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Jack Morris and (Matt Morris and Matt Morris)

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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: 

Jack Morris

Year W L ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
1977 1 1 3.74 7 6 45.2 38 19 4 23 28 114 7.5 0.8 4.5 5.5 1.22
1978 3 5 4.33 28 7 106.0 107 51 8 49 48 90 9.1 0.7 4.2 4.1 0.98
1979 17 7 3.28 27 27 197.2 179 72 19 59 113 133 8.2 0.9 2.7 5.1 1.92
1980 16 15 4.18 36 36 250.0 252 116 20 87 112 99 9.1 0.7 3.1 4.0 1.29
1981 14 7 3.05 25 25 198.0 153 67 14 78 97 124 7.0 0.6 3.5 4.4 1.24
1982 17 16 4.06 37 37 266.1 247 120 37 96 135 100 8.3 1.3 3.2 4.6 1.41
1983 20 13 3.34 37 37 293.2 257 109 30 83 232 117 7.9 0.9 2.5 7.1 2.80
1984 19 11 3.60 35 35 240.1 221 96 20 87 148 109 8.3 0.7 3.3 5.5 1.70
1985 16 11 3.33 35 35 257.0 212 95 21 110 191 122 7.4 0.7 3.9 6.7 1.74
1986 21 8 3.27 35 35 267.0 229 97 40 82 223 127 7.7 1.3 2.8 7.5 2.72
1987 18 11 3.38 34 34 266.0 227 100 39 93 208 126 7.7 1.3 3.1 7.0 2.24
1988 15 13 3.94 34 34 235.0 225 103 20 83 168 98 8.6 0.8 3.2 6.4 2.02
1989 6 14 4.86 24 24 170.1 189 92 23 59 115 79 10.0 1.2 3.1 6.1 1.95
1990 15 18 4.51 36 36 249.2 231 125 26 97 162 89 8.3 0.9 3.5 5.8 1.67
1991 18 12 3.43 35 35 246.2 226 94 18 92 163 124 8.2 0.7 3.4 5.9 1.77
1992 21 6 4.04 34 34 240.2 222 108 18 80 132 102 8.3 0.7 3.0 4.9 1.65
1993 7 12 6.19 27 27 152.2 189 105 18 65 103 70 11.1 1.1 3.8 6.1 1.58
1994 10 6 5.60 23 23 141.1 163 88 14 67 100 83 10.4 0.9 4.3 6.4 1.49
18 Seasons 254 186 3.90 549 527 3824.0 3567 1657 389 1390 2478 105 8.4 0.9 3.3 5.8 1.78

 

Matt Matt Morris Morris

Year W L ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2008 0 4 9.67 5 5 22.1 41 24 6 7 9 44 2.4 2.8 3.6 1.29
2000 3 3 3.57 31 0 53 53 21 3 17 34 131 0.5 2.9 5.8 2
1997 12 9 3.19 33 33 217 208 77 12 69 149 130 0.5 2.9 6.2 2.16
2002 17 9 3.42 32 32 210.1 210 80 16 64 171 117 0.7 2.7 7.3 2.67
1998 7 5 2.53 17 17 113.2 101 32 8 42 79 167 0.6 3.3 6.3 1.88
2001 22 8 3.16 34 34 216.1 218 76 13 54 185 137 0.5 2.2 7.7 3.43
2002 17 9 3.42 32 32 210.1 210 80 16 64 171 117 0.7 2.7 7.3 2.67
2005 14 10 4.11 31 31 192.2 209 88 22 37 117 103 1 1.7 5.5 3.16
2005 14 10 4.11 31 31 192.2 209 88 22 37 117 103 1 1.7 5.5 3.16
2001 22 8 3.16 34 34 216.1 218 76 13 54 185 137 0.5 2.2 7.7 3.43
2004 15 10 4.72 32 32 202 205 106 35 56 131 90 1.6 2.5 5.8 2.34
2004 15 10 4.72 32 32 202 205 106 35 56 131 90 1.6 2.5 5.8 2.34
1997 12 9 3.19 33 33 217 208 77 12 69 149 130 0.5 2.9 6.2 2.16
2003 11 8 3.76 27 27 172.1 164 72 20 39 120 109 1 2 6.3 3.08
2006 10 15 4.98 33 33 207.2 218 115 22 63 117 90 1 2.7 5.1 1.86
2007 10 11 4.89 32 32 198.2 240 108 18 61 102 91 0.8 2.8 4.6 1.67
1998 7 5 2.53 17 17 113.2 101 32 8 42 79 167 0.6 3.3 6.3 1.88
2003 11 8 3.76 27 27 172.1 164 72 20 39 120 109 1 2 6.3 3.08
2006 10 15 4.98 33 33 207.2 218 115 22 63 117 90 1 2.7 5.1 1.86
2007 10 11 4.89 32 32 198.2 240 108 18 61 102 91 0.8 2.8 4.6 1.67
2000 3 3 3.57 31 0 53 53 21 3 17 34 131 0.5 2.9 5.8 2
2008 0 4 9.67 5 5 22.1 41 24 6 7 9 44 2.4 2.8 3.6 1.29
22 Seasons 242 184 3.98 614 552 3612 3734 1598 350 1018 2428 107 0.9 2.5 6 2.39

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.