Year Inducted: 1990 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 363/444)
The Big Red Machine was one of the greatest assemblies of talent ever on a baseball roster. Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, George Foster, Dan Driessen, Dave Concepcion, Senior Griffey, Cesar Geronimo, what an imposing and deep lineup. But, while many of those players were together for a couple of years, it wasn’t until 1972 that the team gelled and began its dominance. It was this season that the Reds acquired someone to man the keystone position that proved to be the key to them exploding. That was when they got future Hall of Famer, Joe Morgan.
Morgan played for 22 years in the bigs, mostly for the Reds but also spending quite a bit of time with the Astros. Little Joe slashed .271/.392/.427 in his long career, with a wRC+ of 135 playing primarily second base. Morgan smashed 449 doubles, 268 homers and 96 triples while anchoring the top of the order for the Reds along with Pete Rose. Morgan was a phenomenal hitter at the top of the order, with an incredible OBP and 11 years walking more than 90 times and over 2500 hits. Morgan was also fleet of foot, stealing 689 bases, scoring 1650 times and was worth 79 runs above average as a baserunner.
While he was an amazing hitter, defensively he was adequate. Morgan was worth 14 runs above average defensively which, after a very long career, is fine. Combine it with his offense, and it’s the makings of one of the finest players of all-time.
Morgan ended his career as one of four second basemen to be worth more than 90 fWAR, behind only Nap Lajoie, Eddie Collins and Rogers Hornsby. He also retired with the second most homers (behind only Hornsby), the second most steals (Collins), the fifth highest wRC+ (Hornsby, Collins, Lajoie and Jackie Robinson) and the most walks. Upon his retirement, Morgan was easily considered one of the five best second basemen to ever play the game.
Any article about Joe Morgan and baseball would be incomplete without talking about his second career as a broadcaster. As is well chronicled at other places like http://www.firejoemorgan.com, despite the length of his tenure, Morgan was viewed as a poor analyst and broadcaster. As evidenced above, Morgan as a player was a sabermetric darling, walking lots and hitting for power out of a middle infield position. Despite this, Morgan was constantly chafing against those same ideas as an analyst, romanticizing players like Christian Guzman and Bernie Williams while deriding younger, better players. Joe was always loyal to formerly great players that declined due to injuries or age, but abashedly against new players and ideas. Morgan would also often contradict himself, as he would say things like “I don’t like to discuss the Hall of Fame” shortly before a statement like “Dave Concepcion should be in the Hall of Fame.” As an announcer, Morgan left a lot to be desired.
Regardless of his announcing career, Morgan’s abilities on the ballfield were many and his accomplishments easily warranted first ballot induction, the third second baseman of all-time to be bestowed with that honor behind only Rod Carew and Jackie Robinson.
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