Being inducted into the Hall of Fame in any sport is an unmatched honor. It's the crowning achievement acknowledging a lifetime of hard work. Perhaps in no other sport is enshrinement more meaningful than in professional baseball.
The selection process in baseball is much more stringent than in other sports, as candidates have to receive 75 percent of votes from members of the BBWAA. For that reason, it is nearly impossible to be enshrined on the first ballot in which someone is eligible.
This year’s first-time candidates include Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina, Hideo Nomo, Greg Maddux, Moises Alou, Jeff Kent, Tom Glavine, Kenny Rogers and Luis Gonzalez. Of those candidates, only two deserve to be voted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Those two players are former Braves teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.
Maddux is perhaps the most deserving player of anyone in this Hall of Fame class. It's the first time that he's on the ballot, but that doesn't change the body of work that he put together over his lengthy major league career.
The 300-game winner played 23 seasons in the big leagues and recorded a 3.16 ERA in that time. For someone to record an ERA that low over the course of almost a quarter of a century is absurd. Possibly more impressive than his ERA is the fact that Maddux beat opposing hitters with his wit as often as he did with his arm.
Do both Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine deserve to be first-ballot Hall of Famers?
Notorious for setting up hitters weeks in advance, Maddux was truly one of the great baseball minds of his time. It is that baseball IQ that allowed him to last long after his devastating stuff started to fade. Not putting a lot of stress on his arm and finessing his way through games helped him to pitch over 5,000 innings for the Braves, Cubs, Dodgers and Padres.
Having a lot of experience pitching in October for the Braves in the 1990s, Maddux had some gaudy numbers in the postseason as well. Pitching for the Cubs in 1989, the Braves in 1993 and 1995-2003 and the Dodgers in 2006 and 2008 in the postseason, Maddux recorded 11 additional wins and had an ERA of 3.27.
Overall, Maddux was a dominant player over a sustained period of time, which is important when considering someone for the Hall of Fame. On top of winning 18 Gold Glove Awards, Maddux won 355 games, a number that is unlikely to be matched by modern-day pitchers. Both his numbers and his reputation speak for themselves.
Much like Maddux, former teammate and fellow pitcher Tom Glavine enjoyed sustained success over a long period of time in his playing career.
Finishing with 305 wins, Glavine may be one of the last 300-game winners for quite some time. With pitchers pitching less and less games and innings to preserve their arms, it may be a long time before baseball sees another 300-game winner—that alone is impressive enough.
On top of that, Glavine had a lifetime 3.54 ERA over 22 seasons that included two Cy Young awards. Pitching for the Braves and Mets, Glavine did have a low strikeout-to-walk ratio (2,607 strikeouts and 1,500 walks), but he often pitched his way out of trouble.
Playing in the playoffs almost annually, Glavine had a 3.30 ERA and 14 wins.
While his entire body of work wasn't quite up to par with that of Maddux, Glavine still has a strong enough resume to be deserving of enshrinement sooner rather than later. Whether that happens on the first ballot or not depends on how impressive the BBWAA consider Glavine's career.