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MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Morris worthy of election into Hall of Fame

Morris worthy of election into Hall of Fame

Morris worthy of election into Hall of Fame

Yes, I know about the earned run average.

When you look at a 3.90 ERA, you probably don't think Cooperstown. If you don't want Jack Morris in the Hall of Fame, those are the only three numbers you need.

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Three. Nine. Zero.

No one's ever gone into the Hall as a pitcher with an ERA higher than Red Ruffing's 3.80, and only eight of the 69 pitchers in the Hall have ERAs of even 3.50. So it's easy enough to understand why a pitcher as rugged and as tough as Morris could have been on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot 14 times without receiving 75-percent approval.

But when I think about Morris, I think about the guy I covered when he started Game 1 of the World Series in 1984, '91 and '92 for three different teams -- and there were parades in Detroit, Minneapolis and Toronto, none of which would have happened without Morris.

That's a fact I can't get out of my head, just as I would always flash to 60 shutouts when Bert Blyleven was mentioned in Hall of Fame discussions. Despite such an astounding number, it took 14 ballots for Blyleven to be voted in, a tribute to one of the highest bars in sports.

Name another vote with more than 500 people voting where you need 75 percent approval to pass. Maybe you know one, but nothing comes to mind for me. Baseball's Hall of Fame standard is ridiculously high, under any circumstance, so while I voted for Blyleven every year he was on the ballot, I never really knew if he would get in. But he did.

I've voted for Morris 14 times now, and will again when the 2014 ballot arrives in the mail. He didn't have Blyleven's curveball or Nolan Ryan's heater. He didn't pile up victories -- retiring at age 39 with 254 wins (43rd all time) after 527 starts (36th all time) -- or strikeouts (2,478, 32nd all time), but he was like one of the craggy-faced charter captains Hemingway would have loved. He knew how to find the big fish, and how to reel them in.

This is the 15th and final year for Morris on the ballot, and there's no way to know if his support will jump enough to get elected. He's gained votes consistently over the past few years, and was second to Craig Biggio in 2013 voting, finishing 42 votes short of reaching the 75-percent threshold.

I know that there are strong arguments against Morris, but I think it will be a crime if his case is passed down the line to the Veterans Committee, where eventually -- like Ron Santo -- he will probably be put in. Let me repeat: He started Game 1 of the World Series for three different teams, and all three teams won the Series. He was 4-2 with a 2.96 ERA in seven World Series starts, and, yes, that includes Game 7 in 1991.

It was a thing.

Ask John Smoltz or any of the other Braves about it if you get a chance.

In Blyleven's final year on the ballot, he gained 63 votes, jumping from 400 to 463. But the biggest reason for that jump was that there were 42 more voters than the year before (from 539 to 581). The voting total has dropped each of the last two years.

Here's my biggest concern about the upcoming ballot.

There were 13 players on the 2013 ballot who got 20 percent of the vote, including six who got at least 48 percent -- a level that historically has signaled serious candidacy. Along with Biggio and Morris, there was Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines and Lee Smith. And here's the potential whammy: The newcomers this year include Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Jeff Kent and Eric Gagne.

That could mean 18 players getting 20 percent of the vote, including at least three more (Maddux, Thomas and Glavine) who are major candidates.

Writers can only vote for 10 players, and historically most voters have been much more selective than that. Some only vote for two or three a year. Some turn in blank ballots.

Seventy-five percent has never been a tougher standard to reach than it will be this year. It's taken on faith that Maddux will be elected, as he has never faced a PED backlash, and Chicagoans believe Thomas will go in alongside him, for the same reasons.

I hope they're right, as I'll be voting for those guys, too. But draw your conclusions carefully.

Until the PED gridlock somehow gets broken up, Hall of Fame voting will be a mess. Figuring it out is next to impossible, like getting a run off Morris when it mattered the most.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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