There is no need to sully the good name of Jack Morris on these digital pages again. If you aren’t already familiar with the official company line on the former Tigers, Blue Jays, and Twins starter, you can probably just assume and end up reasonably close.
When Jack Morris decides to sound off about the Stephen Strasburg Shutdown, there is no need to bring his resume into the discussion. His words do all the heavy lifting required to discredit his unique view.
When Jack Morris told the assembled writers that he thought “the whole pitch count experiment” was over, that the Nats front office should “pay attention” to guys going deep into games, he sort of missed the point.
Guys like Jack Morris like to cite individuals at the top of their game as proof positive that pitch counts are bunk, that players are weak now and the pitch counts are a pox upon the game. When Morris cites his own experience, or the workhorse nature of his contemporaries, he ignores how special they are just for being there, how unique a workhorse was then just as it is today. How the reason they won awards and pitched in big games was because they were athletic freaks, a rare breed indeed.
Old school guys like Morris don’t like to recall former teammates like Dave Rozema, who posted two terrific seasons at 20/21 but never again made even 20 starts in a season. Or former Tiger Jeremy Bonderman, who pitched 750 innings before he turned 24 and was out of baseball at 27.
Expecting Jack Morris to familiarize himself with studies showing pitch counts are basically the same now as they were 20 years ago, aside from a trend away from shorter starts, isn’t fair or realistic. Expecting Jack Morris to acknowledge that he and his contemporaries — just like the modern hurlers — pitched worse as their pitch counts grew and every time they turned over the lineup, is also unfair. That the average starter in 1983 pitched 6.27 innings per start while the average starter in 2012 went only 5.88 innings (a difference of less than two outs) is immaterial to Big Game Jack.
Jack Morris isn’t without a point: the perceived coddling of players isn’t good for the game. Pitchers like Morris and Dave Stieb and CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander are all great for the game. Because they’re great. They are, however, the exception to the rule. The Nationals don’t forbid their starters from going deep into games – they dealt with a delicate and unique situation in the manner they deemed best. Right or wrong, the Nats and situation wasn’t like Adam Wainwright’s or anyone else’s.
So Jack, please accept the collective admiration of the internet for your praiseworthy durability. To amass so many innings at the big league level (nearly 4000) ranks you among the very best in the modern era. This is not nothing. But it makes you the exception to the rule. It’s the reason you made so much money, just as it is the reason CC Sabathia makes so much money.
It wouldn’t hurt to acknowledge, from time to time, that throwing 250 innings a year is REALLY, REALLY HARD. It was hard in your day and remains very hard now. Take a bow, puff out your chest. You’re a winner Jack – and nobody can take that away from you. Not even you, despite your weird attempts to discredit your own achievement. Weird, dude.