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Morris on crowded HOF ballot for last time – will steroid era get him in?

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The National Baseball Hall of Fame has released its ballot for potential Hall of Famers, and the list is a doozy, with 36 players appearing.

Voters are the approximately 600 writers who have been members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America for 10 consecutive years at any point. Ballots are due by Dec. 31, and results will be announced Jan. 8.

As the Associated Press reports, first-timers include four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux, two-time winner Tom Glavine and two-time AL MVP Frank Thomas are among 19 newcomers.

Steroid-tainted holdovers Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are still lingering, and last year the writers' association didn't vote in anyone for the first time since 1996.

Which leads us to Jack Morris, who came in second last year to Craig Biggio, but both failed to get the threshold to make it in. This is the 15th year on the ballot for Morris, and this is his final shot to get in. So let the debate begin: Does he belong?

Here are his career stats. The rap on the St. Paul native who spent 14 years with the Detroit Tigers, one great one with the Twins, two great ones with the Toronto Blue Jays and one more with the Cleveland Indians, is that he only had 254 wins, not quite near enough to the somewhat arbitrary 300 victories that usually ensure induction. (He had 186 losses, but logged time during some bleak years in Detroit.)

And another knock: His career ERA is 3.90.

The argument for is simple: He pitched the great World Series Game 7 ever, throwing 10 scoreless innings as the Twins defeated the Braves in 1991.

(Don't take our word for it. See below for some excellent videos recalling that great game.)

CBS Sports says Morris is "on the bubble" but might benefit from a "last year on the ballot" push. CNN barely mentions him in the sea of marginal players on the ballot.

Phil Rogers of MLB.com thinks Morris should definitely get in, writing about his supreme post-season performances:

"But when I think about Morris, I think about the guy I covered when he started Game 1 of the World Series in 1984, '91 and '92 for three different teams -- and there were parades in Detroit, Minneapolis and Toronto, none of which would have happened without Morris.

"That's a fact I can't get out of my head, just as I would always flash to 60 shutouts when Bert Blyleven was mentioned in Hall of Fame discussions. Despite such an astounding number, it took 14 ballots for Blyleven to be voted in, a tribute to one of the highest bars in sports."

Randball over at the Star Tribune thinks the appearance of Mike Mussina, with a similar career and post-season record, will nudge Black Jack out.

Yeah, but, come on: Game 7. ESPN lists that game and the 1991 series as one of the most memorable moments of the last 25 years.

Finally, here's another rub: The BBWAA clearly isn't ready to vote in the players who have been linked to steroids, and despite a rather stellar list of first-timers, that could sneak Morris in once and for all.

Here's a long look at Game 7 and the '91 series from MLB.com:

And another that looks at the duel between Morris and Braves pitcher John Smoltz:

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