Rehire Joe Morgan

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.

Comments (9)

  1. Also, he did have his strengths as a broadcaster. When he was talking about the physical actions involved in playing baseball, the specific things that you have to make your body do to make the play right, he was very good. I learned things. It was the wider analysis that he wasn’t so good at.

  2. He quit playing nearly 30 years ago. hard to believe I know.

    I couldn’t stand Joe as an announcer for a long time but I do remember in their early days thinking Jon Miller and Joe Morgan were a great team to listen to. Not sure if it was me getting smarter or if he just didn’t keep up with the time and became a bit of an anachronism.

    Either way, he was still a hell of a ballplayer, wish I could have seen him play live.

  3. The best thing is how much Joe the announcer would’ve disliked Joe the ballplayer, outside of the out-of-this-world MVP years. Low averages and a ton of walks? Not doing his job, to Joe the announcer.

  4. Good call, Bill. I was just going to say, Morgan would probably react to a story calling him one of the best players of all time because his WAR during peak years with incredulity. “DEVIL STAT!”

    • It’s funny that you say that, because Jon Miller, Joe’s play-by-play partner on SNB, actually told him on a broadcast that sabermetricians ranked him as the greatest 2nd basement of all time. He scoffed, and said “there’s no way I was better than Rogers Hornsby. The guy hit .420 one year!”

  5. Joe Morgan is indirectly responsible my introduction to sabermetrics. Years ago I was complaining about Morgan’s announcing, and my father-in-law mentioned that using some new-fangled statistics, Morgan ranked in the highest tiers of career performance, and that I should really read this almanac that this Bill James fella put out…

  6. People also forget how absurdly good Skinny Barry Bonds was. If he retired at 33 and never got to his puffiest seasons (circa age 37), he would’ve been an easy Hall of Famer. Isn’t that worth something, Steroid Fetishists?

  7. When I was a kid, I actually liked Joe and loved Sunday night baseball. I remember when it started in either ’90 or ’91 and being excited for Sunday night baseball. The production was always so much more advanced and refined then the Blue Jays and Expos games broadcast on TSN, CBC or CTV. I never felt the hate for Joe Morgan that everyone else had/has because Miller and Morgan were always so nostalgic for me i didn’ t really care if Morgan was an anti-saber guy. Plus i’ve always figured that if a guy puts up the career Joe Morgan did he can say and believe whatever he wants. Its when Greg Zaun and Chris Woodward start bashing sabermetrics that it really grinds my gears.

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