Sunday, October 31, 2004

Where's the love?

Many weeks ago I sent Andy and Jason an e-mail about the 1984 Tigers. I forget how the idea came to me but it was one of the things that spawned the idea of this blog. The three of us think about baseball a lot and wanted an outlet to share these ideas. We do some e-mailing but never take a lot of time for any deeper looks.

Frankly, we're all probably too busy right now to do deep analysis anyway, even with the outlet. Nonetheless, I wanted to write a little bit about the 1984 Tigers, a fantastic team that I feel has been overlooked.

For Boston fans, it's understandable. That Detroit has not won a World Series in 20 years, well, who cares? Red Sox fans don't even recognize that White Sox fans have waited 87 years. And that will be my last gripe on this issue. :)

The Tigers started the 1984 season by steamrolling everyone in their path. Through May they were 37-9 and were ten games ahead of everyone in their division except for the Blue Jays. They were dominating in every fashion, leading the league in run scored and fewest runs allowed. They went a very respectable 67-49 the rest of the season taking the division by fifteen games and then defeating the Royals and Padres in the postseason.

Right there may be part of the reason this team is forgotten. The Padres and the Royals? Neither team has had a legacy of postseason success. Also, with the lack of a pennant race interest during the season from folks who were fans of AL East teams may have been minimal. Oh, for the want of a wild-card game!!!

That Tigers team had four players who can present cases for Hall of Fame induction; ace starting pitcher Jack Morris, batterymate Lance Parrish and the longtime double play combo of shortstop Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. Designated hitter Darrell Evans is arguably qualified as well.

Jack Morris was a pitcher who knew how to win. Season after season he would post lackluster numbers compared to peers considered more dominant but every year he would have plenty of wins. Morris won ten or more games fourteen times in his career, including twenty three times. He wasn't pretty. He didn't overpower hitters (the only time he led the league in strikeouts was a season where he pitched almost 300 innings). He wasn't a control artist. He surrendered a ton of home runs. You look at his numbers and you have to wonder how he won over 250 games.

Morris had a knack for pitching well enough to keep his team in the game. He could throw nine innings start after start. Morris, maybe more than any pitcher of his era, exhibited a desire to let his team win the game for him. Morris was a conduit of success, not the source of it. He could let hitters put the ball in play knowing he had great fielders like Whitaker and Trammell and Gibson behind him. He could give up a home run because his teammates would get it back, or more likely had already given him the lead. What made Morris a great pitcher can not be displayed statistically. We don't know the thought processes he went through. All we can do is recognize that he was an anomaly, aa person who could get a win when it mattered.

If not for the 1992 playoffs, one in which Morris pitched as a "hired gun" for the Toronto Blue Jays, he may be better remembered for getting the wins that mattered. Until 1992, Morris was 7-1 in playoff appearances, including 4-0 in the World Series. His 1-0, ten inning victory in game 7 of the 1991 World Series for the Minnesota Twins was legendary. The next season he lost three games in the playoffs including both World Series games he pitched.

Maybe if he could have ended his career after 1991, he would have been a lock for the Hall. Even still, he should be in. So let's take some time to show Jack the love and remember his fantastic pitching accomplishments.


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