Posted January 10, 2013

Maddux, Glavine, Thomas highlight 2014 Hall of Fame ballot

Hall of Fame, JAWS
Greg Maddux thoroughly dominated hitters at the height of the Steroid Era. (Richard Mackson/SI)

Greg Maddux thoroughly dominated hitters at the height of the Steroid Era. (Richard Mackson/SI)

In the wake of Wednesday’s Hall of Fame shutout, many people — including writers in the BBWAA — have called for changes to the voting process. Whether they’re asking for clear direction from the institution and Major League Baseball about how to handle candidates linked to performance-enhancing drugs, elimination of the character clause, additional room on the ballot to list more than 10 candidates, more leeway for first-year candidates who don’t meet the 5.0 percent minimum threshold, or changes to the voting body, there are no shortage of ideas out there, many of them good ones.

Thus far, the institution itself sounds disinclined to change the process. Said Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson in the wake of the BBWAA’s failure to elect a candidate, “Obviously, no one in Cooperstown was rooting for a shutout, but we have a great respect for the process. . . . We remain very confident and very comfortable with the electorate, as well as the guidelines we give [them].”

One year without a new honoree may be considered a statement about an era rife with PED use or simply an historical aberration (it hasn’t happened since 1996, and the last time before that was 1971). Continued logjams would increase the likelihood of the Hall taking action, as it did in the past decade, when the Veterans Committee pitched three straight shutouts and then added just one more old-time player over the next two cycles. Any change to the voting body — to include broadcasters, MLB.com writers, historians, BBWAA members with less than 10 years — is bound to encounter tremendous resistance, whether from outside the BBWAA or within.

The most likely change may be in stripping the voting privileges from writers who haven’t covered baseball in a long time; once a voter reaches 10 years of consecutive service with a BBWAA-affiliated outfit, he or she is allowed to vote even after moving on to cover another sport or retire to an armchair. Another idea less likely to encounter fierce resistance is the limit of 10 votes per candidate, which is completely arbitrary and connected to an era when Major League Baseball had about half as many players.

Meanwhile, the ballot will only grow more crowded. Of the 37 candidates on this year’s slate, 18 received more than 5.0 percent of the vote, and 17 of those 18 — all but Dale Murphy — still have at least a year of eligibility left. Joining that group will be a class of newcomers nearly as distinguished as this year’s crop, though perhaps less polarizing and certainly with fewer connections to performance-enhancing drugs. No fewer than 28 players are eligible to be nominated based upon the basic criteria (10 years in the majors with at least one game played, five years since last appearing in the majors), though some of them will not survive the initial process to reach the ballot (Jose Vidro? Joe Borowski? Shawn Estes?). A quick rundown of the top candidates:

Greg Maddux (101.6 career WAR/54.7 peak WAR/78.2 JAWS) Maddux has been called “the Smartest Pitcher Who Ever Lived,” a four-time Cy Young award winner who racked up 355 wins, the most of any right-handed pitcher since World War II. Maddux didn’t overpower hitters in the manner of Roger Clemens, but he did have impeccable control, posting the league’s lowest walk rate nine times. He led the league in ERA four times, threw at least 199 1/3 innings for 17 straight seasons (1988-2006) even with the 1994-1995 players’ strike, and helped the Cubs, Braves and Dodgers to 13 postseason appearances, three pennants and one world championship. With a JAWS that ranks ninth among all starting pitchers (average 67.9/47.7/57.8) and third among those since World War II behind Clemens and Tom Seaver, he should sail into the Hall easily.

Tom Glavine (76.8/42.6/59.7) Maddux’s teammate with the Braves for a decade was the prototypical crafty lefty, a pitcher who didn’t dominate but could spot his fastball wherever he pleased, and expand the umpire’s strike zone to an impressive (or maddening, depending upon your point of view) degree. He racked up 305 wins, reaching 20 in a season five times, and took home two Cy Young awards while helping the Braves reach 11 consecutive postseasons (1991-2002, interrupted by the 1994 strike), five pennants and one championship. His peak wasn’t all that high — it’s actually five wins below the standard for Hall starters — but he was exceptionally durable, and his JAWS exceeds the standard; he ranks 32nd among all starting pitchers, 17th among postwar ones. He won’t be an automatic choice, given that voters have deferred on 300 game winners in the past, but it’s quite possible that the writers will elect him so he can go in alongside his longtime teammate.

Mike Mussina (78.2/42.4/60.3) The Moose is two spots above Glavine in the JAWS rankings, with a similar above-career/below-peak shape to his line. In an 18-year career split between the Orioles and Yankees, he notched 270 wins, including 20 in his final season, and helped his teams to nine postseason appearances and two pennants. He’ll have a tougher road to Cooperstown than the Braves’ pair given “only” five All-Star appearances and the lack of a Cy Young award; he finished second to Pedro Martinez in 1999, but in the top five six times. Mussina’s trajectory could parallel that of the Cy-less Curt Schilling, who debuted with 38.8 percent of the ballot this year, setting him up for a long, slow climb to 75 percent.

Frank Thomas (69.7/43.7/56.7) A two-time MVP who inspired so much fear in opposing pitchers that he drew over 100 walks 10 times, “The Big Hurt” was one of the best hitters of the era. He won two MVPs, one batting title, led his league in on-base percentage four times and in slugging percentage once and finished his career with a .301/.419/.555 line and 521 homers. Even after adjusting for his hitter-friendly surroundings, that comes out to a .331 True Average, good for 13th among hitters with at least 9,000 plate appearances, a cutoff that still includes Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle. While his oversized body and gaudy numbers will cause at least a few whispers about PED use, Thomas is the one player who willingly spoke to Senator George Mitchell for the 2007 Mitchell Report. He did spent more of his time as a designated hitter than as a first baseman, but he’ll be compared to the latter group, among whom he ranks ninth, well above the Hall standards across the board (62.3/40.7/51.5).

Jeff Kent (51.9/34.1/43.0) A five-time All-Star who won NL MVP honors in 2000, Kent got a bit of a late start to his career; he didn’t debut in the majors until age 24, didn’t reach 500 plate appearances in a season until age 25, and didn’t begin to shine until he was traded three times and landed with the Giants at age 29. He provided considerable pop for a middle infielder, batting .290/.356/.500 with 377 homers, including a record 351 as a second baseman. He helped his team reach the playoffs seven times, and hit .276/.340/.500 with nine homers in October. For all of that, Kent’s merits are stronger in the traditional sense than in the sabermetric one due to subpar defense, which weighs down his WAR totals; he ranks just 18th among second basemen, well behind ballot-mate Craig Biggio (13th) as well as fellow contemporary Roberto Alomar (12th). He’ll persist on the ballot for a long time, and could eventually get voted into Cooperstown, but he’s no automatic choice.

Beyond that quintet are a couple of outfielders who bopped over 300 homers in Luis Gonzalez and Moises Alou, as well as another pitcher who stuck around long enough to win 219 games and enjoy a late-career rebirth in Kenny Rogers. Even so, none of the remaining candidates comes close enough in terms of either traditional or sabermetric merits to garner too much support from voters.

The holdovers who will suffer — or benefit — the most are those who played the same position as the above five, inviting easy comparisons. Biggio’s chances of being elected should be helped by the direct comparison to Kent, while the bids of Schilling and Jack Morris (who’s in his final year of eligibility) could be hurt by the presence of Maddux and Glavine, or even the crowding by Mussina. Given his home run totals and PED-free reputation, Thomas could make things harder for birthday twin Jeff Bagwell as well as fellow designated masher Edgar Martinez, who outhit him substantially in the DH role. The sheer presence of more strong candidates will make it harder for Mike Piazza and Tim Raines, both of whom received more than 50 percent of the vote, though the first-ballot squeamishness holding Piazza back should dissipate.

With Clemens and Barry Bonds still on the ballot, interested parties will still make a great deal of noise regarding PEDs, but the volume should be lower than during the most recent cycle. Hopefully, a bit more distance from a messy era will put things in better perspective, but deep divides remain within the electorate, and there will be no shortage of debate.

44 comments
r p
r p

We will once again witness the ignorance of the voting populace next season. Maddux should be unanimous, but he will not be.

mhstewart.1
mhstewart.1

Maddux, Glavine, and Thomas, all 1st ballot HOFers, Mussina probably a 2nd or 3rd ballot HOFer.  Kent is not, especially if you consider his career progression in the era he was in. 

MattBugaj
MattBugaj

I am pleased that no one was voted in this year, as none deserved it this year.  A handful from this year may make it eventually.  I had some opposite viewpoints on the new characters:

Biggio never had more definitive fame than Jeff Kent, who had an MVP.  I think Kent will cloud his case rather than bolster it unless voters rely too heavily on the new fielding stats, which have yet to reach a consensus of reliability.I also think that Piazza and Bagwell will be helped by the presence of Thomas, and eventually Griffey, because those guys were all contemporaries, such that they might ride their coattails after the first two are elected.

 

 

splabman
splabman

To insinuate that Frank Thomas had anything to do with steroids is completely irresponsible, to say the very least. That line should be retracted and replaced by the fact that Thomas would have won 3 MVP awards if Jason Giambi, an ADMITTED steroid user, was playing clean. Real journalism is more responsible than this, as any J-school student at Medill will tell you.

fincham950
fincham950

Mussina is absolutely 100% a Hall of Fame pitcher.

whizkid50
whizkid50

JAWS has Bob Feller as the 47th best starting pitcher of all time. I think JAWS needs a tune up.

whizkid50
whizkid50

Bob Feller- the 47th best starting pitcher of all time? You have to be kidding

JohnLammTX
JohnLammTX

Maddux defines first ballot Hall of Famer. He should be in Brett and Ryan territory with 97-98%.

Glavine is a no doubt HOF, BUT I'd be willing to pass on him on the first ballot to free up room for deserving holdovers.

Mussina, no.

Frank Thomas, no doubt first ballot. One of the most feared hitters of his era.

Kent, I'm on the fence about. Not the first time, ask me after the ballot's cleared up a little.

PaulKim
PaulKim

how i would fix HoF voting procedure:  making it like the U.S. jury system with current members of HoF (which includes former players, coaches, executives and writers) serving as the pool; each year 12 (or some small number) are randomly selected from the pool to spend a weekend debating the merits of each candidate.  Each candidate gets a straight yes-or-no vote, with no limits on how many can be elected in a given year.  The candidate can be elected or removed from future ballots only by unanimous (or close to unanimous) vote.

0xfece5
0xfece5

When you look up "first-ballot HOFer" in the dictionary, there's a picture of Greg Maddux.  Outstanding stats, durability, sportsmanship, loyalty, and completely free of controversy.  In other words, there's not a single defensible reason not to vote for him.  They should revoke the credentials of anyone who leaves him off.

jhbvta24
jhbvta24

AARON SELE?

 

How can anyone take the BBBWA membership seriously? Even the voting members have made a mockery of the voting process.

doublejtrain68
doublejtrain68

There is something seriously wrong if Maddux, Glavine and Thomas don't get in on the first-ballot next year. It would be obvious these writers/voters have their own agendas and are making it too personal. 

Bighurt35
Bighurt35

Jay I had a question for you. In an article you wrote for Baseball prospectus you have Frank's WARP scores at 90.2 Career, 58.1 Peak, and 74.2 Jaws. What am I missing in the change of scores? Frank is still an inner circle first ballot kinda player no?

KSS
KSS

Frank Thomas was a very outspoken proponent of drug testing.  The fact that he was big should not implicate him in anyway to steroid use - he was always big.  Not like most of the other players that suddenly grew during their careers (like Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, Canseco, etc etc).  Thomas should be a first ballot hall of famer, considering he did it without help.  

floorme1955
floorme1955

The baseball home plate dimensions are 17 inches wide~ This remained constant with 1 exception~ 

 

Tom Glavin, who received a more GENEROUS 22" wide STRIKE ZONE by major league Umpires- SOMEHOW-Tom Glavin got the reputation of an exceptional control pitcher with super human precision : Thus benefiting from pitches so far off the plate being called strikes that his pitching added to the perception that MLB had BLIND UMPIRES~

 

If Glavin makes the Hall of Fame- you might as well vote in Eddie Gaedel- the 3 ft.  7 inch (little person) who St. Louis Brown's  owner Bill Veeck exploited by pinch hitting him in 1 plate appearance in 1951

 

no.morepc1
no.morepc1

Glavine and Maddux a couple of real bad arses and deserve first ballot election in '14.

HOFPufnstuf
HOFPufnstuf

@r p if he gets 99 pct, for whatever reason, you'll be offended by that? No one has gotten 100 pct. Not Mays, Walter Johnson, Seaver...not Ruth or Aaron

HOFPufnstuf
HOFPufnstuf

@mhstewart.1 Thomas is not a first ballot guy.

Michael10
Michael10

@MattBugaj Shouldn't be any coattails about it. Bagwell was every bit Thomas's equal and by many measures, a better all-around ballplayer. The current trend suggest Thomas will wait at least a year as his career value lags behind Bagwell, is just ahead of fellow DH Martinez, and is dead even with Walker. However, voters like round numbers and are eager to get fans off their backs. Since Thomas came into the league a football player, there were never any PED allegations like there are around guys who bulked up after arriving, PEDs or not...

therednorth1
therednorth1

 @splabman That's why he didn't insinuate that Thomas had anything to do with steroids, and in fact clearly states that.

 

All he said was that voters are foolishly saying any power hitter in the steroid era are steroid suspects, something that could hurt Thomas.

Michael10
Michael10

@splabman Well, Olerud or Griffey should have won instead of Thomas in '93, so it's a wash, anyway...

HOFPufnstuf
HOFPufnstuf

@whizkid50 word.....JAWS sucks. Any rating model s biased. A few years ago espn rolled out qbr and it rated Tebow ahead of Aaron Rodgers who was mvp that year. Turns out that Trent Dilfrr helped develop the model so it favored ball control, low risk play. Not sure where JAWS goes bad, but like most models it does not illuminate the "how" or "when" in a players career. For example, old timers know that Feller was a big game pitcher. Pitched his best against toughest opponents. JAWS can't see that. It has no visuals or sense of drama. Ozzie Smith made shortstop play into high art, but JAWS buts competent Alan Trammel in the same class as Ozzie. At this point, i'm more inclined to trust thewriters.

Michael10
Michael10

@whizkid50 War hurt Feller's career more than any player except Ted Williams. He was out almost all of the four seasons from age 23-26 and was already not only the best pitcher, but the best player in the league at age 20 (imagine Mike Trout missing the next four years to military service). Based on his totals before and after, he probably lost at least 8.5 WAR per season which would have given him a JAWS slash of 90.0/61.5/75.8 -- putting him in 11th place just behind Randy Johnson and just ahead of Bob Gibson (and two old-timers, Clarkson and Keefe). This is why sabermetrics can only take you so far -- why they should be used to open the debate, not end it.

Michael10
Michael10

@JohnLammTX Consider these two lines:

 

270-153 (.638 W-L%), 123 ERA+, 1.192 WHIP, 785 BB/2813 K, 7x GG, 5x AS

 

268-152 (.638 W-L%) 125 ERA+, 1.180 WHIP, 1311 BB/2212 K, 4x GG, 6x AS

 

Which is the better line? One is Mike Mussina, the other is first-ballot HOFer Jim Palmer. Yes, Palmer has 3 CYAs, but was only the best pitcher one of those years (1975); Mussina was the best pitcher in 2000 but came up empty-handed. He finished in the top 6 nine times in eighteen seasons (Palmer did eight times in nineteen). Palmer called it quits after posting a 9.17 ERA in his final season; Mussina retired after a 20-win season and a final Gold Glove.

 

The numbers are pretty much heads up (though Mussina had much better control). Palmer has the edge in hardware, but all advanced metrics give a decided advantage to Mussina for putting up comparable numbers in a much more offense-driven era. Moose should be a no-brainer.

 

Jeff Kent, on the other hand, ranks well below Biggio in career value and should not even be a borderline case. It could even be argued (a stretch perhaps, but that never stopped an argument), that his numbers have a "second-hand" PED taint, having hit behind Bonds all those years. Sixty percent of his career WAR and nearly half of his counting stats came during those six years in SF...

Chris23
Chris23

This isn't new- David Segui got a vote three years ago

Michael10
Michael10

Guys like Neikro, Perry, Sutton and Jenkins did not get in on the first ballot and Glavine probably falls somewhere in the middle of that pack.  It won't be unprecedented -- or any great injustice -- if he has to wait a year or two. 

 

Everyone thinks the stars of their generation are the TRUE first ballot guys, somehow deserving of transcending nearly eighty years of HOF voting history.  Cy Young wasn't even a first ballot HOFer, and I hear they named some sort of award after him...

Michael10
Michael10

JAWS now uses Baseball-Reference's version of WAR...

SenorPlaid
SenorPlaid

 @KSS My guess is he'll have to wait a year or two, because the writers are hypocrites. On the one hand, they hold it against Bonds & Co for using PEDs to become THAT GOOD, but they'll still penalize Thomas & Co. for not being AS GOOD.

r p
r p

Your comedy routine needs some work. Every pitcher in MLB benefits from an ever changing strike zone. Especially those that were fortunate enough to have Eric Gregg behind the plate on any given night. Perhaps you need new glasses.@floorme1955 

PAZSKY
PAZSKY

 @floorme1955

 Thant is the most idiodic comparison I have ever read...Gaedel? Really? get a clue dummy! 300 wins=HOF.

Michael10
Michael10

If guys like Murray, Stargell and McCovey were first ballot HOFers, there's no reason Thomas should not be. He was a better hitter than any of them and has as many MVPs as those three combined. Thomas ranks 14th all-time in OPS and 20th in OPS+ (by comparison, Ken Griffey, Jr. ranks 59th and 109th). In fact, over the last five decades, only Bonds, McGwire and Pujols have posted a better career OPS+. If that's not elite enough company, here the list of major leaguers to post a .300/.400/.500+ slashline over 10,000+ PAs: Cobb, Speaker, Ruth, Ott, Musial, Chipper and Thomas. I don't see how that level of performance over that long a career constitutes anything less than a first ballot HOFer...

HOFPufnstuf
HOFPufnstuf

@therednorth1 @splabman it's not that foolish to think that any dominant hitter was using. This is what the clean players should have realized back then. If there were any clean ones. This is going to be messy for a long time but there is a way out. Background check and investigate all candidates. Hire some investigators, and interview people, and do background checks. Talk to teammates, clubhouse guys, trainers and physicians. Sounds crazy, but why not find out for sure if Thomas is clean? And if you ca't be sure, then why not at least go through a proper due diligence?

splabman
splabman

 @Michael10  @splabman Well, Thomas did not deny them the award due to PEDs. We can argue who was deserving, but Giambi was an admitted user, so you miss my point completely. Jr. sure did not act like a grown up when ARod started getting MVP votes from Seattle sportswriters.

pcwhite2
pcwhite2

 @KidHorn  @doublejtrain68 

 

Maddux is a first ballot HOFer.  Glavine and Thomas are not and will go in 2014 or 2015.

 

Comparing Maddux against the other two is a text book example of what a first ballot HOFer looks like (Bonds, Clemens).  A first ballot HOFer isn't just an outstanding player.  They are players who are widely considered the best who played their possession during a 10 year period or so, and who are in the argument for the top players who played their position EVER.

 

Maddux, like Bonds and Clemens, is that type of player.  Glavine, Thomas, and Palmeiro, although outstanding, do not reach that level.

 

I ignore the PED issue, as it is profoundly ridiculous.

r p
r p

 @Michael10 Deadly sharks and War - baseball is becoming a dangerous game. No wonder more than half of my fantasy team last year was on the DL I need a MASH unit.

KidHorn
KidHorn

 @SenorPlaid  @KSSNo one was as good as Bonds, but Thomas was a better hitter than all the others.

 

Michael10
Michael10

@splabman I'm not seeing your argument here. The writer is not linking Thomas to steroids, and did point out that he had nothing to hide when called before Congress. He also pointed out that there will be PED whispers about Thomas just as there will be about all the big hitters of the era -- even guys like Walker, Bagwell and Griffey have drawn such unsubstantiated suspion. This is an absolutely correct and an astute observation on the current state of Hall of Fame politics...

splabman
splabman

 @Michael10 Well, no. My point was that linking Frank Thomas in any way to steroids was irresponsible and that a better journalistic choice would have been to point out the fact that Giambi barely edged out Thomas in voting that year, 14 first place votes to 10, but had the awareness of Giambi's PED use been known, Thomas would have won. This is what journalism is and is not to be confused with commentary, such as the subjective arguments you are using. You can ignore my point, disagree, or show how that point is wrong, but take it back to the point being the writer erred here, in my opinion. Frank Thomas was the only player to speak out against steroids. He barely lost to admitted PED user Giambi. This is not speculation.

Michael10
Michael10

My point is the coulda-shoulda-woulda of who gets/deserves awards -- like most aspects of the game -- are not nearly as influenced by PEDs as some people would like to think.  Neither Giambi or Thomas should have won in 2000 as there were 7-8 better players in the league that year.

 

It's one thing to say PED users' stats and accomplishments should be negated or diminished, it's another to say everyone else's should receive extra special consideration because they "played clean."

Michael10
Michael10

 @pcwhite2  @KidHorn  @doublejtrain68 From 1990-2000, Thomas and Bagwell were neck-in-neck as the best firstbasemen in the game (Bagwell actually edged Thomas in overall value, but Thomas's reputation was much bigger).  In that time span, they not only ranked as the best firstbasemen in each league, but ranked behind only Bonds and Griffey as the best PLAYERS in the majors.  Both should have been first ballot guys...

Michael10
Michael10

Mac was a better career hitter than Thomas (I'm assuming you mean overall value -- you didn't specify BA, OBP or SLG).  Thomas was about dead even with Manny Ramirez in OPS+ and just ahead of Bagwell, Thome and Edgar Martinez.  His WAR lags behind Bagwell, Chipper, and Griffey and is tied with Larry Walker (all of whom could play the field, of course, and had MVPs of their own). 

 

If you cherry-pick his seven-year prime (1991-1997), then, yes, he only fell short of Barry Bonds in OPS+.  Thomas should be a first ballot guy, but Bagwell was a better ballplayer and look what they're doing to him -- just because he spent more time in the weight room than at McDonalds...

JackBarack
JackBarack

 @KidHorn  @SenorPlaid  @KSS 

 

Thomas never used PEDs and that alone should be why he gets in.  He could have, but he didn't.  And you ever see his body?  It's like probably 75percent body fat.  That alone should tell you  guy wasn't on any roids or PEDs :)