Poking around on Baseball Reference and Fangraphs is essentially my job. If I’m working on a post, looking to make lazy/easy/reckless comparisons, or mining for post ideas; it is a great way to breakout of the tiresome news cycle.
Like most people, I’m a slave for the now. Whatever just happened was likely the “Best ____ Ever” and this modern guy is the best to play the game. If we didn’t see it, it didn’t happen. Eras change and players from antiquity stand little chance against the modern cyborgs of physical fitness.
Thanks to advancements in statistics, it is now easier to compare players from different eras. Rather than line up raw numbers, we can adjust for times or use tools that compare players to the best of their day. This helps narrow-minded types like myself appreciate those who came before.
Joe Morgan is best known as a lousy announcer to an entire generation of baseball fans. They know him from his less than stellar work on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball and they know him from the universally loved blog featuring his name, Fire Joe Morgan.
The men and women behind FJM (later outed as high profile TV writers with Harvard educations) made great sport of the inane blather Morgan spouted on a weekly basis. At the end of his ESPN run, he seemed unprepared and ill-informed. It wasn’t a pleasant viewing experience when Joe was on the mic.
If this is the only way some baseball fans remember Joe Morgan, every person reading this must make it his or her personal mission to rectify this grave injustice. Joe Morgan was a bad broadcaster but one of the very greatest baseball players of all time.
Joe Morgan finished his career with more than one hundred Wins Above Replacement. One hundred! 108 fWAR, 103 rWAR. Not only did Morgan play at a high level for twenty-two seasons, he also put up one of the greatest peaks in baseball history.
Below is a list of the top 10 peaks since the end of World War II. The highest cumulative WAR for players between their age 27 and age 33 seasons.
Willie Mays. Barry Bonds. Joe Morgan. If we include the pre-War and segregation eras, Morgan slides all the way down to seventh place. Limiting the age span to 28-32 year seasons, Morgan ranks second behind Babe Ruth. He walked. He stole bases at and 80% clip. He hit for power in a way few second baseman did before.
Or since, come to think of it. Among players with 80% of their time spent at second, Morgan still ranks third all-time in home runs. Morgan didn’t reach the hallowed heights of 3000 career hits but he did finish with more than 1800 walks in his career, good for fifth all time. If you borrowed the 483 hits Morgan needs to reach 3000 from his walks total, he would still rank in the top 30 for career bases on balls.
Because he quit playing nearly
twentythirty years ago, it is understandable that many young fans don’t know or appreciate Morgan for what he did on the field. Which is why we’re here, ready to spread the gospel of Joe Morgan to those who might not be familiar with his level of dominance.
We might not have seen him play either, but we can at least tip our collective hats thanks to the best second baseman of all time and one of the greatest to ever play the game. May your real legacy outlast the snark of bored SNL alums. You deserve it, Joe.