Advice to Matt: Proceed with Caution

An open letter to Matt Morris.

As the courtship of Matt Morris advances and suitors line up at his agent's doorstep, an interesting list is evolving that should scream out one word to Matt – CAUTION.  If Matt truly values his future – and I think he does – he needs to deliberate very carefully before going to the highest bidder.  Others who have opted for the big bucks AND the teams they signed with have lived to regret the errors of their ways.


The first team to surface as bidding for Matt's services was the Colorado Rockies.  Frankly and in my humble opinion, Matt Morris and Coors Field are about as compatible as George Bush and Saddam Hussein on a double date.  If any pitcher in the league has learned a lesson about Coors Field it is to keep the ball down and accept that your breaking pitches won't break.  Now consider Morris' record of late.


To be a successful pitcher, Morris must keep his pitches down and have his 12 to 6 curve ball working.  He struggled to do either, even in the humid dense air of a St. Louis summer.  Despite a winning record, his performance in 2004 was a litany of home run bombs.  He placed second among National League pitchers in giving up the most home runs with 35.


His record in this regard improved in 2005 after off-season shoulder surgery, but his closing day performance against Cincinnati was appalling.  In 2005 Matt surrendered 22 home runs, but 16 of those came in his derailed post-All Star break stretch that saw him start one game less than prior to the break.  During the second half of the season, Matt was 4-8 with a 5.32 ERA.  Despite his apparent health, we were essentially seeing 2004 redux.


Now comes the Colorado Rockies calling for his services.  Matt should know from his close friendship with the late Darryl Kile that Coors Field eats excellent pitchers for lunch.  The thin mile-high air simply won't grab the seams of rotating baseballs that were intended to break.  The result is that relatively slow pitches hang somewhere around shoulder-high.  The energy of the bat viciously striking the ball is hardly dissipated by even more thin air as the ball leaves the park.  Mike Hampton, please call Matt and remind him.


Matt has struggled at Coors Field.  Over the last three years he has a 2-1 record – and there certainly is something to be said for results – but over 20 innings pitched in that time his ERA is 5.43.  Batters tagged him to the tune of a .291 average and he gave up 3 home runs.  In 2005 he started one game at Coors.  He prevailed, but gave up 10 hits over six innings.  Is this the kind of place he wants to call home?


Now comes the Kansas City Royals.  Matt made one start against the Royals this year.  It was at Kauffman Stadium.  He pitched seven innings and finished with a 6.43 ERA.  He gave up nine hits including one home run.  Over the past three years, Matt is 2-0 at Kauffman with a 4.20 ERA.  Batters hit for a .268 average including two home runs.  I would submit, though, that as Matt continues to struggle he is going to need a stellar defense and a Cardinal-like offense to offset his own troubles.  Those qualities won't be found in Kansas City.


If I were Matt Morris and felt obligated to consider my performance over the last two or three years, I would send my agent off in more hospitable directions where I might have enjoyed recent successes.  Those parks (and three year stats) might include Pittsburgh's PNC Park (3.00 ERA 4-0), Turner Field in Atlanta (2.08), Milwaukee's Miller Park (2.25) and Arizona's Bank One Ballpark (2-0, 1.69).  Conversely, I would fire my agent for contacting the Padres where at SBC Park my ERA over the last three years was 10.39, my record was 0-2, and I dished out 10 hits over 13 innings.


The fact is that Matt Morris, during his free agency, must be very, very careful if he is going to sign a contract that is truly in his best interests.  He has been blessed to have pitched in a city that loves him for a team with one of the finest defenses in major league baseball and at the same time one of the most feared offenses in the game.  If Morris is to succeed, he must evaluate and match his pitching style to both the team for which he will play and the ball park that must hold his mistakes.  Outside of the Cardinals, he may be hard pressed to find such a team.  Remember the wisdom of Dorothy, Matt.  There's no place like home.


Rex Duncan

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