One year removed from an empty inductee class, the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America tabbed three to enter the hallowed grounds in Cooperstown, N.Y. on July 27.
Former Atlanta Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine as well as former Chicago White Sox slugger Frank Thomas received the required 75 percent of the vote or more, according to SportsCenter:
Per Arizona Diamondbacks announcer Steve Berthiaume, Maddux, Glavine and Thomas all easily crossed the threshold:
They will join legendary managers Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox, who were elected to the Hall of Fame by the expansion era committee in December.
Here is a look at how the entire ballot played out:
|2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot|
|Paul Lo Duca||0.0|
As elated as Maddux, Glavine and Thomas must be, there was disappointment as well.
Former Houston Astros second baseman and catcher Craig Biggio is a member of the 3,000-hit club, and he fell just short of reaching the Hall of Fame last year. He came even closer in 2014 with 74.8 percent of the required 75 percent to get in, per Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times:
Biggio's close call creates a dilemma next year since the incoming first-ballot class looks incredibly strong, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports:
Biggio later commented on the news via Brian McTaggart of MLB.com:
“Congratulations to Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas. Obviously, I’m disappointed to come that close. I feel for my family, the organization and the fans. Hopefully, next year.”
There were a number of other interesting developments regarding players who didn't quite make the cut. Starting pitcher Jack Morris dropped to 61.5 percent in his 15th and final year on the ballot, according to Mike Bass of the Pioneer Press:
Also, suspected performance-enhancing drug users Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each declined in voters' support slightly from last year, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times:
That would seem to suggest that any player linked to performance-enhancing drugs will have an uphill climb when it comes to reaching Cooperstown in the coming years.
Even so, the 2014 class can certainly be considered legendary. There was a great deal of disappointment last year with nobody being elected, but the three selections this year are the most by the BBWAA since 1999, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
It can be argued that several Hall of Fame-worthy players were left out, but it will make for plenty of intrigue moving forward.
Here is a closer look at the three men who comprise the class of 2014.
If one person was viewed as a virtual lock to make the Hall of Fame throughout this entire process, it was always Greg Maddux. The longtime pitcher is a Hall of Famer in every sense of the term, and he was rewarded with a first-ballot nod. Maddux was among the biggest driving forces behind the Atlanta Braves' dominance throughout the 1990s, and he was an effective MLB pitcher for an incredible 23 years.
Maddux was elated after getting chosen, and he could barely even fathom the enormity of what this says about his career, according to MLB Network PR:
Maddux won 355 games with a career ERA of 3.16, while garnering four Cy Young Awards and eight All-Star nods. Maddux even captured an incredible 18 Gold Glove awards, which is often forgotten amid his many other accolades.
"Mad Dog" won just one World Series, which may be the only true knock against him, but there is no denying his dominance during a time when many hitters were seemingly playing with an unfair advantage due to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
There has never been an inkling that Maddux was involved with PEDs, but their presence did cost him a shot at being a unanimous inductee. According to the Associated Press via ESPN.com, one voter admittedly left Maddux off his ballot due to the steroid era in general, and instead opted for a less-popular choice in Jack Morris:
Ken Gurnick of MLB.com said Tuesday that he excluded "everybody from the steroid era."
"I just don't know who did and who didn't," Gurnick said, adding: "Some people quibble over when the era starts, but the bulk of (Morris') career was in my opinion well before all of the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs."
This decision peeved many people within the sports community, including Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated:
Despite that, Maddux's 97.2 percent of the vote was just short of the all-time record set by New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds ace Tom Seaver, according to Jesse Spector of Sporting News:
It may not have been unanimous, but Maddux is an obvious Hall of Famer.
He may not have been automatic like former teammate Greg Maddux, but the prevailing thought was that Tom Glavine stood a great chance of entering the Hall of Fame on the first ballot as well. The consistent lefty ended his 22-year career with 305 wins, and that benchmark was enough to get him to Cooperstown.
Although Glavine was often overshadowed by Maddux, there is no denying the fact that he was great in his own right. He offered a different look within the Braves' rotation alongside Maddux and John Smoltz, and it can certainly be argued that he was Atlanta's best pitcher at times.
Glavine won the Cy Young Award twice and made the All-Star team 10 times, which is actually two more than Maddux. In fact, Glavine was still a high-level pitcher at the tail end of his career as he earned an All-Star nod with the New York Mets in 2006 at the age of 40. He is another guy who knew how to pitch without blowing hitters away.
Maddux even admitted that he learned a lot from pitching alongside Glavine for so many years, per Mark Bowman of MLB.com:
Prior to the Hall of Fame announcement, Glavine expressed a desire to go in on the first ballot, although he knew that having to wait was a possibility, according to Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com:
I'm confident at some point in time it's going to happen. Whether it's on the first ballot, I don't know. We'll see. There are a lot of good players eligible. Would I love to have it happen on the first ballot? Sure. If it doesn't, I'd be disappointed. But we'll gear up for the following year and hopefully it will happen the following year.
Just like Maddux, Glavine seemingly benefited from being such a great pitcher during a time when hitting statistics were inflated. Glavine often doesn't receive as much credit as he deserves due to the pitchers he was surrounded by for much of his career, so it's nice to see him get recognized with this honor.
Although there was some question as to whether Chicago White Sox first baseman and designated hitter Frank Thomas would be elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, the voters clearly felt as though his huge numbers and lack of a link to performance-enhancing drugs made him a surefire selection.
Thomas referenced the latter point as he praised the voters for recognizing that his production was authentic, according to Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times:
From a production standpoint, it’s impossible to argue with Thomas’ inclusion. He maintained a career batting average of .301, clubbed 521 home runs and drove in over 1,700 runs as well. “The Big Hurt” also won consecutive American League MVP awards in 1993 and 1994, and he was named to five All-Star teams.
Thomas began his career purely as a first baseman, but he played as a designated hitter for much of the latter part. In fact, he played more games as a DH than he did at first, which makes him the first of his kind in the Hall of Fame, according to baseball writer Tom Swyers:
It is clear that even Thomas was unsure if he would make the cut this year, as this photo of a relieved Big Hurt suggests (courtesy of Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s Chuck Garfien):
Thomas did garner enough support, though, and it could signal a seismic shift in Hall of Fame philosophy. Since Thomas was primarily a DH, perhaps it will open the door for designated hitter Edgar Martinez, who has been on the ballot for quite some time. It may also help Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz when his time comes.
Whatever the case, Thomas was an absolute force at the plate, and that was unquestionably enough to earn him baseball immortality.
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