Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame

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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.

MORE: The PED Eight — players who continue to be denied induction

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.

MORE: Who was BBWWA member who sold vote to Deadspin?

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.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts continues to cry poor

Tom Ricketts
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
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MLB owners and the MLB Players Association continue to hash out details, some in public, about a 2020 baseball season. The owners have been suggesting a shorter season, claiming that they lose money on every game played without fans in attendance. The union wants a longer season, since players are — as per the March agreement — being paid a prorated salary. Players thus make more money over the 114 games the MLBPA suggested than the 50 or so the owners want.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has been among the more vocal owners in recent weeks, claiming that the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing shutdown of MLB has greatly hurt MLB owners’ business. Speaking to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, Ricketts claimed, “The scale of losses across the league is biblical.”

Ricketts said, “Here’s something I hope baseball fans understand. Most baseball owners don’t take money out of their team. They raise all the revenue they can from tickets and media rights, and they take out their expenses, and they give all the money left to their GM to spend.” Ricketts continued, “The league itself does not make a lot of cash. I think there is a perception that we hoard cash and we take money out and it’s all sitting in a pile we’ve collected over the years. Well, it isn’t. Because no one anticipated a pandemic. No one expects to have to draw down on the reserves from the past. Every team has to figure out a way to plug the hole.”

Pertaining to Ricketts’ claim that “the league itself does not make a lot of cash,” Forbes reported in December that, for the 17th consecutive season, MLB set a new revenue record, this time at $10.7 billion. In accounting, revenues are calculated before factoring in expenses, but unless the league has $10 billion in expenses, I cannot think of a way in which Ricketts’ statement can be true.

MLB owners notably don’t open their accounting books to the public. Because the owners were crying poor during negotiations, the MLBPA asked them to provide proof of financial distress. The owners haven’t provided those documents. Thus, unless Ricketts opens his books, his claim can be proven neither true nor false, and should be taken with the largest of salt grains. If owners really are hurting as badly as they say they are, they should be more than willing to prove it. That they don’t readily provide that proof suggests they are being misleading.

It’s worth noting that the Ricketts family has a history of not being forthcoming about their money. Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts got into hot water last year after it was found he had used inaccurate information when paying property taxes. In 2007, he bought two properties and demolished both, building a new, state-of-the-art house. For years, Ricketts used information pertaining to the older, demolished property rather than the current property, which drastically lowered his property taxes. Based on the adjustment, Ricketts’ property taxes increased from $828,000 to $1.96 million for 2019, according to The Chicago Tribune. Ricketts also had to pay back taxes for the previous three years.

At any rate, the owners want to pass off the financial risk of doing business onto their labor force. As we have noted here countless times, there is inherent risk in doing business. Owning a Major League Baseball team has, for decades, been nearly risk-free, which has benefited both the owners and, to a lesser extent, its workforce. The pandemic has thrown a wrench into everybody’s plans, but the financial losses these last three months are part of the risk. Furthermore, when teams have done much better business than expected, the owners haven’t benevolently spread that wealth out to their players, so why should the players forfeit even more of their pay than they already are when times are tough?