Jack Morris' Hall of Fame case seems to have two things going for it: Wins and "you had to be there." Morris had the most wins of any pitcher in the 1980s, and many who saw the former Tigers and Twins starter pitch feel there are more to him than just the numbers.
But there's one argument some have used regarding Morris that I want to address, and that's the one saying he pitched to the score. And that it was a good thing.
First of all, the idea that Morris pitched to the score is a myth, as proven by Baseball Prospectus' Joe Sheehan nearly nine years ago. Yet it still persists as an argument in the face of cold, hard facts, probably because of the "well, you had to be there" side of things.
But, taking a step back, why should any pitcher be rewarded for pitching to the score?
When I think "pitching to the score" I think of a pitcher who doesn't give it his all when his team is up or down by, say, four or more runs. But when games get close, that guy kicks things into another gear to get his team a win.
So, in other words, Morris was okay giving up four runs in seven innings if his team scored six or seven? What Hall-of-Fame worthy pitcher, would feel satisfied after that outing? That's not to say Morris felt content in his pitching on those days that helped push his career ERA to 3.90, but to some, it was good enough.
When thinking about this pitching-to-the-score question, I keep recalling how, in covering Notre Dame football this year, safety Harrison Smith bristled at any mention of "bend-but-don't-break defense." He would always mention how it was good the defense didn't give up a ton of points, but in reality, they would rather not give up those yards, either. Football teams don't play defense to the score; just like baseball pitchers don't pitch to the score.
I'm sure if you asked Morris, he'd say he would've rather not allowed so many runs. But somehow, Hall of Fame voters have tried to find a loophole in Morris' high ERA.
Again, that loophole doesn't exist. But if it did, it's not something for which Morris should be rewarded.
Then again, I wasn't there.