The Blue Jays needn't worry that Morris has become unhinged or, worse, soft and dreamy on the mound. Like the Twins before them, the Blue Jays now start the fiercest pitcher in baseball. A man can change some things, perhaps even stop glaring at his infielders and barking at impudent hitters and chilling the media, but Morris can't sacrifice his competitive nature afield. You don't win 236 games with just a forkball. You need attitude, too, and Morris has plenty left over from the '80s.
Dave Winfield, who became his teammate this year, says all he knew of Morris through the seasons was that attitude. "Never spoke to him." Winfield says. "Growled at me once. But the main thing about Jack is what a competitor he is. Most pitchers, when they're getting beat up, come to a point in the game when they just quit. Now, Jack can get beat up, but he's never quit. As far as the pitchers I've faced in my career go, that puts him in a category with Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Bob Gibson and Juan Marichal. How's that for a category?"
In the old days his terrible determination could make a fool of him as easily as it could the batter. "If things weren't working out," Morris says, "I tended to lose it." The tantrums were not spectacular, but they did seem selfish and mean-spirited. Morris says now that he never meant to criticize his Tiger teammates when they made mistakes behind him, but that's sure how it looked. "Maybe my old teammates do think I'm a jerk," he says with regret. "When I looked at myself from their point of view, well, I didn't like what I saw either."
Nowadays he is more careful about displaying any emotion on the mound. Instead, his intensity is more constructively channeled, as it was in Game 7 of last year's World Series when, making his third start against the Atlanta Braves in eight days, he pitched and won a 10-inning shutout. Morris did not display anything but a grimness of purpose in that game, which is now hailed as his signature moment in baseball. He wouldn't quit, or couldn't. "Who was going to take him out of this game?" wondered Twin outfielder Randy Bush. "Who would have had the courage to say, Jack, you're done?"
That determination is spaced fairly evenly throughout a season, or else he wouldn't be winning so many games. But it really gets dialed up as the season winds down. "I've always known him as a second-half pitcher," says Carter. "Most especially as a postseason pitcher. When you think postseason, you think Morris."
This season follows along those lines. He's 10-3 since the All-Star Game, gearing up for another postseason, this one with the division-leading Blue Jays, and everybody knows what Morris does in the World Series: Including the 1984 World Series, he is 4-0 with a 1.54 ERA.
In fact, some people in Toronto think he was snapped up in free agency not so much for 20 wins during a season but for two in the playoffs. After all, this is a team that has no difficulty getting to the championship series; it just can't seem to get any further. And when you draw four million fans, is it really an extravagance to commit $15 million over three years for a World Series appearance?
Morris doesn't like to think that his talent is something he can turn on and off, but he does agree that he reaches terrific levels of concentration when the game demands it. Says Morris, "There's something to be said for adrenaline."
This probably explains why a player with so many victories can have an ERA that hovers around 4.00 (this could be the sixth season he exceeds that number). He coasts when he can, buckles down when he can't. "For some reason," he says with the tone of a man who has answered this complaint all too often, "I thought the purpose of this game was winning."
It is for the teams who bid on his services, although they came late to the bidding. Morris had to suffer through the collusion years; in 1986 he shopped himself around after a 21-8 season and—amazing, isn't it?—found no takers. It was seemed in decline and his leverage forever gone. Records of a small revenge when he won a $975,000 raise in arbitration with the Tigers in '87, but after that point his career 18-11, 15-13, 6-14 and 15-18 from '87 to '90 were poor bargaining tools as he explored his options.