Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Maddux, Glavine, Thomas Enter Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame voters agreed on three players to send to the Hall after not electing anyone last year. The 2014 ballot was one of the most crowded in history, with many deserving players. Many players from the so-called Steroid Era have been on the ballot in recent years and the writers are unsure on how to vote for those players. That been said, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas were voted in Wednesday on their first year on he ballot. Craig Biggio fell two votes short of induction. Jack Morris was in his 15th and final season on the ballot, but fell short of the Hall. In December, the Veteran's Committee selected former managers Tony La Russa, Joe Torre, and Bobby Cox to join Maddux, Glavine, and Thomas for July's induction. This year's induction will be much more star studded than last year's trio of Deacon McGuire, Hank O'Day, and Jacob Ruppert, who are relatively unknown.

Maddux and Glavine are the first pair of teammate pitchers to enter the Hall together since Eddie Plank and Rube Waddell in the 1946. Along with John Smoltz, these two pitchers formed the foundation of the Braves run of division titles. Smoltz is eligible next year and should join his former teammates in the Hall sometime soon. This trio of pitchers help win a lot of games for their manager Bobby Cox, who is also a new Hall of Famer. One could make an argument that Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz were the best trio of starting pitchers on one team ever. Between them, they won 7 out of 10 Cy Young Awards in the National League during the 1990's. Smoltz was a power pitcher, but Maddux and Glavine were control artists.

For pitchers who began their career after World War II, Maddux has the most victories with 355. Maddux threw in the low 90's early in his career, but was known for his control. He walked very few batters and knew how to get people out. Maddux was also an excellent defensive player, winning 18 Gold Gloves. From 1992 to 1995, Maddux won 4 straight Cy Young Awards, the first with the Cubs, and the last three with the Braves. Maddux had his best years with Atlanta, but pitched 5 more seasons after leaving the Braves after the 2003 season. He pitched 23 seasons in the big leagues and pitched on 13 teams that made the postseason.

Glavine was one of the best left handed pitchers to ever play the game. He also won over 300 games, although barely with 305. Glavine won 2 Cy Young Awards and was the 1995 World Series MVP. Glavine pitched 17 out of his 22 seasons with the Braves and pitched 5 seasons later in his career with the Mets. He was a 10 time All Star and pitched in the postseason 12 times. Glavine also won the deciding game of the 1995 World Series.

During the 90's, Frank Thomas was one of the best hitters in the game, viewed the same way Miguel Cabrera is now. Thomas was a great all around hitter, he hit for average, power, and was patient at the plate, drawing many walks. He was known as the Big Hurt and was a former college football player. Thomas won back to back MVP's in 1993 and 1994, and won the American League batting title in 1997. Thomas spent 16 of his 19 seasons with the White Sox and is considered to be the best player in White Sox history. His last season with the club he was hurt midseason and missed the rest of 2005. In a bitter twist of irony, the White Sox won their first championship in 88 years, with Thomas relegated to cheerleading from the bench. He spent the last 3 years of his career with the Athletics and Blue Jays. Thomas finished his career with 521 home runs and a .301 lifetime average.

There are many other deserving candidates who weren't elected today. The Baseball Hall of Fame is the hardest to get in of all pro sports. Biggio was only two votes shy and only on his second ballot. The writers are tough on middle infielders, but he will get in within the next couple of years. It took Ryne Sandberg three years on the ballot and Roberto Alomar made it on his second. Another middle infielder, shortstop Barry Larkin, also got in on his third ballot. Jack Morris will be debated on the Veteran's Committee in three years. Morris was the most argued about player on the ballot. Some felt that his ERA and other numbers weren't good enough, but others pointed to his postseason heroics and ace status. Morris's voting pct. actually declined 6 % from last year.

Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell had Hall of Fame type careers, but haven't been able to gain the necessary 75 % to gain election. There is no proof or evidence of PED use on either player, but some writers have questions about these two players because of the era they played in. Piazza got 62 % and Bagwell got 54 % this year. Both players will likely gain election at some point in time. Other players with strong PED connections it is unsure. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have alltime great numbers and careers, but aren't getting Hall support because of the steroid cloud hanging over their head. Still, they are getting more support than Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro have. McGwire and Sosa barely stayed on the ballot this year, and Palmeiro fell off the ballot in his 4th year after falling below the 5 % threshold. Palmeiro failed a steroid test in 2005 after denying use in front of Congress, but had over 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.

There are also strong candidates left on the ballot with no PED connections. The best of these players is Tim Raines. Raines stole 808 bases during his career and was one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball history. Raines get overshadowed playing in the same era as Rickey Henderson and he spent his best years in Montreal. Raines played later as a part time outfielder for the Yankees, winning two championships. Many fans remember him at that point, but Raines was one of the best players in baseball in the 1980's. Raines broke the 50 % barrier last year, but fell to 46 % due to a crowded ballot. He was in his 7th year on the ballot and still has time to get in someday. Raines started off his first year on the ballot with 22 %, which is higher than recent Hall of Famers Bert Blyleven and Bruce Sutter fared their first season.

Alan Trammell is another candidate that gets overlooked. He was a terrific shortstop for the Tigers, but played in the same era as Cal Ripken Jr., Robin Yount, and Ozzie Smith. Barry Larkin also played during Trammell's second half of his career. Trammell is probably a better candidate than his former teammate Morris, but isn't as well known. Lee Smith and Don Mattingly are also long time candidates on the ballot. Both had very good careers, but I don't think either player is Hall worthy. Fred McGriff is someone I think deserves more support, but he was barely able to stay on the ballot this year. Larry Walker and Edgar Martinez are also two candidates on the edge, but managed to stay on for next year.

Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina were the other big names on their first year on the ballot. Kent only received 15 %, while Mussina got 20%. Both players have good cases for the Hall, but may of got lost on a crowded ballot. Kent has the most home runs for a second baseman ever, but wasn't known for his defense. Mussina, along with Curt Schilling, are two pitchers who have good cases for the Hall. Schilling got 9 % more than Mussina, due to his postseason heroics. Mussina doesn't have the postseason resume, but won 270 games in his career. Mussina also has a much better ERA than Morris, who has much more support. Schilling has the postseason greatness to match Morris, and had a stronger peak. It will be interesting to see if Mussina and Schilling get a bump in support next year. Moises Alou and Luis Gonzalez fell off the ballot in their first year.

Next year, there will also be some very good candidates appearing on the ballot the first time. Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez are slam dunk Hall of Famers. Smoltz, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Delgado, and Nomar Garciaparra will also be appearing on the ballot. In 2016, Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Edmonds, Trevor Hoffman, and Billy Wagner will be on the ballot. Vladimir Guerrero and Ivan Rodriguez will appear in 2017, Jim Thome and Chipper Jones in 2018, and Roy Halladay and Mariano Rivera in 2019. There will be many interesting votes in the coming years with many deserving players.

I think that most of the writers who vote for the Hall take it seriously. However, some don't. One writer only voted for Morris and said he wouldn't vote for any Steroid Era players. Morris retired in 1994, and there surely were players using steroids during his career. One writer voted for Jacque Jones, who wasn't even good enough to make an All Star team during his career. In the past, some writers have sent in blank ballots. I think that writers that don't take Hall voting seriously shouldn't be allowed to vote anymore. Still, I think they did a much better job than last year with Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, La Russa, Cox, and Torre going to Cooperstown this year.

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