I'll hand it to baseball for this: It does its best to drag the news cycle, which at this point is neither kicking nor screaming nor breathing, all the way into December, when the trade and free agent markets give it a lift. Friday the Hall of Fame ballots were announced, warming the cockles of sportswriters everywhere. There have been interesting ballots and there have been Chinese-curse interesting ballots, but try as I might, there is almost no Cardinals news to wring out of them, save for the return, from storage, of labored, indignant paragraphs about Mark McGwire's Hall of Fame candidacy.
But baseball news is baseball news, at this point, right? And discussion is discussion. So in the grand tradition of blogging, I'd like to show you this weird thing I found: Jack Morris, apparently inevitable Hall of Fame mistake, vs. two Matt Morrises stacked on top of each other. (This is more interesting, I assure you, than Lee Smith vs. two Bud Smiths stacked on top of each other, although height-wise that would be much closer.)
I hate to rehash the Jack Morris non-debate; he is a Hall of Very Good pitcher with one really awesome playoff moment, and at this point either that does something for you or it doesn't. But how eerie is this:
Matt Matt Morris Morris
Matty-Matty-Mo becomes Jack Morris's most similar player by a significant margin, somewhere in the 920s. The only real differences between these guys is Our Morris's substantial control advantage and Other Morris's famous complete games. I liked Matt Morris a lot, and there are scenarios in which he could have been a Hall of Fame-caliber pitcher; he came up young and was immediately excellent, and if he doesn't lose two years in the late-90s and his fastball sometime in the middle of 2003 he might be the poor man's Mike Mussina.
But the version of Matt Morris we got is not very suitable for Hall of Fame cloning. He's got three all-star-type seasons, one of which might have won the Cy Young in a weaker year, some solid fragmented seasons, and four years of bulk pitching. It's a few years of the Matt Morris we'll all remember appended hastily to the career of Kyle Lohse. These are not pieces you can make into a Hall of Fame pitcher, but they're exactly what Jack Morris has, along with a reputation for tenacity, a habit of completing games, and two heroic World Series performances out of three.
Aside from the continuing Jack Morris sideshow there's the interesting case of Roberto Alomar, who has an outside shot at being the latest second baseman summarily dumped from Hall of Fame consideration after a year or two. Alomar created 57 more runs than future Jack Morris Andre Dawson despite accruing 300 fewer plate appearances; he played second base well enough to secure the Gold Glove sinecure into his dotage.
But his incredibly abrupt, inescapable decline—in 2001 he managed, by one point, his career high OPS; in 2002 he managed, by one point, his career low OPS—has damaged the perception of him more than any other case I can remember. 2001 seemed to be his Hall of Fame coronation, but his halo seemed gone by that next May. By the time he was bouncing back and forth from the White Sox his awesome peak was ancient history; when the ballot came out I was surprised to see him on it.
We're used to seeing pitchers nosedive without warning—look at Jack Morris's last two seasons. But Alomar's brilliant peak, one of the best of the nineties, was obliterated in three seasons as Kaz Matsui. Chase Utley had better get out the minute he loses a step.