It's been a 15-year odyssey for Jack Morris of wandering up and sometimes down the list of Hall of Fame candidates. (Dale G. Young / Detroit News)
Detroitó Jack Morris will be ďat peaceĒ with either outcome.
If heís elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday by the Baseball Writers Association, ďIíll be thrilled, of course,Ē the former Tigers ace said during a telephone interview.
ďBut Iíll be even happier for my family, friends and all those who have supported me every step of the way. Itís a long journey thatís coming to an end.Ē
Itís been a 15-year odyssey for Morris, in fact, of wandering up and sometimes down the list of Hall of Fame candidates.
And wondering if the eventual ending will be happy.
ďI donít let it bother me anymore,Ē Morris said. ďLong ago, I came to grips with the fact that I donít control any of it. My record is what it is.
ďIím proud of the career I had. If others donít think it was enough for me get into the Hall of Fame, so be it.Ē
Morris is well aware of why his phone rings so often at this time of year, though.
If itís early January, it must be Hall of Fame announcement time.
And if itís Hall of Fame time, Morris gets called more than most candidates.
More, no doubt, than does former Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell.
In his 13th year of eligibility, Trammellís chances of being elected remain remote because heís never garnered even half the required percentage despite favorable comparisons with several shortstops already inducted.
Plenty of competition
At first, when his voting totals werenít encouraging, the calls to Morris went like this: ďStill optimistic, Jack?Ē
As his percentage improved, but not to the extent of putting him on the brink of the 75 percent needed for induction, the conversation turned to how many more years of eligibility he had remaining.
Ten became five.
Five became three.
Three became one.
One has come down to now.
Instead of being the best pitcher on the list of hopefuls, however, Morris is just one of many who made a name for himself.
The others are new kids on the block, at least to the extent this is their first of year of eligibility and viewed as first-ballot shoo-ins.
Greg Maddux will make it. Tom Glavine probably will as well. Both won 300-plus games in the majors.
Morris won 254.
Morrisí candidacy never has been based on career victories, though. Itís been constructed upon the combination of the games he won, how tough a competitor he was and how much postseason success he enjoyed ó three World Series victories.
Among eligible hitters in this election, Frank Thomas ó with his 521 home runs and 1,704 RBIs ó is another first-year player thought to be a stronger candidate than Morris, who might not get the full sentimental bump that often comes with a playerís final year of eligibility.
In part, itís the caliber of his competition that keeps Morrisí candidacy, even at the wire, from looking certain.
Then again, if he wasnít a borderline candidate, Morris already would be in. It would have taken him five or 10 years, not the full 15.
But thatís why Morrisí phone still rings in early January.
And why heís asked the same questions heís answered numerous times.
ďIs this the year, Jack?Ē
This time, though, the queries are punctuated by the awareness that either because heíll be elected or simply run out of time, they wonít be asked again last year.
So letís take one last look, and study for one last time, the chances Morris, the winningest pitcher of the 1980s, will be elected.
To do so, Morris has to make the jump from the 67.7 percent he received last year.
It initially was thought he had a chance to make it last year because he had climbed from 53.5 percent in 2011 to 66.7 in 2012. It was the single biggest surge in attention Morris has received since 2000, his first year on the ballot.
Another similar surge last year, and he would have made it. But he improved only one percent.
Then again, in two of his 14 years, Morris has gone backward in his vote totals.
But itís not unheard of for a player to go from where Morris was last year to being elected the next. The most recent case involved shortstop Barry Larkin, who was named on 62.1 percent of the ballots in 2011, his second year of eligibility, but was elected with 86.4 percent in 2012.
Itís also not unheard of for a player to make it on his 15th try. Bostonís Jim Rice was elected in 2009 with 76.4 percent in his 15th year after being as low as 29.4 percent in his fifth.
Riceís climb was every bit as arduous as Morrisí in that Rice went backward four times before a wave of support swept him over the top in his last year of being eligible.
Will that happen with Morris? It could.
But if it doesnít, as he said, heíll be at peace.