Of the 19 new candidates on the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot–announced on Tuesday–former Cubs and Braves ace Greg Maddux and former White Sox basher Frank Thomas should ensure that there’s no HOF shutout this season.
The BBWAA spoke loudly and expressed themselves like NWA last season, as no MLB player earned the 75 percent of votes needed for induction.
Despite a crop of all-time sluggers, who in any other era would be no-brainers, the continuing debate over whether to elect players suspected of using PED's cost several stars a shot at immortality. The writers have attitudes that aren’t favorable towards any player who's admitted to PED use or is strongly suspected.
Jack Morris, now in his final year of eligibility, came close last year with 67.7 percent. Others with more than 50 percent of the vote were first baseman Jeff Bagwell (59.6), catcher Mike Piazza (57.8) and outfielder Tim Raines (52.2). Both Piazza and Bagwell's chances are also hindered by steroid suspicion.
Maddux was a beast in every sense of the word. As the top dawg of one of baseball's epic rotations, Maddux was known for his technical mastery, and located his pitches like a sniper zeroing in on a target. He won four consecutive National League Cy Young Awards from 1992-95, and a record 18 Gold Glove Awards in 23 seasons, which included stints with the Dodgers and Padres too. He won 355 games with a 3.16 earned run average and 3,371 strikeouts, leading the league in ERA four times and winning 15 games or more for a record 17 consecutive seasons. Maddux might even challenge Tom Seaver’s all-time 98.4 percent of votes received. He was that official, and posted these numbers during the Steroids Era, which boosts his swag.
"The Big Hurt" repped the low flat top like religion and won back-to-back American League MVP awards with the White Sox in 1993 and ’94. The 6-5, 245-pound anvil finished with 521 blasts and 1,704 RBIs over a dazzling 19-year career. While his contemporaries like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa’s HOF chances have been wrecked by being linked to performance enhancing drugs, Thomas is considered as clean as washed Colombian drug money in the '80s.
Among the other first-time candidates are Tom Glavine (the No.2 to Maddux during the Braves ‘90s Dynasty) and second baseman Jeff Kent, both considered Hall of Fame players. Glavine had 305 victories over an illustrious 22-year career with the Braves and if he isn’t a first-ballot bloomer, he will get in soon.
The rest of the 36-man ballot consists of Moises Alou, Bonds, Armando Benitez, Sean Casey, Ray Durham, Eric Gagne, Luis Gonzalez, Jacque Jones, Todd Jones, Paul Lo Duca, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, McGwire, Jack Morris, Mike Mussina, Hideo Nomo, Rafael Palmeiro, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Kenny Rogers, Curt Schilling, Richie Sexson, Lee Smith, J.T. Snow, Mike Timlin, Alan Trammell and Larry Walker
The never-ending drama surrounding A-Rod and his PED soap opera only means that the players who are tainted by suspicion will be made examples of until cheating is eradicated from the game. While most fans have an apathetic attitude towards PED's, the writers have become commissioner Bud Selig’s extended hand of punishment and anointed themselves the HOF's moral sheriffs.
Despite the fact that they turned the other cheek while players juiced for two decades, the BBWAA now plays the role of judge and jury, while implying that they were as duped and betrayed by baseball's stars as everybody else.
The BBWAA has been unpredictable the past couple of years, but here are the five guys besides Maddux and Thomas that The Shadow League would induct if we had the qualifying 10 consecutive years of membership in the BBWAA needed to cast a vote:
Jack Morris: Morris was a stud pitcher during the '80s He started Game 1 of the World Series for three different teams, and all three teams won the Series. He was 4-2 with a 2.96 ERA in seven World Series starts, and, yes, that includes Game 7 in 1991. He received 67.7 percent of the vote last year and this will be his 15th and final shot at induction. Morris, who is as dope a money pitcher as any in baseball history, gets flack from sabermetrics cats who point to his 3.90 career ERA and unimpressive 1.296 WHIP. But most people who actually saw Morris play knows that they were watching a Hall of Famer collect every one of his 254 career wins. Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci pointed out that Morris pitched at least eight innings in 248 starts, which is the most by any AL pitcher in the DH era. He was a workhorse and he shined in crunchtime.
Tim Raines Tim Raines is one of the greatest leadoff hitters of all-time. He’s the 1986 NL batting champ, a six-time all-star and four-time stolen base king. Raines played his best 13 years with the Montreal Expos, making those ugly ass uniforms look hard as hell. That’s how he played. His nickname was “Rock,” so you know what it is already. The mean Jheri curl he rocked should be enough for induction alone. Son looked like a member of Baby Face and The Deele, but balled out like Lou Brock on steroids.
Raines is fifth on the all-time stolen base list with 808, which should also get him on the ballot. He could field and throw his ass off and had 2, 605 hits and a .294 career batting average over 23 seasons. Most importantly, he was raw excitement and his presence enhanced the game, made it sexier and attracted young minority kids to MLB. He was fly, furious and definitely one of the greatest all-around performers to grace the sport.
Edgar Martinez: Papi Ortiz will probably be the first DH inducted into the Hall of Fame. His opportunity to play for great Red Sox teams during the social media explosion and then his uncanny ability to go bat bonkers in the playoffs, have helped his chances. Still, its undeniable that Martinez is one of the most gifted hitters the sport has seen. Any teammate or opposing pitcher will cosign that. The DH-bias against him needs to come to an end. Martinez was a prolific hit machine, feared batsman and high-average dude during his 18-year career with the Mariners. His best years were from ’92-’01 (the heart of the Steroids era), but at 6´0, 175 pounds, the only thing enhanced about Martinez was his career batting average (.312) and hits count (2,247). Hitting .330 was nothing. He had seasons of .343, .356 and .337, was a seven-time All-Star and a two-time batting champion.
Fred McGriff: McGriff is a brother with the nickname “Crime Dog.” You can’t beat that with Babe Ruth’s bat. He’s also another one of the dying crop of ball-bashing black players that were so prevalent from the '70s to the '90s. McGriff should make it because he is a relic; a player from an era and time when baseball truly was a cornucopia of races, cultures and skill sets.
The knock on the tall, lanky McGriff will be that during his career from 1986 to 2004, he never won an MVP award or was considered a Top 5 hitter. Although he never hit more than 37 homers in a single season, he finished his career with 493 dingers and won a World Series title with A-Town in 1995.
He had a little bit of Frank Robinson in him, becoming the first player since the dead-ball era to league both leagues in homers. He also had some Willie Stargell in him, as the five-time all-star was nasty with the leather and always a team leader and perennially feared power bat. McGriff hit mammoth homers and made pitchers piss their pants. Since we are placing so much emphasis on morality these days, it has to be taken into account that Crime Dog did his job with undeniable class and grace.
Lee Smith : Characters of the game have always been embraced by baseball culture. Smith was that and then some. When Smith retired, he was also the leader in career saves with 478. He since has been passed by Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera but still ranks third. Smith reached that number by flexing supreme durability. His 12 straight seasons with at least 60 appearances is still the longest streak in MLB history by any closer. And he’s the only reliever in history to post 13 straight seasons of at least 25 saves.
Then why are we even disputing Lee's credentials? When you start dissecting and doing some “retroactive cherry-picking” as the NY Post’s Joel Sherman put it, Smith had just one season — out of 18 — in which his ERA was less than 2.00. In comparison, a closer such as Rivera has had eight such seasons.
Goose Gossage had four. Dennis Eckersley had three. Smith put in classic, consistent work for almost two decades. He might have never had the platinum hit, but he was a gold record every time out. You can’t ignore the numbers.
Writers who want to toss aside Lee’s positive numbers (which cement him as a legend), are merely funny style cats who need to get a life. Stop playing God and give props to the angry black man on the mound. That’s what Smith was, with his menacing scowl, serious demeanor and wild Jheri curl fro. He stood about 6-5 and on some days, for 15 pitches or so, he was the reincarnation of Bullet Bob Gibson.
The way I see it, Smith was the true definition of a fireman. He could extinguish flames and catch K’s like every day, but he blew some games too. He also has to get special props for being the greatest black closer in history and being prolific in a role that has 0 African-American representatives in MLB today. Smith is truly a Hall of Famer and a black sports novelty. Each of these base brawlers deserve a HOF nod for various compelling reasons. Hopefully, the writers will stop fronting and credit these men for their impactful years of service.