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.
Jack Morris threw his last pitch 20 years ago. Why have we not resolved his Hall of Fame fate by now? After 15 years of this debate, he's worn out by it, and everyone I know has had enough. We shouldn't need 15 years to figure out whether he, or anyone else, is a Hall of Famer. Should we? But here we go, one last time.
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.
As I wrote last year (and the year before that, and the year before that), it wasn't just a bunch of media knuckleheads who looked at Jack Morris and thought: "Ace." That's what pretty much the entire sport thought of him.
Is there any other explanation for why three different managers picked this guy to start three All-Star Games? Or why he started on Opening Day 14 years in a row (for three different teams)? Or why he always got the ball in Game 1, in all but one of the seven postseason series he participated in -- again, with three different teams?
And as Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci has meticulously documented, doesn't it mean something that Morris totally embraced the responsibilities of acehood in a way we haven't seen since, by taking the baseball and refusing to give it up?