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.

Comments (22)

  1. Billy Martin and the 1980 Oakland A’s. ‘Nuff said.

  2. I can’t stand it when old school guys give their opinions about today’s game. I find it’s even worse in hockey.

    • The funny thing is in baseball players in different eras could in theory compete fairly evenly against each other. Other than fitness levels and a couple of new pitches not much has changed. In hockey the skill level and speed of the average player is so much better than it was even 20 years ago, that a guy like Kahdri would probably have been a super duper star in the 1950s.

      • I don’t know that I agree with that. They throw SO MUCH HARDER now it is not even funny. If Babe Ruth had to face Randy Johnson, he would straight up pee his pants (more than usual, I mean).

    • Yeah, they have nothing to add to a conversation.

      • @ GSMC

        You frickin old guys always say that.

        • Ouch!

          I don’t like it when people say that old school players’ opinions are irrelevant. I don’t necessarily agree with Jack, but the argument about innings limits is nuanced. Maybe pitchers are being coddled. Dave Stewart said much the same thing earlier this year. It’s food for thought. Don’t is miss it out of hand.

          I have to go take a centrum silver. This typing has exhausted me.

  3. Nice work Drew…

  4. Drew, your pieces are always my favourites. Great read yet again.

  5. Jack Morris looks really good….i liked him when he won The World Series with The Blue Jays in 92/93….you should never hate this guys, no matter which team Jack played for!!

    Speedy D25

  6. Poll every player in the league and give them 2 options: A long career with no championships or a short career with a championship. Winning a championship wins every time. I am not saying Washington wins with Strasburg playing this post season, but they will always wonder what could have been. Talk about all the stupid pitch counts you want, but the extra 4 to 6 starts he would have in the post season isn’t going to effect his career. Period.

  7. Great article. This is how you’re supposed to internet!

  8. Drew Storen would have never blown the save in game 5 if Strausburg started that game

  9. Is his point maybe there are all arbitrary cut-offs. Not like we’ve been even close to having a double blind experiment on this issue – so it’s really all selective. For every verlander there is a bonderman. Pitching is an unnatural motion (unless you are a submariner) so more pitching is bad. But we will never know the right threahold.

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