DENVER—Throughout his career, Jack Morris always was up for a battle, so why should things be any different now?
The most dominant pitcher of his era, Morris is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the 13th time. It could well be his lucky number.
Morris, who was listed on 53.5 percent of the ballots cast by the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America a year ago, and Barry Larkin, who had the support of 62.1 percent of the voters, were the top two vote-getters among those who failed to win Hall of Fame election last year.
That’s why the two of them are in prime position to be honored in July 2012 in Cooperstown.
There were 27 players on this year’s ballot, including 12 first-timers. It is possible that other than Bernie Williams, none of the other first-timers will receive the 5 percent vote needed to be on the ballot a second time.
Each veteran member of the BBWAA is allowed to vote for as many as 10 candidates, though rarely is a 10-man ballot turned in.
For at least one voter, eight is enough this time around:
Jeff Bagwell: The NL rookie of the year in 1991 and unanimous pick as the MVP in 1994, Bagwell hit 449 home runs during his 15-year career with the Astros, and he spent the first nine seasons calling the pitcher-friendly Astrodome home.
Barry Larkin: An all-star in 12 of his 19 seasons with the Reds, he was the first 30-30 shortstop when he hit 33 home runs and stole 36 bases in 1996. A Gold Glover, he was NL MVP in 1995.
Jack Morris: He was a three-time 20-game winner, worked 200 innings 11 times and made 14 Opening Day starts, tied with Steve Carlton, Randy Johnson, Walter Johnson and Cy Young for second all-time behind Tom Seaver, who made 16. He also led the majors in the 1980s with 162 wins, 133 complete games and 2,444 innings.
Dale Murphy: Time is running out. He was on the ballot for the 14th time, one shy of the limit. He was a catcher who converted to center field, where he won five Gold Gloves, and was a middle of the lineup bat. He won back-to-back NL MVPs with the Braves in 1982-83.
Tim Raines: A 23-year major league veteran and seven-time all-star, he was known for his baserunning and ability to disrupt a defense, and was a Gold Glove winner in the outfield.
Lee Smith: He pitched for eight teams during his 18 big league seasons, and finished his career as the game’s all-time saves leader at 485, though the record has since been surpassed by Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera. A converted shortstop during his minor league career, he had 10 seasons of 30-plus saves, 13 with at least 20.
Alan Trammell: The most underrated player on the ballot, he somehow was on just 24.3 percent of ballots last year. He did everything on the field except turn somersaults, a strong defensive shortstop who matured into a legitimate run producer and a six-time all-star.
Larry Walker: He probably hurt himself by acting nonchalant about postseason memories during his career, but he was as gifted a player as any in the game at his time. A five-time All-Star, he was NL MVP in 1997. His career slugging percentage of .565 ranks 13th all-time, and in addition to hitting 383 home runs, he stole 230 bases.
Mark McGwire faces a double whammy in his bid for Cooperstown. One group won’t vote for him because of his ties to steroid use, and another questions his overall stat line. A 12-time all-star in his 16-year career, McGwire did hit 583 home runs, but he had only 1,626 hits and struck out 1,596 times.
This is McGwire’s sixth year on the ballot. A year ago he was named on 115 of the 581 ballots cast, 19.8 percent, three fewer votes than Walker.
Edgar Martinez faces the challenge of convincing voters that a DH deserves a spot in Cooperstown. A career .312 hitter, he hit 309 home runs and drove in 1,261 runs despite beginning his career in the hitter-friendly world of the Kingdome. Martinez appeared in the field in only 592 of his 2,055 big league games, and 33 times in his final 10 years.
Rafael Palmeiro carries a steroid stigma that offsets an impressive statistical resume, but it is hard to forget he was among the most selfish players to ever wear a uniform, and was never the best player on his team. Williams was an awfully good player on some awfully good Yankees teams, but it’s not the Hall of Awfully Good.