Finished in the top six in the AL in ERA 10 times, despite spending his whole career pitching in hitters' parks in the AL East. … Was awesome in 21 postseason starts (3.42 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 4.4-to-1 K/BB ratio). … A .638 winning percentage that ranks sixth all-time among members of the 250-Win Club. … And the clincher is this: nine seasons with an adjusted ERA-plus of 130 or better (and at least 24 starts). The only pitchers since 1900 with more seasons like that: Clemens, Walter Johnson, Grove, Christy Mathewson and Greg Maddux. And the group tied with Mussina at nine consists of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. Feel free to read that last nugget again. It has "Hall of Fame" written all over it.
It's going to take 27 to 30 votes (i.e., 5 percent) for Jeff Kent to survive to see a second year on the ballot. In ordinary times, I wouldn't have spent 10 seconds worrying whether that would be an issue. But you never know in these times. I acknowledge that Kent is far from a slam-dunk Hall of Famer. But if you measure him against other second basemen, he has selling points I couldn't ignore. Such as:
Finished his career with the highest slugging percentage (.500) by any second baseman since (gulp) Rogers Hornsby. … Hit more home runs as a second baseman (357) than anyone in history. Yeah, anyone. … Had more extra-base hits as a second baseman (914) than any player in history. Yeah, anyone. … Was the only second baseman who ever reeled off nine straight seasons with 60 extra-base hits or six straight with 100 RBIs. … Won an MVP award while playing on a team (the 2000 Giants) with Barry Bonds on it, and finished in the top 10 four times. … And got rave reviews from former teammates, who used terms like "winner," "fierce" and "clean" to describe him. … In short, Kent was a player with a historically significant career at his position, who has been too easily dismissed by other voters.
No matter how this turns out, Morris is about to make history. He got 67.7 percent of the votes cast last year. No player has ever gotten that high a percentage and not gone on to get himself elected. But it sure looks as if Morris is about to become the first, because that other 32.3 percent just doesn't see it.
Over these past 14 years, I've made every argument for why I vote for this man that I could possibly make. If you're looking just at the numbers beneath his name, I don't expect you to agree with any of them. But I've voted for Morris for a decade and a half, because I see the other side of an argument so heated that many people don't even believe there is another side.