For the first time in two years, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America has elected some of the game’s elite players into the Hall of Fame. The writers voted in 90’s stars Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas.
One of the greatest pitchers of all-time, Maddux accumulated the fourth best fWAR (114.3) of any pitcher over his 23-year career. The long-time Atlanta Brave won four consecutive Cy Young Awards from 1992-1995, including the strike shortened 1994 season that left him with a 1.56 ERA.
The media and umpires seemed to like Maddux throughout most of his career, and his Hall of Fame candidacy was only helped by the fact that he has never been linked to steroids, except for a perhaps ill-advised Nike commercial. Mets’ fans probably don’t appreciate his dominating performances for the rival Braves, including his 35-19 record against New York, but there is no doubt that Maddux deserves to be in Cooperstown. The voters agreed, electing him with an impressive 97.2 percent — as close as many will ever get to a unanimous decision until the stubborn electorate moves on.
Joining Maddux will be fellow Braves’ great and longtime teammate, Tom Glavine. Glavine played 17 seasons with the Braves, broken up by a five-year hiatus where nothing noteworthy happened. The left-hander accrued 64.3 fWAR and 305 of those other wins throughout his 22-year career. A two-time Cy Young Award winner himself, Glavine mostly served as the Braves’ third ace throughout their 1990’s run of success.
As with Maddux, Mets’ fans suffered through Glavine’s 17-7 record against the Metropolitans. Also like Maddux, the media and umpires always seemed to love him, and his legacy was never tainted by any steroid allegations, although he too sought the approval of the opposite sex via the long ball. There’s at least one more reason Mets’ fans seem to hold a grudge against Mr. Glavine, and it has something to do with this likely forgotten box score. Still, there was rarely ever any doubt that Glavine would get into Cooperstown, and his 91.9 percent of the vote shows his candidacy was never in question.
Fortunately, the Hall of Fame won’t exclusively open its doors to tomahawk choppers in 2014. In a bit of a surprise, Frank Thomas also exceeded the mandatory 75 percent of votes to enter Cooperstown with 83.7 percent. One of the best sluggers in an era loaded with them, The Big Hurt mashed his way to 521 home runs and a 72.4 career fWAR. Injuries and poor defense took away from his total value, but his offensive peak stands as one of the best in the history of the game.
The long-time White Sox first baseman clearly deserves his plaque, but his career is arguably inferior to Jeff Bagwell’s (80.3 fWAR in fewer plate appearances), and both have roughly the same unfounded claims of performance enhancing drug use. Both were big, slugging first baseman in the "Steroid Era." But Bagwell has been shunned once again, while Thomas becomes the third first-ballot Hall of Famer elected in 2014.
Of course, Bagwell isn’t the only one, and just as much ink will be used to applaud the class of 2014 as there will be to debate the long list of snubs. While some may shed a tearful good-bye to Jack Morris (61.5 percent) after he failed to make it in his last season on the ballot, and others will cry foul over the unfair inclusion of Craig Biggio (74.8 percent) into the PED club, the Flushing Faithful will undoubtedly voice their displeasure the loudest over the exclusion of Mets great Mike Piazza.
While he may not be arguably the best hitter of all-time like Barry Bonds, or arguably the greatest pitcher of all-time like Roger Clemens, Piazza has once again paid the price for being muscular alongside those two and other alleged steroid users. Piazza improved his percentage from (57.8) to (62.2) but still fell short of the magical 75 percent. One of the greatest catchers of all-time, Piazza ended his career with 63.6 fWAR, despite missing a lot of time from playing the game’s most physically demanding position.
Unlike many other Steroid Era stars, Piazza could get his phone call as early as next year. Number 31 should be fine. Unfortunately, because writers can only vote for 10 players each year, the ballot will continue to be crowded with the holdovers from this year and newcomers like Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz. Other deserving candidates who could continue to wait for several years include: Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, and Mike Mussina.