Barry Larkin, the Cincinnati Reds shortstop, came the closest with 62 percent of the vote. Jack Morris, Detroit Tigers pitcher, was next with 54 percent of the vote. It takes 75 percent to get into the hall.
Major League Baseball is unusual in that the longer it has been since the player was active, the better his chances for getting elected. A lot of baseball writers won’t vote for a player for the hall the first year he is eligible simply to make a political point. They think only the greatest of the great deserve to get in on their first try. Because of idiotic thinking like that, three writers didn’t vote for Nolan Ryan to be in the hall in his first year in 1998.
Larkin was in his second year of voting, but fell short. Hopefully he will get in next year because he truly is the most deserving player on the ballot.
In the late 1990s and 2000s, all the talk about shortstops was about players in the American League: Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra. Those men put up bigger power numbers than their contemporaries and made the playoffs repeatedly.
In the National League, there is no doubt that the best player at the position was Larkin.
Jayson Stark wrote a book about the most overrated and underrated players in baseball history. He listed Larkin as the most underrated shortstop ever. He said general managers he spoke to loved Larkin and would have chosen him as a player to build a team around, but the guy just doesn’t get enough respect from baseball writers.
He was so easily better than his contemporaries that he was voted to 12 all-star games. He was named the NL MVP in 1995 and won nine Silver Slugger awards for batting excellence.
Larkin had a .295 career batting average, going over .300 nine times including .342 in 1989 when he missed half the season with injuries. He stole 379 bases, including 51 at the ripe old age of 31. He scored 1,329 runs, finishing in the top 10 four times.
At the start of his career, he had some defensive issues, committing 29 errors in 1988 in his second full season. But he worked on his defense, never committing more than 17 in a year after that despite being first in the NL in defensive range. He would go on to earn three Gold Glove awards.
Jack Morris was a good pitcher for a long time, but he was never great. He never had a three- or four-year stretch where he dominated hitters like Randy Johnson or Pedro Martinez. He didn’t put up the career numbers like Bert Blyleven or Greg Maddux.
The best year he had came in 1986 when he went 21-8 with a 3.27 ERA and led the league with six shutouts. Now if he’d put together a few years like that, I could vote for him. The problem is that for the prime of his career, Morris averaged about 18 wins with an ERA of about 3.40. Those are very good numbers, but not Hall of Fame numbers. He never won a Cy Young Award or even finished second in balloting.
For his career, he had 254 wins (well short of the 300 that would guarantee entry) and an ERA of 3.90 — not even close to a Hall of Fame number. He ranks 13th all-time in wild pitches with 206 and 19th for walks with 1,390 — yet he wasn’t a power pitcher and never reached 250 strikeouts in a season.
On the MLB channel this week, two different writers said they voted for Morris because he is “one of the best big-game pitchers.”
That is a load of crap. Let’s look at the facts.
In 1984, Morris had a great postseason for the Tigers. He pitched three games, won all three and only gave up five earned runs for an ERA of 1.80. That is a big-game pitcher for sure.
Unfortunately, Morris went to the postseason three more times in his career and stank it up.
In 1987, 1991 and 1992, Morris went 4-4 with an ERA of 4.54. He earned a World Series ring in 1992 despite doing everything he could to lose. In two losses, he gave up 13 hits, six walks, 10 earned runs and a wild pitch. So how is that being a big-game pitcher?
Still, the way he keeps climbing in the voting, Morris will be elected in the next year or two. And that will be a shame.
Jeff Linville is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1920.