Tyler Kepner's on Bert Blyleven's side. He's on Jack Morris', too. And for that, we can probably blame a phone call to Pat Gillick, who was general manager of the Blue Jays when Morris pitched for that club. Kepner:
A lot of statistically minded voters dismiss the reasons many people vote for him. But it’s worth listening to Gillick, as sharp a talent evaluator as baseball has seen, on Morris’s reputation:
“Jack was one of those guys that just found some way to win. If he had to pitch a 1-0 game, or 2-1 or 3-2, he’d do it. On the other hand, Jack would go out there and win 8-7 or 7-6 or 6-5. He always found a way to win.”
Now, did Morris really always find a way to win? Of course not. He was 254-186. He lost twice for Gillick in the 1992 World Series. But for 14 seasons, 1979 to 1992, he had 233 victories. Bob Welch was next with 192.
But I just don’t accept it when so many people knock Morris as a candidate because of his 3.90 earned run average. When a person as savvy as Gillick believes so strongly that a pitcher like Morris was a winner, and that winning trumps everything else, it means a lot.
Morris pitched for Gillick's Blue Jays for two seasons.
In 1992, when Morris posted a 4.04 ERA and was blessed with massive run support, he really knew how to win: 21-6.
In 1993, when Morris posted a 6.19 ERA and got just average run support, he apparently forgot how to win: 7-12.
I know. Just two seasons.
But if Morris really knew how to win, wouldn't that have left some footprints in the sand? Knowing how to win suggests any number of things, like pitching particularly well when the game is close but easing off a bit when you've got a big lead. Did Morris do those things, throughout his career?
I would be awfully surprised if Pat Gillick has any idea.
I wouldn't be nearly as surprised if Tyler Kepner does, but to this point he's not offered any evidence either way.
Meanwhile, seven years ago Joe Sheehan did a great deal of work on this subject. Many hours and thousands of words worth of work. I suppose that Gillick might dismiss Sheehan's work. I hope that Kepner would not.
Sheehan's big finish:
As I said, I don't know what the performance record of someone who had successfully pitched to the score would look like. I am certain, though, that for a pitcher to build his Hall of Fame case on the notion that he did such a thing, he couldn't have put his team behind in nearly two-thirds of his career starts, and he couldn't have blown leads once a month throughout his career.
Jack Morris was a very good pitcher whose primary skill was durability. He benefited from coming up with a number of good players, players who would form the core of a good offense that scored lots of runs for him. He happened to have a career in a down period for starting pitchers, so he stands out among his peers more than someone with his performance record would in the 1970s or 1990s.
Pat Gillick has been a brilliant baseball man for a long time. If I haven't already, someday I will throw my weight squarely behind his Hall of Fame candidacy. But he's just wrong about Jack Morris. Or at the least, he pretty obviously isn't objective about Jack Morris. That's fine. Being objective about old ballplayers isn't Pat Gillick's job.
That's Joe Sheehan's, Rob Neyer's, and Tyler Kepner's job.