Almost a Yankee: Jack Morris

Starter? Reliever? How about pitcher?
Quick Hits: Peterson on pitching, roster decisions and the ALCS sked

When the Yankees were in Minnesota, albeit briefly this weekend, Jack Curry tracked down Jack Morris to catch up on old times. The two Jacks talked about 1996 when Jack Morris was almost a Yankee but backed out of the deal at the last minute. Morris, 41 at the time, now says he regrets that decision because he probably would have helped win himself a fourth World Series ring.

I don’t remember the dealings for 1996, and so I thought I’d dig up some archival materials on the dealings between Morris and the Yanks. When the 1996 season rolled around, Morris had been out of baseball for a year. He had a career record of 254-186 with a 3.90 ERA but had flamed out in Toronto and Cleveland in 1993 and 1994 respectively.

At the age of 41, Morris went to the St. Paul Saints to pitch in the independent league. On July 15, 1996, Currey reported that the Yanks were scouting Morris. At the time, the right-hander was 5-1 with a 2.17 ERA, and with David Cone out and Dwight Gooden aching, the Yankees were looking for some back-end help for the starting rotation. “That’s a real long shot,” GM Bob Watson said of landing Morris.

Over the next few days, the Morris rumors increased. On July 20, Morris and the Yankees appeared to be headed for a deal. The financials of the deal were in place, but Morris and the Yankees were haggling over Minor League starts. The veteran wanted to make just one Minor League start before being activated while the Yanks wanted him to make two.

“Jack feels he’s pitched in front of the Yankees for the last 20 years,” Morris’ agent Jim Barrons said. “Either the Yankees feel he can do it or he can’t. He doesn’t think pitching at Columbus will help that.”

The next day, Curry reported that the deal had fallen apart. According to Curry, Watson said “he was not thrilled with Morris’s fastball or his location on pitches.” Barrons claimed that then-Assistant GM Brian Cashman spoke about the dispute over the Minor League stint and not Morris’ fastball velocity which at the time was just 89.

In the end, Morris never made it back to the Big Leagues. The 1996 Yankees acquired Dave Weathers and Cecil Fielder at the deadline and managed to patch together a World Series-winning rotation anyway. No wonder Morris now regrets his decision to push for just one Minor League start.

Starter? Reliever? How about pitcher?
Quick Hits: Peterson on pitching, roster decisions and the ALCS sked
  • Mike Pop

    Over one minor league start? He turned away a chance to play for the Yankees and earn himself some cash over one minor league start?

    I pity the fool ;)

    • vin

      Sounds fishy to me. There’s got to be something more than him only wanting to make 1 minor league start.

      • Benjamin Kabak

        Sounds as though the Yanks soured on his stuff, and then he made it out to be the Minor League start. Notice how he didn’t eventually sign on with another team.

        • vin

          Exactly. He gave up 6 runs for St. Paul in a game that Gene Michael was scouting him. It was in 10 innings (not surprising), but still.

  • vin

    From the Times article:

    “Watson is not panicking and said he rebuffed the opportunity to obtain Kevin Appier, one the best pitchers in the American League, from the Royals because Kansas City asked for outfielder Ruben Rivera, the No. 1 prospect in the organization.”

    Appier would’ve fit in nicely with Pettitte, Key, and Cone. Better than Kenny Rogers and his 14.14 post season ERA.

    And speaking of Ruben Rivera, in 1999 he hit 23 HRs for the Padres, yet his OPS was only .701. Which compelled me to see what the lowest OPS for a batter who hit 23+ hr’s was:
    Tony Batista (2003)- 26 HRs, .235/.270/.393 = .663 (OPS)

    Ugh, figures it would be an Oriole. Don’t know who was in second… I’m not a Play Index subscriber.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Tony Batista’s statisically odd season that you reference above reminds me of one of my favorite statlines ever:

      In 1992, catcher Chris Hoiles hit 20 homers in 371 plate appearances, but had only 40 RBIs total. Half of which were himself, of course. He’s the only guy in history to hit at least 20 homers but drive in no more than 20 other runs outside of those homers.

      Of course, he ALSO played for the Orioles. Naturally.

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    We should have signed him anyway; sure, his stuff at that point was kinda shitty, but he was a bulldog competitor who always pitched to the score, he would have been great.

    Any miscellaneous idiot

  • Accent Shallow

    I wonder if this move would have affected anything, other than getting Morris a ring.

    The 1996 Yankees won the East by 4 games, and the second place Orioles won the wild card by 3 games, so even if he was awful, he doesn’t cost them a playoff spot. He may not make the playoff roster, either.

    • vin

      He just would’ve had to have been better than Kenny Rogers. Definitely possible.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        I’ll go out on not too much of a limb and say that he probably would NOT have been better than Kenny Rogers. I’ll say that if we add Morris midseason in 1996, he ends up getting left off the postseason roster and nothing noticeably different happens in the historical timeline.

        Morris was done at that point. Stick a fork in him.

        • Accent Shallow

          “A Sound of Thunder”. Get into it.

          (No, not the relatively recent shitty action movie)

  • Hi, I’m Jerry, this is my associate Cornelius

    Without Kenny Rogers we don’t get Scott Brosius. Nuff said.

  • Jerry

    Wasnt George interested in signing him during the mid 80’s collusion era? I seem to remember the Yanks passing on Morris and Kirk Gibson and then George being very peeved he gave in to whatever gentlemen’s agreement the owners had on collusion and didnt pay up.

    Am I remembering this right or worng? Anyone??

  • Kiko Jones

    FYI: Morris already had four rings–’84 Tigers, ’91 Twins, ’92-’93 Blue Jays–although he didn’t pitch in the ’93 post-season.