Three deserving men were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014. But the voting system is still flawed and so are the old-time voters in charge of admission.
Unlike in 2013 when not one man was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, this years crop ushered in three more than qualified former All-Stars. One of the top 15 right handed pitchers of all time, Greg Maddux heads to Cooperstown with staggering career numbers like 355 career wins over 23 seasons. He was an eight time All-Star, winning at least 13 games in 20 straight seasons!
Add all that to a lifetime 3.16 ERA, with four consecutive Cy Young’s from ’92-’95 and 18 total Gold Gloves, and well it’s easy to see why Maddux would secure 97.2% of the vote via the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. FYI, it’s the eighth highest total ever.
Frank Thomas and Tom Glavine had illustrious career’s of their own, but questions were raised as to the possibility of Greg Maddux taking so many votes, would it leave these two men, as with many others, the liklihood of having to wait for the class of 2015?
Luckily, this would not be. Tom Glavine is hands down one of the twenty greatest left-handed pitchers in baseball history. Glavine won 305 games over 22 seasons, while becoming a ten time All-Star and two times Cy Young winner (plus one World Series MVP in ’95.) Glavine and his 3.54 career ERA blew away any pundits with 91.9 % of the vote, and it is only fitting that he and Maddux, teammates for 10 years, be enshrined together.
Frank Thomas had tremendous power numbers during his 19 year run. A .301 lifetime hitter with 521 home runs and 1704 RBI’s, you would assume he’d be a runaway choice for the HOF. But the one lingering question was the fact that Thomas spent the majority of those 19 years as a Designated Hitter, and no man, strictly a DH, had ever before been elected. That is until now. ‘The Big Hurt’ grabbed 483 votes of the total 571 ballots, easily clearing the necessary 75% entrance total.
Of course with so much to celebrate, there will always be something negative to deal with. Look no further than former Houston Astro, Craig Biggio. The converted catcher, turned outfielder, turned second baseman, played 20 seasons while amassing the former magic number of 3,000 hits (3,060 hits to be exact for CB7.) Just like 300 wins for a pitcher or 500 home runs for a slugger, why don't 3,000 hits for a position player assure you a plaque in Cooperstown anymore?
On top of all those hits, Biggio accumulated a .281 career batting average while becoming a seven time All-Star, four Golden Gloves, and five-time Silver Slugger Award winner. No big deal then that he fell only two votes shy (427 total for a 74.8%) for election in his second year of eligibility. What?! How is this possible? And how did Biggio not get in last year when not one former player was elected?! Well, look no further than honorary BBWAA voter Jerry Dowling. Here’s why Mr. Dowling didn’t add Biggio to his ballot.
"Craig Biggio, the Houston Astro second baseman, fell two votes short. One of those could have been mine. I refuse to vote for a guy who cheats, as Biggio did with all that armor on his arm, so he could get hit with pitches and trot to first base as a result. He made no attempt to avoid getting hit and actually stuck that arm out further, inducing the ball to smack him. That, my friends, is against the rules and umpires should be calling that shit a ball, but they don’t. I once asked umpire John McSherry about that, and he skirted around the question, never answering it."
Jerry Dowling, are you friggin’ serious?! You disregard a 20-year career full of accolades and 3,000 hits because the man wore a protective piece of plastic on his elbow to avoid injury? Makes sense, you are a former cartoonist for the Cincinnati Inquirer and Cincinnati City Beat. As it turns out the names Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire were voted for though. C’mon man! OK, you’ve at least got to have a good excuse as to why you did what you did, right?
"Bonds wore it because pitchers would much rather give him one base than a four-bagger and Bonds didn’t want a broken, bruised arm. Remember how many times he was walked?"
I’m going to throw what's left of Dowling’s credibility right out the window, here goes: Biggio was plunked 285 times in his career, and in August of 1997, he was hit ten times...the same amount as Bonds was plunked that entire season!
This guy is just as bad as Dan LeBatard, who gave his vote away to deadspin.com, the entertainment equivalent of Fox News. I don’t read much of LeBatard’s column, and I only know him from his fill-in role on ESPN’s ‘PTI’, but the act of disrespecting a professional’s career, careers he covered for the Miami Herald and ESPN, while making quite the pretty penny is distasteful, ignorant and downright pathetic.
So the Baseball Writers Association of America banned him from ever voting for the HOF again. Oh, and he was banned from attending a game for a year as a credentialed member of the media. Like he cares! You really want to send a message to other writers, to take your job seriously, blackball him from the industry.
Why would any newspaper or television conglomerate want this man representing their brand? It's about time people stop standing behind the First Amendment. It's 2014 and it's time to be held accountable. After all, that's what Le Batard and Dowling were trying to convey. Right?
This brings me to my final point. The clock has struck midnight for the Baseball Writers Association of America, and all voting committees for that matter, to bring in fresh blood. Don’t get me wrong, most of these men, ages 50+ have seen some of the greatest players to ever play the respective sport.
But therein lies the rub. These men, of a time gone past, continue to compare the athletes of yesteryear to those of the 1990s and now 2000s. There is no comparison! I’m sorry. The game has changed, some for the better, some for the worse. What hasn’t changed though are the ideals of the 50+-year-old men who hold the keys to enshrinement.
Where they grew up with the likes of Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, and Hank Aaron, my generation grew up with the Craig Biggio's, Mike Piazza's, Derek Jeter's and so on. In my opinion, all three of these men should be HOF'ers, hands down.
Regardless, I’ve already made my case for Biggio; and if not perhaps for the likes of Le Batard giving his vote away in protest, and Dowling not voting for him because of an arm guard (unreal), Biggio should have made four more than deserving enshrinees. I can continue to make cases for the players of my generation, i.e. Mike Piazza who is only the greatest statistical hitting catcher of all time; a .308 career hitter; he belted 427 home runs, 1335 RBI’s while making the NL All-Star team 12 times, 10 Silver Slugger awards, became the ’92 NL ROY and ’96 All-Star game MVP, yet still only achieved 62.2% of the vote.
In the years to come, I hope the controversy will subside, and we the fans, and they the players will achieve the ultimate recognition "we" rightfully deserve. Hey, if you think everyone, post '95 strike through today and counting, cheated, then create a separate PED wing in Cooperstown. But to lump all these men together is just wrong.
No positive test should equal innocence and enshrinement. It’s that simple. Take you bias out of the equation. Otherwise simply take yourself out of the equation and give your vote to someone with a fresh voice; to a person who grew up watching these players compete at an elite level, leaving an indelible mark for years to come.