After electing no new members a year ago, the BBWAA has elected three members to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year – pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine as well as designated hitter Frank Thomas.
While Maddux did not eclipse Tom Seaver’s record 98.84% of the vote in 1992, he did get 97.2% of the vote followed by Glavine (91.9%) and Thomas (83.9%).
Maddux won 355 games over 23 seasons with the Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers. He won four consecutive NL Cy Young Awards between 1992 and 1995, led the NL in wins thrice, led the NL in ERA four times, led the NL in complete games thrice, led the NL in games started seven times and led the NL in inning pitched for five consecutive seasons. Maddux won 15 or more games for 15 consecutive seasons. For good measure, Maddux also recorded 3,371 strikeouts. Indeed, Maddux, Fergie Jenkins and Curt Schilling (who will one day join Maddux in Cooperstown) are the only pitchers to record 3,000 or more strikeouts with fewer than 1,000 walks. Maddux was an eight time NL All-Star and won a record 18 Gold Gloves. For 10 years, Maddux pitched in tandem with Tom Glavine.
In 22 seasons with the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets, Glavine won 305 games. He won two NL Cy Young Awards (1991 & 1998), led the NL in wins five times, led the NL in games started six times, was named to 10 NL All-Star teams and clinched the 1995 World Series with a one-hitter in Game 6 against the Cleveland Indians.
Here’s a personal note on Glavine. He is originally from Billerica, Massachusetts. Over the years, I’ve run into people who knew Glavine when he was kid and all of them praised Glavine’s athletic prowess and his character. Nearly a decade ago, I went speed dating and was paired with a woman from Billerica. When she mentioned this, she stated that Glavine was her classmate in the sixth grade. She told me that Glavine was a superb hockey and baseball player. Despite his status as a jock, Glavine was kind to everyone and didn’t tolerate bullying. She mentioned that Glavine’s parents impressed upon him that his athletic ability didn’t make him a better person than anyone else and he carried himself modestly. Glavine is a Hall of Famer on and off the field.
I remember Frank Thomas when he came up late in the 1990 season. What struck me the most about him was his batting eye. He didn’t swing at bad pitches and when he swung at good pitches he put a Big Hurt on pitchers. In 19 seasons with the Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland A’s, Thomas had a lifetime batting average of .301, a lifetime on base percentage of .419, 521 HR and 1704 RBI. Thomas won back to back AL MVP Awards in 1993 and 1994. Thomas batted .300 or better ten times, drew 100 or more walks 10 times, had an OBP of .400 or better 11 times and collected 100 or more RBI 11 times. The Big Hurt led the AL in walks and OBP four times. Thomas was the best right-handed hitter of his generation. His election marks the first time a DH will get a plaque in Cooperstown.
All three men were elected in their first year on the ballot. This marks the first time that has happened since 1999 when Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount were inducted in their first year of eligibility. It is also the first time in 15 years that the BBWAA has elected three players.
It should be noted that the BBWAA nearly elected a fourth player. However, Houston Astros great Craig Biggio fell short of induction by two votes. Biggio required 75% of the vote and received 74.8%. It is Biggio’s second year on the ballot. He has time.
The same cannot be said for Jack Morris. In his 15th and last year of eligibility, Morris only garnered 61.5% of the vote. This was down from last year when he received 67.7% of the vote. Morris becomes only the second player to receive at least 60% of the vote and not be elected. The other was Gil Hodges. The only way Morris can enter the Hall of Fame is through the Veterans Committee. But the Veterans Committee can be even tougher. The Veterans Committee has snubbed Hodges for 30 years. Morris might remain on the outside looking in.
What probably kept Morris out was his career ERA of 3.90. But that got bumped up quite a bit as a result of his last two seasons. In 1993 and 1994, Morris posted ERAs of 6.19 and 5.60 respectively. Prior to those seasons, his career ERA was 3.73. Whether throwing out those last two seasons would have made much of a difference is difficult to say. What isn’t difficult to say is that Jack Morris was the best pitcher in MLB in the 1980s. That makes him a Hall of Famer.
Also dropping off the ballot was Rafael Palmeiro who fell below the 5% threshold with only 4.4% of the vote. It was Palmeiro’s fourth year on the ballot and he never received more than 12% of the vote. Of course, Palmeiro’s fate was sealed when he tested positive for PEDs only months after testifying in front of Congress that he had never done so. Here is how other players linked to steroids did this year – Roger Clemens (35.4%), Barry Bonds (34.7%), Mark McGwire (11%) and Sammy Sosa (7.2%). Both Clemens and Bonds marginally declined in their vote totals (2.2% and 1.5% respectively) while McGwire and Sosa dropped significantly (5.9% and 5.3% respectively). McGwire and Sosa are in danger of falling off the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot.
Jeff Bagwell also saw a 5.3% drop in his vote (59.6% to 54.3%). While Bagwell has never been formally linked to PEDs there have been whispers and unfortunately they have been loud enough to keep him out. The only player with a suspected linkage to PEDs who saw his vote total go up was Mike Piazza (57.8 % to 62.2%)
Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield will be on the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot. Look for the Big Unit, Pedro and Smoltzie to get elected on the first ballot at this a year from now.
The Hall of Fame ceremony takes place on the weekend of July 26-27 in Cooperstown, New York. On the 26th, Joe Garagiola will be honored with the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award, Roger Angell was bestowed with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for baseball writing and Texas Rangers radio broadcaster Eric Nadel will be presented with the Ford C. Frick Award.
The following day Maddux, Glavine and Thomas will be honored alongside managers Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox who were elected by the Veterans Committee last month. Expect a large contingent of Braves fans as Maddux and Glavine are inducted with Cox who was their skipper during their entire tenure in Atlanta.
Chicks might dig the long ball, but let’s hope they dig Hall of Famers too.