernie's pressbox). one writer (unidentified, but i'm betting it's joe sheehan) hates the signing: "The Giants seem to make at least one huge mistake every winter, but I don't think anyone realized they'd make a mistake this big. . . . . If you want to pick a pitching deal from this winter certain to go sour, this one's my easy favorite." but will carroll thinks the giants will likely get their money's worth:

Morris has remade himself after his shoulder injury and came back nicely from off-season cleanup. Pitchers that remake themselves after injury--think Tommy John or Frank Tanana--often have long careers. . . . Morris isn't a horrible risk from the injury standpoint and likely to be a positive component for a Giants team that you just have to think is going for it this year.

as for myself, i'm still glad the cardinals didn't sign him for that kind of money -- way too much for a #3/#4 starter. that said, i think that morris deserves a hell of a lot better farewell than he's gotten. matty pitched 7 1/2 years for the cardinals, 6 1/2 in the rotation -- longer than tudor, andujar, or carlton. the last pitcher to come up through the cardinal system and pitch this long for the team was bob forsch; before that, bob gibson. morris succeeded where so many other heralded homegrown pitchers (donovan osborne, joe magrane, john denny, rick ankiel come quickly to mind) failed: he became a true rotation anchor, even briefly pitched like an ace. we can only hope that one of the young arms in the pipeline (reyes wainwright lambert etc) contributes anything close to what morris gave the franchise.

what he did, above all else, was show up. morris' 206 starts for stl ranks 10th on the all-time franchise leaderboard; in the postwar era (ie the last two generations) he ranks 5th, behind only gibson, forsch, harry brecheen, and larry jackson. and in the last generation (30 years) only forsch made more starts for the cards.

matty's 1377 innings pitched rank 18th on the all-time cardinal list; again, he stands 5th since world war ii (behind gibby forsch brecheen and jackson) and 2d since 1975, behind only forsch.

morris is the 15th-winningest cardinal pitcher of all-time, with 101. post-ww2 he's tied for 4th with jackson, behind gibson forsch and brecheen.

his 986 strikeouts are the 4th-most in franchise history, behind gibson, dizzy dean, and forsch. morris also rates 7th all-time in ks per 9 innings.

morris's .620 winning percentage is 8th on the franchise leaderboard (for pitchers with at least 500 innings pitched), and the 2d best since world war 2 -- only john tudor won with greater frequency.

and he has the 35th-best era of any cardinal pitcher in history, 3.61. given the high-scoring era in which morris pitched, that ain't too bad. in the last generation he stands 6th, behind john tudor (the franchise's all-time leader), joaquin andujar, joe magrane, danny cox, bob tewksbury, and jose deleon.

finally, matt morris has made the most postseason starts in franchise history -- 11. i know i know, that's misleading -- in this era of marathon postseasons, it's very easy to rack up gaudy totals. and some of you will also point out that morris won only 2 of his 11 starts, and that the cardinals went only 4-7 behind him. but morris pitched beautifully in three of his defeats (including two elimination games) and lost only for lack of run support. he wasn't gibson, but you could (and i would) argue that he was the cardinals' best postseason pitcher since. the only real competition comes from tudor, who had a better record; but tudes faced much weaker opponents and crumbled in two potential championship-clinching games.

if you divide up the last 50 years or so and choose one stl pitcher as the "face" of each period, 1956-1975 was the reign of gibson, and 1976-1990 was the bob forsch period. mark 1991-2005 down as the time of matt morris. an era has ended. for the last time: besta luck to you matty. thanks for a whole lotta memories.