Longtime Atlanta Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, along with Chicago White Sox slugger Frank "the Big Hurt" Thomas will join the baseball's Hall of Fame this year, finally sneaking past the voters who have denied other sluggers of their era. They were the only three players to appear on 75 percent of the ballots submitted by the 571 members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Last year, there were zero new inductees.
Those three former players will join three managers — Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa — who were elected by an expansionary committee in December. The six players and coaches to be inducted into the Hall will be the most Cooperstown has inducted in one year since 1971.
Last year, no players received the necessary 75 percent of the vote from a group of baseball writers, leaving an empty Hall of Fame class of 2013, mostly due to widespread accusations of steroid use among the players of that era. Craig Biggio, the Houston Astros shortstop, just missed out on making the 2014 class seven honorees, as he received a 74.8 percent approval — a short fall of just two votes.
Maddux, Glavine, and Cox combined in the 1990s to form the core of an Atlanta franchise that would win an astounding 14 division titles in 15 years and appear in four World Series, winning one in 1995. Maddux notched 355 wins to go along with four Cy Young awards and a record 18 Golden Gloves. "Quite simply, he was Picasso on the mound," Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson said in announcing the vote. Maddux finished with 97.2 percent approval, just below the record approval of Tom Seaver's 98.84 percent.
Not to be outdone by his teammate, the lefty Glavine notched 305 wins, two Cy Youngs, and 10 All-Star appearances in his now Hall of Fame career. "It's only fitting that this man would join Greg in Cooperstown," Idelson said.
Frank Thomas, known as the "Big Hurt" in a long career with the White Sox, starred first baseman-turned-designated hitter, known for impressive combination of patience and power, winning back-to-back MVP awards. His 521 career homers puts him 18th on the all-time MLB list.
Stats-wise, the crowd of players still looking for enshrinement are some of the best of all time, but the cloud of suspicion about steroid allegations have kept some all-time greats like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire (all contemporaries of this year's group) out of the Hall. Both Bonds and Clemens saw their approval numbers go down this year. One voter even refused to vote for the mortal lock of Greg Maddux (or any of this year's players), saying he won't support anyone who played in the "steroid era."
The vote was further shrouded in controversy after Deadspin openly arranged to buy the vote of a BBWWA member. After the results were announced, they revealed that the voter who allowed the site's readers to fill out his ballot (one of several who offered) was Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard. He summed up his decision to "sell out" this way:
I'm not sure what kind of trouble this is going to bring me. I imagine I'll probably have my vote stripped. But I don't want to be a part of the present climate without reform anyway. Given that climate, doing THIS has more impact than my next 20 years of votes as sanctimony bars the HOF door on the steroid guys. Because, in a climate without reform, my next 20 years of votes will be counted but not actually heard. At least this gets it heard, for better or for worse.