Matthew Christian Morris
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 5", Weight 210 lb.
- School Seton Hall University
- High School Valley Central High School
- Debut April 4, 1997
- Final Game April 26, 2008
- Born August 9, 1974 in Middletown, NY USA
1992-1995: Amateur Career
Morris played soccer, baseball and basketball in high school. The Milwaukee Brewers picked him in the 26th round of the 1992 amateur draft but he did not sign. He pitched in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League in the summer one year in college. He was 5-5 with a 3.84 ERA as a sophomore in 1994 and was 4th in the Big East Conference in ERA, well back of leader C.J. Nitkowski. Morris made the All-Conference team. He was 4-1 with a 2.48 ERA that summer for Team USA. In the 1994 Baseball World Cup, he went 1-1 with a 3.48 ERA. Against the Dutch national team, he tossed five shutout innings, but he gave up six runs in 5 1/3, walking 5, in a loss to Panama.
In 1995, Matt posted a 10-3, 2.68 record with 104 strikeouts and 64 hits allowed in 94 innings (albeit with 54 walks). The American Baseball Coaches Association and Baseball America chose him as a first-team All-American. He made the Big East All-Conference team but lost pitcher of the year honors to Mike Macone. He was 6th in ERA and possibly second in strikeouts in the Conference.
1995-1996: Minor Leagues
Morris was picked by the St. Louis Cardinals with the 12th overall pick of the 1995 amateur draft, sandwiched between two other pitchers, Mike Drumright and Mark Redman. He signed for a $850,000 bonus. Matt debuted professionally with the New Jersey Cardinals (2-0, 1.64 in 2 games) and St. Petersburg Cardinals (3-2, 2.38). Baseball America named him the #56 prospect in baseball and #2 in the St. Louis chain, behind Alan Benes.
The tall right-hander had his only full season in the minors in 1996. He went 12-12 with a 3.88 ERA for the Arkansas Travelers and 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA in one game for the Louisville Redbirds. His 175 innings pitched led Cardinals farmhands. He finished 10th in the Texas League in ERA and led the loop with four shutouts. Baseball America rated him the best pitching prospect and as possessing the best fastball in the TL and the league's #2 overall prospect behind Paul Konerko. They also said he was the #1 prospect in the St. Louis system, right ahead of Dmitri Young.
1997: NL Rookie Pitcher of the Year
Morris made the 1997 Cardinals staff as a rookie; the 22-year-old led the team in games pitched (33) and went 12-9 with a 3.19 ERA. He tied Livan Hernandez for second in voting for the 1997 National League Rookie of the Year Award, far behind leader Scott Rolen. He won The Sporting News NL Rookie Pitcher of the Year Award.
Morris had a 7-5, 2.53 record in 16 starts for the 1998 Cardinals with a 166 ERA+. Had he qualified, he would have ranked 5th in the 1998 NL in ERA. A sprained right shoulder limited his season. He also made five rehab appearances in the minors, going 1-0. In spring training in 1999, Morris injured his right elbow and needed Tommy John surgery, making him miss the entire season.
2000-2001: Comeback and career year
In 2000, Matt was 1-2 with a 7.48 ERA in five rehab games in AA and AAA before he returned to the majors, where he was much more effective (3-3, 4 Sv, 3.57), working out of the bullpen exclusively. He had a 3.18 ERA in four appearances in the 2000 Postseason.
Morris was back in the rotation with the 2001 Cardinals, going 22-8 with a 3.16 ERA in a career season. He was 6th in the 2001 NL in ERA, 5th in winning percentage, tied with Curt Schilling for the most wins, was 10th in fewest walks per 9 innings (2.25), 7th in strikeouts (185), 8th in K:BB ratio (3.43:1) and sixth in ERA+ (137). He made his first All-Star team. In the 2001 All-Star Game, relieved Jon Lieber in the 7th. He retired Troy Glaus on a fly to center. Jorge Posada doubled but Bernie Williams grounded out and Cristian Guzman fanned. Jeff Shaw relieved Morris in the 8th. He was 14th in voting for the 2001 National League Most Valuable Player Award and a clear third behind Randy Johnson and Schilling for the 2001 National League Cy Young Award. He won the Comeback Player of the Year in the NL. Despite a 1.20 ERA in the NLDS, he was 0-1. He lost a 1-0 decision in game one to Schilling and had a no-decision in a 2-1 loss to Schilling in game five, having taken part in two fantastic pitching duels.
2002-2003: Still productive
In January of 2002, St. Louis signed Morris for 3 years and $27 million. He was 17-9 with a 3.42 ERA, no repeat of 2002 but still very good. He was sixth in the 2002 NL in victories and 10th in K/BB ratio (2.67:1). He made the NL All-Star team but did not play in the 2002 All-Star Game. He won his first playoff game but was 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA in the 2002 NLCS, getting lit up in game two and pitching well in a loss in game five against Kirk Rueter.
Morris fell to 11-8, 3.76 in Cardinals but still had a 111 ERA+. He was 7th in the 2003 NL in WHIP (1.18), tied Kevin Millwood and Jason Schmidt for the lead in shutouts (3) and tied the same two hurlers for second in complete games (5), trailing Livan Hernandez.
Morris made his third straight Opening Day start in 2004, the first Cardinals hurler to do so since Joe Magrane (1988-1990). Matt was 15-10, but thanks to a good offense, as his 4.72 ERA gave him a 89 ERA+, his worst until then. He tied 7 others for 9th in the 2004 NL in wins and tied five others for third in shutouts (2) but also tied Greg Maddux for second with 35 home runs allowed (behind only Eric Milton) and tied Milton for fifth in earned runs allowed (106). One of the homers he coughed up was Ken Griffey Jr.'s 500th. He was worse in the playoffs - 0-2, 5.91 in the 2004 Postseason with four runs allowed in four and 1/3 innings in game two of the 2004 World Series against the Boston Red Sox for the loss.
A shoulder injury delayed the start of Matt's 2005 campaign. Once helathy, he was 14-10 with a 4.11 ERA as his ERA+ went back over 100. He won 8 in a row at one point, the longest stretch for a St. Louis hurler since Frank DiPino 16 years earlier. On October 2, he got the last start at Busch Stadium. He allowed five runs in 3 innings on 8 hits but 8 relievers combined to shut out the Reds the rest of the way for the win. After his 1-5 prior postseason record, Morris was 1-1 in the 2005 Postseason.
Morris signed with the San Francisco Giants in the offseason. He was 10-15 with a 4.98 ERA for the 2006 Giants and tied Zach Duke and Aaron Cook for third in the 2006 NL in losses, one behind Ramon Ortiz and Jason Marquis.
After a 7-7, 4.35 start for the 2007 Giants, San Francisco tried to peddle the pitcher, but no one wanted to assume much of his salary. Morris had not won in his prior 8 games and had a 8.48 ERA in July. At the 2007 trading deadline, he was shipped to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Rajai Davis and a player to be named later (Steve MacFarland). Jayson Stark wrote "[T]he Giants were just about begging teams to take Morris and offering to chomp big chunks of his money if they had to. Then this team going nowhere dropped out of the sky and took the man and the money." Morris immediately became the highest-paid Pirate. He allowed 15 runs in his first 18 1/3 IP for his new team and took one loss.
Morris had a rough spring training for the Pirates in 2008, allowing 39 hits and 20 earned runs in his first 18 2/3 innings. He was no better once the regular season began, going 0-4 with a 9.67 ERA, allowing 41 hits in 22 1/3 innings and only hitting around 85 mph with his fastball. He was released, Pittsburgh eating about $10 million worth of salary, to make room for John Van Benschoten. Morris then retired.
- 2-time NL All-Star (2001 & 2002)
- 2001 NL Comeback Player of the Year Award
- NL Wins Leader (2001)
- NL Shutouts Leader (2003)
- 15 Wins Seasons: 3 (2001, 2002 & 2004)
- 20 Wins Seasons: 1 (2001)
- 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 5 (1997, 2001, 2002, 2004 & 2006)