It's a matter of when—not if—former MLB ace Greg Maddux will get inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The retired starting pitcher is eligible for the first time in 2014 and is almost universally viewed as worthy of being enshrined in Cooperstown as a first-ballot choice.
However, Dodgers beat reporter Ken Gurnick did not put Maddux on his ballot, thwarting the pitcher's bid to be the first unanimous inductee in history.
Gurnick defended his decision to leave Maddux out, and the only player he included was five-time All-Star pitcher Jack Morris—who won the 1991 World Series MVP with the Minnesota Twins—per MLB.com:
Morris has flaws—a 3.90 ERA, for example. But he gets my vote for more than a decade of ace performance that included three 20-win seasons, Cy Young Award votes in seven seasons and Most Valuable Player Award votes in five. As for those who played during the period of PED use, I won't vote for any of them.
All 16 of the other MLB.com writers had Maddux on the ballot, and all 17 ESPN.com experts backed him, too.
The 2014 inductees will be announced on Wednesday, Jan. 8, at 2 p.m. ET, and a 75 percent majority is required for those on the ballot to get in.
Is there any case to be made for Maddux to be left off a Hall of Fame ballot?
The resume Maddux put together was built on uncanny precision rather than the power that most of today's best pitchers use to blow by opposing hitters. With his pinpoint command and unconventional changing of speeds, Maddux won at least 15 games for 17 consecutive seasons (1988 to 2004).
He also won four straight NL Cy Young Awards between 1992 and 1995 and was an 18-time Gold Glove Award winner. For his outstanding career accomplishments, "The Professor" had his No. 31 retired by the Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves back in 2009.
If Maddux's velocity and production weren't steadily declining toward the end of his career, perhaps there would be more merit to a PED-based accusation.
As CBSSports.com's Mike Axisa points out, it is unclear what Gurnick means by the "period of PED use" and that the careers of Maddux and Morris have some overlap that weakens the foundation of the beat writer's argument:
The..."period of PED use" is incredibly ambiguous. There is no defined start or end point and there never will be, so it seems weird to assume Morris never pitched against (or alongside) PED users. In fact, his career and Maddux's career overlap by nine years (1986-94). If we're assuming 1995 is the start of the Steroid Era, well Maddux had 131 wins, three Cy Youngs and 40.7 WAR before then. Morris retired with 43.8 WAR.
For his career, Maddux compiled a record of 355-227 with a 3.16 ERA and won a World Series with the Braves in 1995.
All the marks of a champion define the 47-year-old's MLB legacy. The final ballot results will reflect that and get Maddux to Cooperstown in short order.