Jack Morris and caring about the wrong things

Jonathan Daniel

Jack Morris might be inducted to the Hall of Fame tomorrow, and people are upset about it. The problems with voting aren't about putting in those who don't deserve it, they're about excluding those who do.

The Hall of Fame.  It's baseball sanctuary, the highest possible level of greatness a player can reach. It should be reserved for the best of the best, and whenever there's somebody deserving that gets denied that honor, there's outrage. Conversely, when there's somebody who doesn't deserve to be on the same level as his elevated peers, there's equal amounts of vitriol spewed.

This year, it's mostly about Jack Morris. The Hall of Fame vote will be announced tomorrow, and this is Morris' last year of eligibility. He came relatively close last year (67.7%), and there's a growing sentiment that he'll be inducted this year, especially since this is his last chance.

The problems with voting aren't about putting in those who don't deserve it, they're about excluding those who do.

The idea of Morris having a bust next to the true greats angers people. The amount of hatred over Morris and those who voted for him has been staggering, and it left me wondering this morning - why? Jack Morris doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame - in fact, it isn't even close, and how he's managed to get this many votes confounds me - but the amount of anger at those who vote for him, and Morris himself, is a bummer.  If you must steer your anger somewhere, try Murray Chass, who's now keeping his HOF vote for the sole reason of being petty. Seriously.

It's the era of piling on, especially on Twitter, and Ken Gurnick is about to have a pretty bad day, being attacked for his decision to vote for Jack Morris while leaving Greg Maddux off, since he decided not to vote for anybody from the PED era (despite Morris playing in a good chunk of that era). It's inexplicable to me, but Gurnick's ballot isn't going to change a thing. Maddux is going to make the HOF without question, and with more than 500 ballots each year, it's nearly impossible to get in unanimously. Not that it matters, anyway - Maddux will be in Cooperstown by an overwhelming amount, and the trivial addition of a unanimous induction doesn't really mean anything.

Still, the anger. Not just toward Gurnick, but towards everyone who decided to vote for Jack Morris this season. The arguments have gone in circles for a while now - that Morris' contributions went beyond the box score, that he came up in the biggest moments, that he was durable and among the league's best pitchers for an entire decade. It's all nonsensical narrative to me, but worth nothing more than an eye roll - there will be a shift in voting as older voters give up their votes, and until then, it isn't worth complaining so heavily about, and it's definitely not worth the level of mocking and bashing that people take part in. It's a dumb ballot. I don't get it, but the issues with Gurnick's defense go well behind a singular ballot. It will take years for the generation of voters to fully open their minds to the steroid era, and change isn't coming quickly. That's the biggest issue at hand - not Jack Morris.

It'd be one thing if the Hall of Fame was some sort of "select one" ballot, and voting for Morris meant that other, more deserving candidates lose their chance to get in. But that isn't the case. Voters can select up to 10 players, so if people want to get miffed about the voting, shouldn't it before over not checking the box for deserving players? Shouldn't it be for punishing Jeff Bagwell because of suspicion, and not evidence? Or Tim Raines being wildly overlooked? Or for excluding one of the greatest baseball players of all time because he was a dick who was the best cheater among hundreds?

Jack Morris might get his ticket stamped to Cooperstown tomorrow, and it shouldn't be met with anger. If he gets that call, it'll be one of the greatest moments of his life, and our lives won't change a bit whether he's in or he's not. By next year, it'll be back to crusading for Edgar Martinez or Jeff Bagwell while Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson steal the spotlight. Putting Jack Morris in the HOF is the wrong decision, but the problem with the current status of Hall of Fame voting isn't putting undeserving players in - it's excluding great ones. Greg Maddux, despite one weird ballot, isn't getting excluded.

I will be disappointed if Edgar Martinez, Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, and other deserving candidates aren't in the Hall of Fame eventually. But I won't care if Jack Morris is around to hang out with them, because his inclusion has no effect on those more deserving joining him.

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