The excitement is starting to build for Detroit Tigers fans.
I am not talking about 2017 season, but the Hall of Fame election season.
In December, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker could all be finalists on the ballot for the Hall of Fame’s Modern Baseball Era Committee, a revamped form of the old Veterans Committee, which gives a second chance to players from each era who have failed to gain election.
The Modern Baseball Era is for players who’s biggest contribution came between 1970-87. The vote will occur during December’s Winter Meetings and anyone elected will be inducted the following July.
Tiger fans know, it has been a long time since Detroit has had a Hall of Famer.
Yes, Pudge Rodriguez got in this year, but will be going in as a Ranger.
Sparky Anderson went in as a Red. Jim Bunning went in with a Phillies cap on his plaque.
There hasn’t been a Detroit Tigers player elected to the Hall of Fame, who went in as a Tiger since Hal Newhouser in 1992.
That is far too long. Tiger fans have watched Morris inch closer and closer only to reach 67 percent of the vote when 75 percent was needed. The same thing happened to Trammell, who ran out of time on the ballot.
At least he was given time. Whitaker and Lance Parrish were left off after the first ballot and Mickey Lolich never got much support from the voters.
But this year, there is still hope that amends could be made with a Morris-Trammell-Whitaker election. Of course, this is a longshot, but all three have stellar Hall of Fame cases.
“First of all, I have to try and keep it in perspective. You’re talking about a reward,” Morris said at this weeks West Michigan Whitecaps Tiger Fridays series. “You’re not talking about whether you deserve to be on a team or not, we’re talking about frosting on a cake and sometimes you find out the frosting is unhealthy. But I am pulling for Tram and pulling for Lou. We kind of feel neglected because none of us have even touched the iceberg (in the voting) and we showed that we were good enough. But it is not going to determine my life. It is not going to change me as a human being. I am very proud of what we did and I have no regrets about what I did on the field.”
Morris, the winningest pitcher of the 1980s, was a dominant starter with 254 wins and postseason heroics, including a Game Seven 10-inning shutout in the 1991 World Series for Minnesota.
But his secondary numbers, aka sabermetric numbers, are not as strong as pitchers like Bert Blyleven, who puddle-jumped Morris on the writers’ Hall ballot and was elected, while Morris — who has the highest vote totals of any player not yet elected.
Morris was named on 67 percent of the votes in 2013, short of the 75 percent needed. The following year was his final on the ballot and the former Tiger ace received 61.5 percent, his totals obviously affected by Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas, who were all on their first ballot — and were all elected.
“You see as the years go by where you are on the ballot and you come to the realization that these guys aren’t going to make it happen and you might have to wait for the next round,” Morris said. “That next round is this winter in the (Modern Era Committee).”
After 15 years, he fell off the writers’ ballot but might have his best chance yet this year.
Morris had 254 wins, started 14 consecutive opening days, and won a ton of big games, but his earned run average is 3.90, which would be the highest of any starting pitcher in the Hall of Fame.
He had more votes than Blyleven on his first year on the ballot, with 111 votes. His vote totals nearly tripled as he climbed the ladder. Along the way, he had more votes at least once than Blyleven, Barry Larkin, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Mike Piazza head-to-head on the ballot. He has received more cumulative votes than anyone not elected.
But they have since gained election.
Morris doesn’t have the same sabermetrics stamp of approval that Trammell and Whitaker have, but being the ace of three World Series teams, the Game Seven heroics, and getting through eight innings more than 50 percent of his starts during his peak years shows how pivotal he was.
We will look at Trammell and Whitaker a little later, but Morris thinks they deserve the Hall of Fame — and this could finally be the year for the Detroit trio.
“If we could make it all together I think it would be well worth the wait because it would put Detroit on the map,” Morris said. “It would mean a lot to the fans of my generation.”