Best Braves year since 1995!
Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre will be joined by Greg Maddux (my favorite pitcher of all time - not the best because that goes to Walter Johnson), Tom Glavine (one of the most stubborn players ever) and Frank Thomas (truly the Big Hurt - the guy was huge even without PEDs) at this years Baseball Hall of Fame inductions (Maddux and Glavine both cracked the 90% threshold, though Maddux was not unanimous as I assumed.) Biggio came within a hair but not quite. Hoping for next year. That is one of the greatest collections of baseball men ever elected (challenged only by the first class perhaps.) It still leaves out such wonderfully talented players as Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Alan Trammell, Tim Raines, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire, Jeff Kent, Larry Walker, Fred McGriff and Sammy Sosa. (As well as those that fell off after not getting to the 5% level in the voting - see Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Lou Whitaker, Kevin Brown...the list goes on including Palmeiro after this years vote - 500+ HR and over 3000 hits, traditionally an automatic induction and one of only four men to do such alongside Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray.)
There has been much said about the huge amount of players deserving and much of that has been spot on. You cannot swing a dead cat on the internets without finding some discussion and for that I am thankful as I have read some great work over the last month. It will not get any easier so I am really happy to see so many worthy candidates getting in this year. Congratulations to all of them! But the writers...oh the writers. They are the voters and they continue to get it wrong in so many ways. (Last time I mention Jack Morris, but sorry dude. Good luck with the Vets committee. Stand in line alongside Dale Murphy, Dick Allen and Gil Hodges among others.)
I have little sympathy for the writers asked to vote for these players. I have heard many attempts to relocate blame for this backlog from PED questions to the 10 vote limit. The truth is, they have brought this on themselves. They want to be holier than thou now on steroids when they championed McGwire and Sosa back in 1998. They want to complain about the 10 vote limit this year when they voted in no one last year and Dawson, Rice, etc over the previous years when Bagwell, Biggio, Piazza, Trammell and yes, even Morris were already on the ballot (not to mention obvious Hall of Famers Bonds and Clemens.)
Perhaps a few changes should be made by the hall, but as well, perhaps some thinking needs to be changed by these writers. One voted only for Morris as protest over PED users of the steroid era. As if Morris was not part of that era. One voted for Palmeiro and not Bonds or Clemens stating that Palmeiro was already a HoF guy before he starting juicing, as if Bonds and Clemens were not. That type of thinking and thus results can only provide us with the huge amount of deserving players now. In fact, not wishing to vote for ten guys (I suppose wishing for a small hall) leads to this very type of huge ballot crush. I don't think they need to change the 75% threshold. I don't really think they need to allow for more than 10 votes. I think they need to do the job entrusted to them.
I've written on this before so I won't go into the details too much here but the huge ballot is not going to get any better. For completion, let us see who is coming up over the next few years:
2015: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield
2016: Ken Griffey, Jr., Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner, Jim Edmonds
2017: Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero, Jorge Posada
2018: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Scott Rolen, Omar Vizquel, Johann Santana
2019: Mariano Rivera, Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte, Roy Halladay (and maybe Alex Rodriguez)
2020: Likely Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki among possible others
I'm not saying all of those guys are Hall of Famers, but they have legitimate arguments for enshrinement. Added to the huge amount of players still on the ballot now, how do the writers explain keeping their votes low? Looking at the holdovers, why would they not vote for Bagwell, Biggio, Piazza, Martinez, Raines, Mussina, Schilling, etc? That's not even looking at the PED guys like Bonds and Clemens, much less McGwire or Palmeiro. Don't refuse to vote for guys and then complain that there are too many to vote for.
This brings me to the PED guys - this argument has been told and retold time and time again. There is little reason to keep saying the same thing. All I can say at this late date is this - a Hall of Fame without Bonds, Clemens (or for that matter Pete Rose) is no true Hall of Fame. Yes, they are in the museum, but they also deserve their plaques with the rest of the FAMOUS players. Ty Cobb has his. Gaylord Perry has his. Rickey Henderson has his (and don't try and tell me he shouldn't be suspected after playing with Canseco and McGwire, much less under HoF manager Tony La Russa.) It is the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Good.
And one more thought regarding the writers that vote - blame the players, the union, the management or MLB in total for the steroid era. But so too, blame yourselves. You wrote about them as heroes, you championed their efforts and you now wish to ignore that very same. If BBWAA voters found out now that a player that gained entry due to their votes had used, what would they do? Likely nothing as has been their want over the years. But now, they want to use the character clause to justify keeping out some of the best players of all time. Are they trying to punish these players, or simply exculpate themselves? I say to them, stop trying to push this issue off to the HoF or MLB. Take control and stop blaming others. If you don't want Barry Bonds in the Hall, explain yourself and live with it. It is no one else's fault. If a change is made at all, try keeping those that don't even follow baseball anymore from voting. That would at least make the final result more honest rather than letting writers that have no connection anymore from being the moral police. And those that do follow baseball, live with the Hall you have created (without Bonds, Clemens, McGwire et al.)
One more thing, while we are looking at Hall arguments - stop trying to use the excuse that if a player didn't have the 1994 strike they might have won 20 games or hit .400 - these same players went on strike. Maddux might have won 20 plus in 1995 and Mussina might have won 20 games the previous year long before his last season. Wins are not the best stat to judge a pitcher but it will always be used to consider the best. These players decided it was better to strike and cancel the end of the season and the postseason to better their advantage. Further, these same players and MLB itself used first Ripken's great games played streak and then the McGwire/Sosa home run chase to bring fans back. I have little sympathy with any of them as they all made millions of dollars off of those decisions. History is what it is. You cannot change it. Just accept it and be truthful. And I will say it again, when it comes time to vote for Bud Selig, please don't forget all these moralizing arguments and hold him to the same standard. I've nothing against Bud personally, but he is just as guilty as anyone in this sport over the past 20 years. I simply have trouble with the double standard.
I've spent a lot of words making negative arguments or just bitching at what I perceive as a problem with Hall voters or the system or whatever, so let me end saying how happy I am that so many great baseball men are going into the Hall this year. After last year, this is a needed remedy as well as a wonderful thing for this Braves fan. I can even get behind the Hall cases of Torre (former Braves player and manager by the way) and La Russa. Certainly for Frank Thomas. I can only hope that future elections stop trying to be moral judges and simply vote for the best players. It is simple. It is baseball. And baseball can be a wonderful analogy for life itself. When you get knocked back at the plate, get up and hit a home run. When you give up that home run, steady yourself and strike the next guy out. It isn't that hard, guys. And Go Braves! That is all.