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Cooperstown Will Have Many New Members in 2014

Posted on January 05, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Greg Maddux could become the first unanimous selection to the Baseball Hall of fame.

Greg Maddux could become the first unanimous selection to the Baseball Hall of fame.

After no modern candidates were selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013, Cooperstown should have a slew of new additions in 2014.

They are already guaranteed of three quality inductees as former major league managers Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre have already been announced as members of the Class of 2014.

Now on Wednesday we should see at least two, and likely more, modern era players earn baseball immortality.

If the baseball writers who vote for the Hall of Fame weren’t so self-righteous, the Class of 2014 might include the first unanimous selection in Hall of Fame history.

Any writer who believes he can legitimately justify leaving Greg Maddux off his Hall of Fame ballot should be immediately awarded a Pulitzer Prize, though it would be more a work of fiction than of fact.

During his 20 year career, Maddux won 355 games, including 17 straight seasons with at least 15 wins, four Cy Young Awards and posted a career ERA of 3.16 despite playing primarily during an era when many hitters were using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs).

If that isn’t enough to justify Hall of Fame induction, consider that Maddux won 18 Gold Glove awards as the top fielding pitcher. His total eclipsed the previous record of 16 Gold Gloves set by third baseman Brooks Robinson and matched by pitcher Jim Kaat.

While Maddux is a Hall of Fame lock, his longtime teammate Tom Glavine might have a little tougher time getting in during his first year of eligibility.

Interestingly, Glavine had more 20+ win seasons (5) than Maddux (2), but finished with fewer wins (305) and a higher ERA (3.54). Glavine was a two-time Cy Young winner and teamed with Maddux and John Smoltz to form one of the greatest starting pitching trios in baseball history.

Tom Glavine won 305 games and two Cy Young awards during his career.

Tom Glavine won 305 games and two Cy Young awards during his career.

However, while Glavine’s numbers would seem to be well worth Hall of Fame status, in today’s climate there are no guarantees and some have predicted that Glavine might fall a bit short of the needed 75% this time around.

Fellow first-time candidate Frank Thomas should have no trouble earning in a spot in the Hall of Fame this season, but again you never know. Thomas, who was generally never part of the steroid discussion, definitely has Hall of fame worthy career statistics as he hit 521 home runs with 1,704 RBI and a .301 career batting average during his 19 year career.

A player with seemingly obvious Hall of Fame statistics who surprisingly didn’t make it during his first year of eligibility is former Houston Astros star Craig Biggio. The only player in baseball history with more than 3,000 hits, 1,800 runs scored, 650 doubles, 1,100 RBIs and 400 stolen bases, Biggio was included on only 68% of the ballots a year ago.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly why Biggio didn’t make it into the HOF last year, but it likely had something to do with the backlash of having several of the primary steroids abusers on the ballot for the first time. Though he has never been linked to PEDs, the wave seems to have engulfed just about every modern player in some manner.

That is also why Mike Piazza did not make the Hall of Fame during his first year on the ballot despite having the best offensive statistics of any catcher in baseball history. With a career average of .308 with 427 home runs and 1,335 RBI, the 12-time All-Star and 10-time Silver Slugger certainly has the resume to warrant a spot in the Hall of Fame.

However, even though Piazza has never been directly linked to PEDs, his career has enough characteristics to give some enough reason to withhold induction. Piazza was included on only 58% of the ballots a year ago.

I think that number will increase in 2014, but whether the increase is high enough to get Piazza inducted in 2014 seems too close to predict.

Jack Morris won more games than any other pitcher in the 1980s and in 1991 beat the Atlanta Braves with one of the best pitching performances in World Series history.

Jack Morris won more games than any other pitcher in the 1980s and in 1991 beat the Atlanta Braves with one of the best pitching performances in World Series history.

Another vote that will likely be very close is that of pitcher Jack Morris. On the ballot for the 15th and final time, Morris was second behind Biggio in 2013 with 67.7% of the votes. Like many others who were right on the borderline, Morris has seen his total increase as his time on the ballot has grown shorter. However, his percentage went from 66.7% in 2012 to just 67.7% in 2013, so it is questionable as to whether enough voters who have previously left the winningest pitcher of the 1980s off the ballot will write his name this time around.

Whether many voters list the name Jeff Kent on their ballot is another intriguing question. After five generally average seasons spent primarily with the New York Mets, Kent joined the San Francisco Giants in 1997 and for the next decade was perhaps the best second baseman in the game. He drove in more than 100 runs nine times in a 10 year span and was the National League MVP in 2000.

However, Kent is another player whose sudden rise to stardom during the height of the steroid era will likely keep his name off the ballots of many a skeptical voter.

It also seems like a longshot that first-year candidate Mike Mussina will get the required 75% this year, though he will probably fare better than many other first-year candidates with fewer than 300 wins. Mussina was a consistently solid pitcher for the Orioles and Yankees with 270 career wins. He was a level below Maddux and Glavine, but playing in the American League during the height of the steroid era meant that Mussina was annually facing a gauntlet of hitters.

Now that they are in their second year on the ballot, you might see a bit of an increase in the number of ballots that include Roger Clemens (43.2% in 2013) and Barry Bonds (42.7% in 2013) though it still seems highly unlikely that either will get close to 75% anytime soon.

Craig Biggio's career statistics seem to warrant Hall of Fame selection.

Craig Biggio’s career statistics seem to warrant Hall of Fame selection.

My Hall of Fame Ballot: Unfortunately, I don’t have an official Hall of Fame ballot, but if I did, here are the players I would include.

I would definitely start with Maddux, Glavine, Piazza, Thomas and Biggio as I think all five are definite Hall of Famers.

Then I would include Morris because he was not only the best pitcher of his era, but pitched one of the greatest games in World Series history amongst his seven post season wins.

I also would include Tim Raines, who I think was one of the greatest leadoff hitters in history.

My final vote would go to Fred McGriff, who hit 493 career home runs and blasted between 30 and 37 home runs on 10 different occasions. Anyone who questions his impact on a team need look no further than the Atlanta Braves from his arrival in 1993 through the 1996 season.

It seems unlikely that there will be nine new Hall of Fame members, or even five, a year after there were none, but there are certainly many players with Hall of Fame worthy statistics on the ballot.

Of course, in recent years we have seen that statistics no longer mean much when looking at potential Hall of Famers, so we will have to wait and see how the wind blew this time around.

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