November 28, 2012 at 1:00 am

Tony Paul

Tigers' Jack Morris might finally be Hall of Famer on 14th try

Jack Morris throws out the first pitch before Game 3 of the ALCS at Comerica Park on Oct. 16. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)

Jack Morris should soon, finally, be heading to the Hall of Fame.

But if that happens, he still won't be the story.

The 2013 Hall of Fame ballot was released Wednesday, and it includes the trifecta of steroid-era poster children: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa.

We all are super curious to see how the voting shakes out with those three, who are slam-dunk Hall of Famers based on numbers alone — but not when you consider the juicing allegations.

The voters — members of the Baseball Writers Association of America for 10 consecutive years or more — already haven't looked too kindly upon other acknowledged or suspected cheats, like Mark McGwire (who hasn't cracked 23.7 percent) or Rafael Palmeiro (12.6 percent).

Heck, even Jeff Bagwell — the only evidence against him was having big muscles — only got to 56 percent last year, his second on the ballot.

Seventy-five percent of the vote — a tougher criteria then being elected president of the United States — is needed for induction, and this year it will be more difficult than ever to make the grade. There are more voters than ever, more than 600 for the first time.

It's impossible to get a consensus at the Thanksgiving dining-room table, let alone a banquet hall.

Ballots will be mailed to voting members by Saturday, the packet complete with bios on the 37 players eligible (Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling and Mike Piazza are the other notable newcomers). Voters have until New Year's Eve to get the ballots back to New York, with an announcement set for Jan. 9.

The Detroit News' Tom Gage and Lynn Henning have ballots.

Tiger drought

There hasn't been a player who spent the majority of his career with the Tigers elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA since 1980, when Al Kaline was a first-year selection.

It's quite possible that changes in January.

Morris, 57, the winningest pitcher of the 1980s and a three-time World Series champion, is gaining momentum, and his 14th try (out of a maximum 15 years on the ballot) might just be the charm.

Morris last time around was on 66.7 percent of the ballots, a jump of 13.2 percentage points from the year before. Even a slightly less jump this time around will get him in Cooperstown.

The momentum, in this belief, can be tied to the candidacy of Bert Blyleven, who finally made it in 2011, his 14th year on the ballot. Morris and Blyleven had similar cases, and Blyleven getting over the hump had to open some eyes for Morris' case. The argument against Morris always has been ERA; it was a robust 3.90. But he was unquestionably a winner, the ace of three different championship winners, with the 1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins and 1992 Blue Jays.

So, even if a few years too late, his time appears to have come.

And the 1984 Tigers finally will have a player to join manager Sparky Anderson in the Hall of Fame.

Trammell outlook

For Alan Trammell, the waiting game will continue. The longtime shortstop for the Tigers struggles to get the respect of the electorate, even if advanced metrics have put his career in a more positive light.

Barry Larkin making it last year did give Trammell, 54, a boost. According to Baseball-Reference.com's player comparison, Trammell and Larkin are neck and neck - and so when Larkin got in, Trammell not so coincidentally received his highest level of support, 36.8 percent.

That was a 12.5-percentage-point increase from the year before, and if he continues to add that kind of support every year, he'll get in before the clock expires four years from now.

Still, that's not likely. He only barely got to the halfway point last year, and this year's ballot probably does him no favors. While some would say the spotlight on steroids will put players from the 1980s in a better light, the ballot also is seriously cluttered - and so much attention is likely to be paid on the bigger names, Trammell (and this could be a risk for Morris, too) could get lost in the shuffle. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Trammell's voting percentage decrease.

If only he had learned that darn backflip.

Odds are, he gets in early via the Veterans Committee, when he and Lou Whitaker can together.

Ballot breakdown

Baseball writers still don't know what to make of the steroid era, and there really are no firm guidelines handed out by the Hall of Fame, other than character does, indeed, matter.

Everyone has a different opinion on this issue, and I am no different.

My take: Each case much be judged separately based on the information that is available — rather than lumping all of the alleged juicers into one category, and electing them all or denying them all.

So here's how I would break it down:

* Bonds: Yes. Assuming it's true he didn't start taking steroids until jealously kicked in during the late-1990s home-run boom, well, then he probably was a Hall of Famer already.

* Clemens: No. Just the opposite as Bonds, he hadn't hit that threshold and his career was on the decline when he arrived in Toronto in 1997 and met a man named Brian McNamee.

* Sosa: No. The production increased way too much, too fast, for my liking.

* Holdovers: Bagwell, with that .408 OBP, should be in — and could get a significant lift with longtime teammate Craig Biggio making his debut on the ballot. I also like Palmeiro, with his steady career and those 3,020 hits and 569 homers tough to ignore. McGwire, though, only played 11 full seasons, finished with 1,626 hits and eventually admitted taking the PEDs. That's a no.

Major snub

The Baseball Hall of Fame, like any club, has its questionable inclusions and exclusions.

But there might be no bigger snub than one Marvin Miller, who now won't see the day he eventually gets in. The longtime executive director of the MLB Players Association died Tuesday at the age of 95.

By doing his job, from 1966-82, better than anyone did before or since, he oversaw the creation of free agency and a profit boom for the players — that saw the average salary rise 17 times over, from $19,000 to more than $300,000. Today, the average salary is more than $3 million, and while much of that is a product of inflation, it's also the work of Miller, the mustachioed negotiator.

Of course, that also made him public enemy No. 1 for the league office and ownership.

And that's the chief reason he's not in the Hall of Fame, as team executives make up a chunk of the Veterans Committee, which has denied him entry multiple times, most recently in December 2010.

It's such a crock, even current commissioner Bud Selig has blasted his exclusion.

Miller, one day, will get his day in Cooperstown. It's just a shame he won't be there to enjoy his place along the game's greats, most of whom didn't come close to having the impact on baseball he did.

Deer and Cubs

Nobody will ever confuse Rob "Home Run of Strikeout" Deer as a Hall of Famer. But he is the newest member of the Cubs' coaching staff, having been named as assistant hitting coach under manager — and former Brewers teammate — Dale Sveum.

"I teach a lot of things that I didn't do," Deer, a longtime Brewers and Tigers slugger who had 230 career homers and a .220 batting average, told MLB Network. "I never talk about hitting a home run.

"I think the worst thing that ever happened to me was learning how to hit home runs at a young age."

The Cubs are the latest team to go to a two-hitting coach system, joining the Tigers, among others. The Cardinals used it during their world championship run in 2011.

Deer, 52, will work with Cubs hitting coach James Rowson, much like Toby Harrah works alongside Lloyd McClendon with the Tigers.

Bottom line: With the increased use of video technology and scouting reports, one hitting coach easily can get overwhelmed working with 12 or 13 hitters on a regular basis. A helping hand goes a long way.

Expect this setup to be the norm in baseball clubhouses before too long.

Tony's picks

The Detroit News' Tony Paul picks his Hall of Famers from the ballot released Wednesday:

Sandy Alomar Jr., NO

Jeff Bagwell, YES

Craig Biggio, YES

Barry Bonds, YES

Jeff Cirillo, NO

Royce Clayton, NO

Roger Clemens, NO

Jeff Conine, NO

Steve Finley, NO

Julio Franco, NO

Shawn Green, NO

Roberto Hernandez, NO

Ryan Klesko, NO

Kenny Lofton, NO

Edgar Martinez, YES

Don Mattingly, NO

Fred McGriff, NO

Mark McGwire, NO

Jose Mesa, NO

Jack Morris, YES

Dale Murphy, NO

Rafael Palmeiro, YES

Mike Piazza, YES

Tim Raines, NO

Reggie Sanders, NO

Curt Schilling, YES

Aaron Sele, NO

Lee Smith, NO

Sammy Sosa, NO

Mike Stanton, NO

Alan Trammell, YES

Larry Walker, YES

Todd Walker, NO

David Wells, NO

Rondell White, NO

Bernie Williams, NO

Woody Williams, NO

tpaul@detnews.com

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