The 2014 induction class of the Baseball Hall of Fame was announced Wednesday afternoon and Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas are on their way to Cooperstown.
Players must be named on 75% of the Baseball Writers Association of America’s ballots to get in. Maddux was named on 97.2%, Glavine 91.9% and Thomas 83.7%. The highest total for a non-electee went to Craig Biggio who fell just short at 74.8%. The full results can be seen here.
This summer’s induction will mark the first time since 1999 that three players were selected by the baseball writers. That year saw George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount make the cut. The last time as many as four made it in via the writers’ ballot was 1955, when Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Dazzy Vance and Ted Lyons made it in. In all, six men will be on the stage in Cooperstown, as Maddux, Glavine and Thomas will be inducted alongside Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre, all of whom were unanimously selected by the Veteran’s Committee in December.
But while this year’s induction class will be big by historical standards, the names of the players who did not gain induction are pretty big themselves. Craig Biggio had over 3,000 hits in his career and did everything one can do on a baseball diamond, yet somehow continues to be on the outside looking in. Baseball’s all-time home run leader, Barry Bonds, is in the cold as well, as is seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens. Mike Piazza, perhaps the greatest hitting catcher in the game’s history will have to face the voters again next winter, as will Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Jeff Kent and several others who, if you go by historical standards, fit in quite well alongside current inductees and dwarf the accomplishments of a great many of them.
Of course, historical standards are no longer operative given that the players currently under consideration plied their trade during the so-called Steroids Era and thus either took performance enhancing drugs (e.g. Bonds at 34.7% and Clemens at 35.4%) or, in the case of some, are merely suspected of doing so, often based on little if any evidence other than the number of home runs they hit or the company they kept (e.g. Jeff Bagwell, at 54.3% and Piazza at 62.2%). In the case of others, such as Tim Raines (46.1%) and Mike Mussina (20.3%), the ballot logjam occasioned by so many strong candidates lingering on the ballot for many years combined with the fact that voters can only select ten players, is squeezing them out. We will be discussing the particular cases of these players and the role of PEDs in the Hall of Fame process later today at HardballTalk.
But better to be overlooked or squeezed out than to fall off the ballot entirely. Such is fate for Jack Morris, who received 61.5% of the vote on his fifteenth and final time up for election. Multiple other players fell short of 5% of the vote and, per Hall of Fame rules, will not be eligible for election by the baseball writers again. Of these, only Rafael Palmeiro, who received 4.4%, actually had arguable Hall of Fame credentials. Morris and the rest will now be fodder for the Veteran’s Committee in future years.
But oversights and eliminations notwithstanding, this year’s induction class is strong by any measure. And given that last year’s induction class included absolutely no one who had been alive since 1930, it looks especially strong with reference to recent precedent.