Cooperstown, New York. This is the holy ground of the baseball world. In this quiet town lies the pantheon of baseball greatness that everybody that steps onto the diamond dreams of entering: The Baseball Hall of Fame.
Ryan Fox - @Spider_Fox87
Last year in 2013, in a controversial move, nobody got the necessary 75% vote mark to get into the Hall of Fame. This was due to a majority of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BWAA) making a stance against many of the steroid users on the ballot (i.e. Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa). However in 2014, the BWAA was able to redeem themselves. This time around we have 6 people that got voted into the Hall of Fame. This includes 2 pitchers from an era where the Jewel of the South reigned supreme in the East, a big bat, and 3 of the greatest managers our young generation has seen.
First we look at pitcher Greg Maddux. From 1986 to 2008, Greg Maddux played in primarily in the National League. He had two stints with the Chicago Cubs, the team that originally drafted him in 1986 to 1992 and then from 2004-2006, a more than memorable career with the Atlanta Braves from 1993 to 2003, before having alternate stops between the Los Angeles Dodgers (2006, 2008) and the San Diego Padres (2007-2008). Known as ‘The Professor’ and ‘Mad Dog’, Maddux was arguably the most dominating National League pitcher during the ‘Steroid Era’ of baseball. Just his stats during his time with the Atlanta Braves was Hall of Fame worthy. In the 363 games he played and started in with the Braves, Maddux composed a record of 194-88 with an ERA of 2.62. This includes 61 complete games, 21 of those being shutouts. He also struck out 1,828 batters and walked only 383 in 2,526.2 innings. Because of his performance, Maddux won the NL Cy Young in four consecutive years (1992-1995), being one of two pitchers for that to ever happen to. Not to mention that his 176 wins during the 1990s is the most of that decade.
Overall, Maddux played in 23 years of baseball. His lifetime record was 355-227 in 740 starts. He pitched in 5,008.1 innings while striking out batters 3,371 times while walking them just 999 times. Defensively, he was near perfect. In 1,793 defensive chances, Maddux had 546 putouts and 1194 assists while committing only 53 errors. Aside from winning 4 consecutive Cy Youngs, Maddux was an 8x All-Star, an 18x Gold Glove winner, 4x NL ERA champion, a 3x NL Wins Champion, and he won a World Series with the ’95 Braves.
From 1990-2005, Frank Thomas played with the Chicago White Sox. Though he was listed as a first baseman, Thomas mostly played in the DH role. In the 16 years he was with the White Sox, Thomas played in 1,959 games. He batted an average of .307 (2,136-for-6,956), scored 1,327 runs, had 448 HRs, 1,465 RBIs, was walked 1,466 times, collected 3,949 total bases, had an OBP of .427, slugging percentage of .568, and an OPS of .995. Mind you, except for the OPS, all those are Chicago White Sox franchise records. Thomas had 5 All-Star appearances (1993-97), 4 Silver Slugger Awards (1991, 1993-94, 2000), 2 AL MVPs (1993-1994), won the 1997 AL Batting Title (.347), the 2000 AL Comeback Player of the Year (.328 BA with 43 HR, 143 RBIs, scored 115 runs, OBP of .436, slugging of .625, and OPS of 1.061).
After leaving the White Sox, Thomas bounced between the Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays from 2006-08. His total career numbers round out to a lifetime batting average of .301 (2,468-for-8,199), scored 1,494 runs, had 521 HRs, 1,704 RBIs, was walked 1,667 times, collected 4,550 total bases, had an OBP of .419, slugging percentage of .555, and an OPS of .974.
But with every good story of those getting into the Hall of Fame, there’s the other side of the coin. Jack Morris, a former MLB pitcher from 1977-94 who won 254 games, 4 World Series and had 5 All-Star appearances, didn’t get in on his 15th and final try. Craig Biggio, a 7-time All-Star, 4-time Gold Glove Winner, and 5-time Silver Slugger with the Houston Astros from 1998-2007, missed the qualifying vote by 0.2%. (Biggio had 74.8% of the votes). Then of course you got your Steroid Era users (Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens) as well as the question mark players (Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Jeff Bagwell) and just others who you wonder if they’ll even make it to the entrance. (Armando Benitez anybody?)
Every year, when people get voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, there are always going to be some people who are going to question whether or not Player A deserves entry over Player B. However this time around, the BWAA got it right with their entries. Next year we will be back to square one of who deserves to get in, who doesn’t, and which baseball writer is going to get on their soapbox and make a ‘statement’ against the steroid users. The participants may change but the song will always stay the same.
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