January 9th, 2012

Huge jump for Morris in Hall voting

UPDATED with quotes from Morris …

The wait for the Hall of Fame goes on for Jack Morris, but with a lot more hope. And like his World Series duel with John Smoltz in 1991, it’s going to come down to the end.

“The older I get, the more I realize the process,” Morris told MLB.com Monday in a phone conversation. “Maybe my day will come, maybe it won’t.”

Morris received 382 votes out of 573 ballots cast for the Hall of Fame this year by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. He didn’t get the 75 percent of votes required for induction, but he got his 11th consecutive year with a bump up from the previous ballot. This jump was his biggest yet, from 53.5 percent last year to 66.7 percent this time.

“That’s got to be a good sign for me,” Morris said. “Today, as we talk, that’s an encouraging thing for me. I have to thank the guys who jumped on board and voted for me and the guys who continue to vote for me and help this along.”

He’ll head into next year with the highest vote total of anyone still on the ballot. The challenge will be to try to keep the attention going into next year, when so many prominent players join the ballot for the first time.

Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa and Curt Schilling, to name a handful, become eligible for consideration next year. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina, Frank Thomas and Jeff Kent become eligible the following year.

With just two more years of eligibility on the ballot, the urgency for Morris kicks in now. But at just over eight percent shy of induction, the goal is in sight.

“It’s like life: Every day, there’s a new set of circumstances,” Morris said. “Obviously the steroid [era] guys are coming in and the big controversy, and you guys are going to have more conversations amongst each other than ever before.

“The truth is, I don’t assume a thing. Trust me, I don’t assume that since my numbers have come to this level that I’m going to get in.”

Percentagewise, Morris’ jump was the third largest of anyone on this year’s ballot, trailing just Larkin’s 20 percent leap and Jeff Bagwell bump. Morris’ Tigers teammate, Alan Trammell, had the next-highest jump, from 24.3 percent last year to 36.8 percent now, a carryover from the momentum on Larkin.

Former Tiger Juan Gonzalez was selected on just 23 ballots (four percent), seven short of the five-percent total he needed to remain on the ballot. The other ex-Tigers on the ballot, Phil Nevin and Ruben Sierra, did not receive a vote.

More quotes from Morris …

On the debate surrounding his career: “It’s not necessarily an easy vote. Obviously the guys that are into the number thing and the ERA got their point to make. It is what it is, and the process does what it does. I’m just grateful for the process because if it was just a one-year deal, and you either got in or you didn’t, it would be over.”

On Larkin: “It’s his day, and he deserves it. He’s a class guy and he had a great career. He’s endured a little bit being in his third year, but at least he’s been through a little bit of the process. I met Barry years and years ago when I was working out at the University of Michigan when I was playing for Detroit in the early years and he was a freshman at Michigan. I knew early on watching him and hearing the guys talk about him that he was a Major Leaguer.”

Up next on Conan: MLB superstar Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander’s offseason has included award presentations, an MLB Network stint or two and his face on a video game. The late-night talk show circuit was the next logical spot.

As you might have heard over the weekend, Verlander will be a guest on Conan Wednesday night, part of a trip to Los Angeles that includes some promotional stuff for 2K Sports MLB 2K12. The show starts at 11pm ET on TBS, which had a couple hours’ worth of Verlander back in October for Game 3 of the AL Division Series. Not sure when Verlander will be on; Jack McBrayer of 30 Rock is the other guest that night. Should be interesting to see Verlander chat it up in a non-baseball format.

In case you’re wondering, Verlander will NOT be the first Tiger to be a late-night talk show guest. According to this list on epiguides.com, Alan Trammell was a guest on Late Night with David Letterman on Oct. 29, 1984, two weeks after the Tigers won the World Series. I can’t find an episode guide for The Tonight Show back when Johnny Carson hosted, so I don’t have an answer that far back. Jack Morris was also a guest on Letterman after the 1991 World Series, but he was a Twin by then.