Maddux, Glavine, Thomas Headline Stacked 2014 Hall of Fame Ballot
The induction ceremony for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., next July 28 could have a real Atlanta Braves flavor to it.
Former Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, each a 300-game winner, head a ballot stacked with superstar newcomers that will be studied by eligible members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for the next month. The results of the election for 2014 induction will be announced at 2 pm ET on Jan. 8 on MLB.com and MLB Network, with a news conference at the Waldorf Astoria New York the next day to introduce any elected players.
Former Braves manager Bobby Cox is already among 12 men — including four all-time great managers — on the recently released ballot handed to the Expansion Era Committee, which will announce its determination on Dec. 9 during the first day of the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla. Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Billy Martin are also on that ballot.
Frank Thomas, Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina join Maddux and Glavine as other noteworthy first timers, making this one of the deepest BBWAA ballots in Hall of Fame history. Jack Morris, with 254 victories during his 18-year big league career and World Series titles with the Tigers, Twins and Blue Jays, is on the writers ballot for the 15th and final time. Former Astros second baseman Craig Biggio, who led last year’s voting by being named on 68.2 percent of the ballots cast, returns for a second try.
Maddux and Glavine, who combined to win 660 games, seem to have the edge.
“It should be without a doubt for either one of them [to be elected], especially with Greg,” said John Smoltz, who joined Maddux and Glavine to form the “Big Three” of the Braves’ rotation for a decade and will be on the ballot himself next year.
“I know there’s been no unanimous [electee] in the history to the Hall of Fame, but I think [Maddux] would be it if there is. I’m biased. I watched Greg and Tom pitch my whole career, basically. They exemplified the fact that over 162 games, they were better than anybody else in the league.”
A year ago, when Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza — hitters whose careers spanned baseball’s era of performance-enhancing drug use — made their initial appearances on the ballot, no one was elected by the writers for the first time since 1996, and only the second since 1971.
Chances are good a shutout won’t happen again this time. Maddux retired with 355 wins, 194 of them in l1 years with the Braves. Glavine had 305 victories, 244 in 17 years for Atlanta. Three hundred wins, like 3,000 hits, has long been a clear benchmark for eventually gaining entrance to the hallowed Hall. Biggio amassed 3,060 hits in 20 seasons, all with the Astros.
As in all Hall ballots, candidates need at least 75 percent of the vote to be elected.
Other first-timers also have fine credentials. Thomas, a first baseman and designated hitter, batted .301, hit 521 homers and amassed 1,704 RBIs in 19 seasons, 16 of them with the White Sox. Kent hit 377 homers in 17 seasons for six teams, 351 of them as a second baseman — the most in history by anyone at that position. Mussina won 270 games and had a 3.68 ERA in 18 seasons with the Orioles and Yankees.
Add to all this the fact that Cox, during his 25 years managing the Braves, had 1,709 of his 2,001 career victories, plus 15 playoff appearances — including 14 division titles, five National League pennants and the 1995 World Series championship.
“I’m confident at some point in time it’s going to happen,” Glavine said about his Hall of Fame chances. “Whether it’s on the first ballot, I don’t know. We’ll see. There are a lot of good players eligible. Would I love to have it happen on the first ballot? Sure. If it doesn’t, I’d be disappointed. But we’ll gear up for the following year and hopefully it will happen the following year.”
Biggio fell 39 votes shy of election on the 2013 ballot, as he received 388 votes among the 569 ballots cast. Five of those ballots were left blank. He was followed by Morris (67.7 percent), Jeff Bagwell (59.6) and Piazza (57.8). Piazza, it should be noted, hit 396 of his 427 homers as a catcher — the most of any player at that position in Major League history.
Bonds, the all-time home run leader with 762, garnered 36.2 percent of the vote. Clemens, a storied right-hander with 354 wins, did slightly better at 37.6 percent. Sosa, the only slugger to bash more than 60 homers in three different seasons, totaling 609 in his career, had 12.5 percent.
None of the three ever failed a publicly disclosed Major League Baseball-administered drug test, but all of them were once involved in either court cases or congressional hearings about the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Bonds is fighting a felony conviction for obstruction of justice in an appellate court regarding grand jury testimony. Clemens was acquitted of perjury for statements he made at a congressional hearing, and Sosa was called before another congressional hearing to testify.
“For a couple of years now, I think the whole steroids thing has put a twist in it,” said Morris, who needs 42 more votes to make it this time or he can be considered again in three years for the Expansion Era ballot. “A bunch of us guys have been thrown under the bus because they didn’t know what to do with the other pile. That’s unfortunate. It is what it is and I’m not going to fix it.”
Morris, who had an American League-best 162 of wins in the 1980s, tops a list of deserving long-time returnees that includes, among others, Bagwell, Lee Smith, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell and Edgar Martinez.
Among the second-timers, Biggio still seems to be on a clear course toward a plaque. Of the 26 other retired players who amassed 3,000 or more hits, only two are not in the Hall, and both have extenuating circumstances. Rafael Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 569 homers but was suspended for a positive PED test in 2005, his last season in the Major Leagues. Most recently, Palmeiro was on 8.8 percent of the ballots. Pete Rose, the all-time leader with 4,256 hits, is banned from baseball because of gambling and is not eligible to be included on Hall of Fame ballots.
Clearly, though, Glavine and Maddux have the inside track. Both were crafty pitchers who were not overpowering but knew how to work both sides of the plate. In their decade together on the Braves from 1993 to 2002, before Glavine left to spend five seasons with the Mets, Atlanta went to the playoffs every season except for 1994, when the postseason was cancelled because of a players strike.
Maddux stayed until 2003, when he returned to the Cubs just the way he left Chicago for Atlanta — as a free agent. Maddux played 10 seasons in Chicago, including his first seven, finishing his career in 2008 after one short tour in San Diego and two stops in Los Angeles with the Dodgers.
Both were picked in the second round of the 1984 First-Year Player Draft and became mainstays of their improving teams. Maddux won 133 games for the Cubs. Glavine was a home-grown member of the Braves, and he returned to finish his career with Atlanta, getting his last two wins during 13 starts with the Braves in 2008.
Now, both of them are on the brink of immortality.
“When I retired, there was that talk of being a future Hall of Famer or whatever,” Glavine said. “Then I think as time went on, it became more a part of the conversation, whether it be every January, or as the calendar clicked closer and closer. Last year, there was a little more talk.
“Now that I’m officially on the ballot, there has been an increase in the conversation. So I think it comes in stages. When I first retired, I knew it was out there. But five years seemed like it was so far away. So in that respect, it’s hard to believe five years have gone by already.”
The remainder of the ballot consists of Moises Alou, Armando Benitez, Sean Casey, Ray Durham, Eric Gagne, Luis Gonzalez, Jacque Jones, Todd Jones, Paul Lo Duca, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Hideo Nomo, Rafael Palmeiro, Tim Raines, Kenny Rogers, Curt Schilling, Richie Sexson, Lee Smith, Mike Timlin, Alan Trammell and Larry Walker.