After pitching a shutout last year for the first time since 1996, the Baseball Writers' Association of America delivered its biggest class since 1999, electing Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas. It’s a good day for the Hall of Fame after last year’s dud of a group that included a player from the 1800s, an umpire from the early 1900s and an owner who helped keep the game segregated. It’s a great day for Braves fans, as Maddux and Glavine will join manager Bobby Cox on induction weekend. If you’re from Atlanta, start making those hotel reservations now.
All three are clear Hall of Famers, guys who raise the level of the Hall of Fame, the only disappointment being that Maddux not only failed to get 100 percent of the vote, but with 97.2 percent of the vote he also failed to top Tom Seaver’s record of 98.84 percent. But that’s a small thing to get worked up about. Let’s celebrate the careers of these three great players.
It’s a brutal day for Craig Biggio, who received 74.8 percent of the vote -- no rounding up in the Hall of Fame. Biggio fell just two votes shy of election, no doubt hurt by the crowded ballot and those who refuse to vote for anyone from the steroid era. I know writers who voted for the maximum 10 players but left off Biggio even though they would have otherwise voted for him. He’ll likely get in next year, but that extra 12 months of waiting is still a small dosage of cruel punishment.
The bad news belongs to Jack Morris, who collected 61.5 percent of the vote in his final year on the ballot, a 6 percentage point drop. Historically, players get a final-year boost, but Morris ran into the problem of not only Maddux and Glavine appearing on the ballot for the first time but Mike Mussina as well. When you dig into the numbers, Morris paled in comparison to those guys, which undoubtedly cost him some votes.
Morris had become the most-discussed Hall of Fame candidate in years, caught in the middle of a war of statheads and bloggers versus “I was there” writers. I don’t think the stathead community ended up hurting Morris’ case (the opposite of how it helped Bert Blyleven get elected) but rather helped, as there seemed to be a big backlash from voters against the anti-Morris crowd; remember, Morris was under 50 percent his first 10 years on the ballot.
The good news for Morris is that he probably won’t have to wait long to get enshrined. He’ll get pushed over to the Veterans Committee, where he’ll be eligible in 2017, the next time his generation of players will be considered. Every player not still on the ballot who received 50 percent of the vote from the BBWAA has eventually been elected to the Hall, either by the BBWAA or the Veterans Committee, with the exception of Gil Hodges. My bet is Morris gets into the Hall of Fame in three years. Then we can, mercifully, end the Jack Morris debate and let our blood pressure return to normal.
It was terrible news for what I’ll call the Steroid Five (we need a better name). Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro all saw their vote totals drop from 2013, with Palmeiro failing to get 5 percent of the vote and now getting booted from the ballot. He has 569 home runs, more than 3,000 hits and ranks 16th all-time in RBIs, but his Hall of Fame case is officially dead until he’s eligible for some future Veterans Committee.
The other big loser on the day was Tim Raines, whose vote total decreased from 52 percent to 46 percent. He had been showing steady progress in recent years, but falling under 50 percent is a big blow. He lost votes because of the crowded ballot, but that issue isn’t going away anytime soon unless the 10-man rule is changed. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz will be on the ballot next year, Biggio is still around, Ken Griffey Jr. is eligible in 2016, and the PED guys aren’t getting elected.
There were other questionable results involving Curt Schilling and Mussina, two pitchers who would easily raise the level of the Hall of Fame, but received less than 30 percent of the vote.
But hey, we need something to argue about the next 12 months.