5. "RIP to da gawd. maybe the best ever at his position" In response to Reply # 0
I also really enjoyed his commentary, he and Miller were great together. On the diamond he was incredible, so much talent packed into a compact frame.
This is what the sixth HOF player to die in 2020? Some monster names, too, and guys that really came to symbolize their organizations with Kaline, Morgan, Seaver, Brock, Ford and Gibson. Real giants of the game.
And you will know MY JACKET IS GOLD when I lay my vengeance upon thee.
10. "Joe Posnanski on Morgan today:" In response to Reply # 0
I don't usually do this, but it deserves to be read.
Posnanski: Everything Joe Morgan did on the field adds up to an undeniable legacy
Yes, it bothered me a little bit that Joe Morgan so deeply loathed the Wins Above Replacement statistic. There are plenty of reasons to gripe about WAR, and I can certainly understand why a dirt-on-the-uniform ballplayer whose very livelihood relied on old-fashioned stats and clichés would rebel against a newfangled statistical model built on complicated math.
It bothered me with Morgan most, though, because in so many ways he was the very reason WAR was conceived in the first place. WAR helped explain his particular genius better than anything or anyone ever had before.
In 1990, 81 writers did not vote Morgan into the Hall of Fame. That is a lot. True, he still made it with about 30 votes to spare — he got 82 percent of the vote — but it was clear that a substantial number of people did not see him as a first-ballot Hall of Fame guy. Lots of people seemed to understand he was great. But not many people seemed to know he was GREAT, all capital letters, maybe the greatest second baseman in baseball history.
“The first ballot is very special,” Newsday’s Marty Noble said to explain why he didn’t vote for Morgan.
See over that time period, you had your slam-dunk, first-ballot Hall of Famers — they were a different breed:
1983: Brooks Robinson, 92 percent
1989: Johnny Bench, 96 percent; Carl Yastrzemski, 95 percent
1990: Jim Palmer, 93 percent
1991: Rod Carew, 91 percent
1992: Tom Seaver, 99 percent
1993: Reggie Jackson, 94 percent
1994: Steve Carlton, 96 percent
1995: Mike Schmidt, 97 percent
1999: Nolan Ryan, 99 percent; George Brett, 98 percent.
Morgan, who died Sunday at age 77, was every bit as good as every player on this list and probably better than most. It was hard, though, for people to see it that way without an all-encompassing statistic that took into account all the things he did so well. When Morgan was eligible for the Hall of Fame, he was a .271 hitter who won a couple of MVPs, five Gold Gloves and played in eight All-Star games.
“It’s hard for me to think about it — if it happens, it will be great,” Morgan said in the weeks leading up to the announcement. “I do hope they look past the statistics and at some of the intangibles.”
But it wasn’t “intangibles” that were missing from his statistical record. Walks are not intangible. Baserunning success is not intangible. Defensive value, while a continuous work in progress, is not intangible. The many, many things that Joe Morgan did on a baseball diamond to help his team win are quite tangible and measurable and waiting to be counted.
Whatever problems people might have with WAR, the idea is to count everything we can.
With Morgan, that means counting the walks, counting the extra-base hits, counting the stolen bases (without forgetting the times he was caught stealing), counting the times he went first to third or second to home on a single, counting the value he brought by playing second base every day, counting the run environment when he played, counting his ability to avoid hitting into double plays, counting the importance of his hits in winning games, and so on.
And the thing is, with Joe, the more stuff you count, the better he becomes. If he had become eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2020 instead of 1990, his 101 WAR would be on display — 21st all-time for position players, squeezed between those two slam-dunk Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski and Mike Schmidt.
If he had come up in 2020 instead of 1990, his 79.9 JAWS — which Jay Jaffe invented to combine career value with peak value — would be on display. It’s far and away the highest JAWS score for any second baseman since World War II.
Sure, it was hard for Joe Morgan to feel any of that. He was an instinctual player, one who believed in heart and grit and leadership. His philosophy came through in every game he broadcast, when he celebrated players who rose to the occasion and delivered when it counted and, most importantly, played the game the right way. Some of us poked fun at him for his refusal to open up to some new things, but he loved baseball as he knew it. “I don’t need any of these Moneyball statistics to tell me about baseball,” he told me once, and he was right. He didn’t.
But I do wish he’d have appreciated just how beautifully some of those numbers told his story. In 1975, for instance, he hit .327 with 27 doubles, six triples and 17 home runs. He walked a league-leading 132 times. His .466 on-base percentage was 60 points higher than anyone else in the league. In Baseball-Reference WAR, that made him worth 55 more runs than average.
He stole 67 bases and was caught just 10 times. He scored about 75 percent of the time when he was on second and a single was hit. He scored more often than not when he was on first and a double was hit. As a baserunner, he was worth 10 runs more than average.
He played second base, a difficult and important defensive position, so that was worth five more runs. He played second brilliantly, getting to everything, leading the league in fielding percentage. That was worth another 14 runs above average.
Tack on a couple of runs for his ability to avoid the double play — he hit into just three all season — and you put it all together, and Morgan was worth 85 runs more than an average ballplayer. Adjust that to replacement level and convert it to wins, Morgan has an 11.0 WAR for 1975 — that’s the fourth-best season for any player since the 1969 expansion.
Highest WAR for position players since 1969:
Barry Bonds, 2001, 11.9 Bonds, 2002, 11.8 Cal Ripken Jr., 1991, 11.5 Joe Morgan, 1975, 11.0 Mookie Betts, 2018, 10.6
It’s math, sure, but it truly is beautiful if you dive in; Morgan’s greatness was put together piece by piece, base by base, play by play. He led National League position players in WAR in 1972, ’73, ’75 and ’76 and he finished just behind Mike Schmidt in ’74. On the Big Red Machine Reds, Pete Rose was more celebrated because he had so many hits and played with such violence. Johnny Bench was more celebrated because he was such a glorious catcher, and he hit so many home runs. Even Tony Pérez was more celebrated by some because he drove in runs and RBIs have stirred the imagination of baseball fans since more or less the dawn of time.
But Joe Morgan was the essential player. A few years ago, when I was writing the book “The Machine,” I went to a dinner in Cincinnati which featured the Great Eight players of the Big Red Machine. If you are a baseball fan of a certain age, you can probably still name them:
Catcher: Bench First base: Pérez Second base: Morgan Third base: Rose Shortstop: Dave Concepción Left field: George Foster Center field: César Gerónimo Right Field: Ken Griffey Sr.
In any case, the other players were good-naturedly mocking Morgan, saying that the Reds essentially saved him when they traded for him, saying that they taught him how to play the game right, saying that he owed them his Hall of Fame election. Morgan laughed and admitted that he became the best version of himself in Cincinnati.
“But,” he added, “you guys didn’t win anything until I got there. You didn’t save me. I saved you.”