Jack Morris 1989 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for March 27, 2017

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Let me say something very controversial.

Jack Morris had a fine career.

(Sully ducks, expecting someone to throw something at me.)

He did. Even if you do not think he was a Hall of Famer (and I can appreciate both sides of the argument) we all know that there is a huge gray area between “Hall of Fame Immortal” and “Worthless Bum.”

Even Morris’ harshest critics should put him into the that gray area.

There is no reason to breakdown his career bit by bit because between 2000 and 2014, his Hall of Fame candidacy was examined closer than a Supreme Court Nominee.

In review, he won more games than any pitcher in the 1980’s, was the number one starter one three World Champions and threw a dramatic 10 inning shutout to clinch the 1991 World Series. 7 top 10 Cy Young finishes and had the reputation of being a big game pitcher.

AND he had a high ERA, had a lot of offensive support that boosted his win total, did not survive cross examination of any advanced metric and LOST a few critical post season games as well.

We all know that. His debate was a battleground of old school thinkers and new school thinkers. He got to within 8% of the Hall of Fame.

The strange thing about it is he will never be a Hall of Famer (save for a Veterans Committee vote) not because of new stat thinking but because of some old school voting stubbornness.

Think about it. When the Morrs vote was first starting, it was 2000. Who was embracing new stats then? Bill James and 6 guys name Doug who had a Fantasy Baseball League.

His stats never changed. He never won another World Series game between 2000 and the 2014 vote. All the old school writers who championed him had a shot to vote him in then. Morris would have been in Cooperstown and his detractors would use him as an example (like Bill Mazeroski or Don Sutton) of someone who got in because of old school thinking.

But he only got 22.2% of the vote on his first year on the ballot. He dropped to 19.6% in 2001. He did not crack 30% until his 6th ballot.

Why? Because voters don’t like to vote for Hall of Famers on the first ballot. Because they like the twisting in the wind element of it.

It wasn’t until 2010, when new versus old thinking made Morris a Cause Celebre that he even made it to 50%. That was his 11th time on the ballot. The old guard had more than a decade to put the proverbial crown on his head.

At that point, even I, a huge Morris supporter for years, thought “Hmm… maybe there is something to their arguments.”

What sunk Morris for good? Was it the new Sabermetrics crowd? Nope. Once again, the old school guard that did not vote for him right away obliterated his hope on his second to last year on the ballot.

On his 14th and second to last try, Morris was on the ballot again. He had reached 66.7% the previous year (2012) and fell short of 75% as Barry Larkin was the lone Hall of Fame entry that year.

In 2013, there were some big hold overs, including eventual inductees Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines.

But that was also the first year that Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa were on the ballot. Those three who had dared use (or were suspected of using) PEDs to obliterate the record book were on the ballot.

And it was the old school who protested, sending in blank ballots, many voting for nobody. This was a statement to say those players could not cheat their way into Cooperstown and sit along side Mays, Aaron, Koufax and Berra.

OK, fine. But that also meant that Morris once again fell just short. At 67.7%, he was within 10% of election. But with no players elected, that would leave a glut the next year.

Public opinion went against the writers, who seemed petty, and led to a crowded ballot. And even old school writers who use traditional stats were putting Morris in an impossible position in his 15th and final year on the ballot.

Again, none of Morris’ stats changed after the 1994 season, his final one in the bigs. But he would be a victim of comparisons in 2014.

Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were both on the ballot. Both had stats that dwarfed Morris’ and both his the magical 300 win mark that Morris fell far short of.

He finished with 61.5% as no doubt the cluttered ballots, many filled with 10 candidates, didn’t have enough room.

So while modern stats exposed the flawed thinking behind Jack Morris’ Hall of Fame hopes, it was bullheaded mindsets of old school writers that kept him out.

If they voted for who they felt was worthy, first ballot or not, he would have been in earlier. If they didn’t make a ham fisted protest, he would have been in later.

Instead, Morris has to console himself with adulation from Tigers, Twins and Blue Jays fans, millions of dollars and three World Series rings.

And a fine career.

Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – March 20, 2017

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Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images North America


MLB blackout rules are stupid.

But MLB blacking out Blue Jays games for all of Canada? That is insane.

The great white north is honored inĀ thisĀ episode of The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.

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Damaso Garcia 1987 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for March 12, 2017

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Sometimes the plans we have in our career seem to unfold perfectly. And other times they take an unexpected detour. When things don’t go your way, you can handle them with patience and grace, or you can handle them like Damaso Garcia.

Garcia was born in the Domincan Republic in the late 1950s and became a soccer and baseball star in his native country. Now the Blue Jays of the 1980’s became one of the major franchises (along with the Dodgers) who invested in scouting and training in the Domincan Republic. But Garcia actually was not part of their academy program.

He was originally a New York Yankee signing and he saw a little bit of playing time in the Bronx. But with Willie Randolph in place at second base, Garcia was essentially a trade chip. After the 1979 season, he was sent packing to the Toronto Blue Jays along with Chris Chambliss for Rick Cerone. (If you don’t remember Chambliss playing for the Blue Jays, don’t worry… Toronto flipped him to Atlanta before he played a game in Canada.)

Now without an All Star like Randolph blocking him, Garcia became a starter in Toronto. He finished 4th in the 1980 Rookie of the Year voting. Paired with the 1979 Co Rookie of the Year Alfredo Griffin, the Blue Jays appeared to have their middle infield set for a long long time.

By 1982, the 25 year old Garcia blossomed, winning the Silver Slugger at second base, batting .310 and stealing 54 bases. Back then a high batting average and stealing a lot of bases made someone an ideal lead off hitter. The team was starting to plant the seeds of a contender as Dave Steib and Willie Upshaw were also starting to develop.

Today, he would bat lower in the order. He seldom walked, taking only 21 the whole season, and was caught stealing 20 times. Think of that. He was caught stealing almost as many times as he took ball 4 and he was leading off. Just to show you, we look at stats differently now.

Garcia made the All Star team in 1984 and in 1985, the year the Blue Jays came within one game (and in Game 6 of the ALCS, one swing) of the World Series. So all looked like the best made plans of Blue Jays excellence were coming together.

However the tandem of Garcia and Griffin was broken up before 1985. Griffin was dealt to Oakland for reliever Bill Caudill. That seemed to affect Garcia as did his reputation of not taking advice from his coaches.

In 1986, he slumped badly and with Manny Lee and Garth Iorg and Kelly Gruber pushing for playing time, Garcia’s locked in spot in the lineup looked shaky.

He was dropped from the leadoff spot and found himself clashing with new manager Jim Williams.

So what did he do? He started a fire of course. Now depending on who you talk to, it was either him setting his uniform ablaze to burn away bad fortune or it was a temper tantrum where he set a lot of equipment on fire.

But in the end, does it matter? When someone asks “How does he deal with adversity?” the answer should never be “Well he starts fires.”

He was sent packing to Atlanta for 1987 and missed out in the Blue Jays glory from 1989 to 1993. (FYI, Alfredo Griffin, who never set stuff on fire, returned to Toronto for the 1992 and 1993 World Series years.)

After a cameo with the 1989 Expos and another shot with the Yankees, he finished his career. His post playing career saw him surviving a terrible brain tumor in the 1990s. After his recovery, he came back to Toronto to throw out the first pitch in a 1992 playoff game.

To my knowledge, he lit nothing on fire.