The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 9, 2014

A Steve Goldman column: HOF — Our guy nailed all 3 inductees

By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon

— At 2 p.m. Wednesdday, the results of the voting for the 2014 class of the National Baseball Hall of Fame were announced.

As you may be aware, votes are cast by those who have been members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for at least 10 consecutive years.

Before the voting is done, the ballot is compiled by a committee, which selects from among those who have played in at least 10 seasons in the Major Leagues, and who have not played in the last five seasons. Those who make the cut will appear on the ballot along with the holdovers from the prior year, which are comprised of those who were on the prior ballot but who were not elected, have not been on the ballot for 15 years and who received at least 5 percent of the votes in the prior year.

A player who doesn’t get elected by the BBWAA can still be chosen for the honor by the Veterans’ Committee.

In order to be elected by the BBWAA, a player must receive votes on at least 75 percent of the ballots that are cast. A ballot may include as many as 10 candidates in a year. Blank ballots are permitted.

This year, was unusual in that it contained a particularly strong group of those who were newly eligible. In fact, I consider 4 of them to be worthy of induction. As I voted for 8 players last year, all of whom were still on the ballot this time, that created a logjam. Therefore, 2 had to be left off, and those 2 were Fred McGriff and Curt Schilling. I still consider them to be deserving, and will likely vote for them again at some point in the future. But there were just too many, in my mind, to be included this time.

The 6 holdovers on my ballot are Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Lee Smith and Alan Trammell. I have previously communicated why I voted for these players, and although I may do so again at some point, I won’t right now.

Today, I will only comment on the 4 new candidates for whom I voted. Here they are, in alphabetical order:

TOM GLAVINE – He debuts on the ballot along with his longtime teammate, Greg Maddux, whom we will address in a minute.

The lefty went 305-203 in his 22-year career with Atlanta and the New York Mets, for a .600 winning percentage. Save for issues such as drug use – and Glavine has none of those hanging over his head -- the 300-win mark, which has been reached by only 24 pitchers, is generally thought of as a sure ticket to the Hall of Fame. Glavine should be no different, whether or not he makes it in 2014.

Glavine won 2 Cy Young awards and finished among the top 3 on 6 occasions. He won 20 games 5 times, and won in double digits each year from 1989-2007 except for 2003, when he fell one victory short. He fanned 2,607 batters , was selected for the All-Star Game 10 times, and also earned the Silver Slugger award on 4 occasions.

Glavine appeared in 5 World Series, winning one.

JEFF KENT – Out of the 4 new inclusions, Kent was the one I deemed closest to the cutoff line. However, I feel that he should be included, especially considering that he was one of the best hitters ever as a second baseman.

Although a good hitter before his 29th birthday, Kent really didn’t get going until afterward, when he went to San Francisco. He ended up belting 377 home runs, batting in 1.522 and scoring 1,320 times in his 17-year career. The 1997 campaign, his first with the Giants, was the first of nine straight with at least 22 home runs, and he knocked in over 100 in all of those seasons but one. He batted .290 for his career. He won the NL Most Valuable Player award in 2000, when he went .334-33-125, and was a 5-time All-Star choice and 4-time Silver Slugger. His 351 homers as a second baseman stand as an all-time record.

GREG MADDUX – It doesn’t get much better than him. The right-hander is a lock for inclusion, and will probably get in this year.

Take your pick as to his qualifications. He posted a win total of 355, with a .610 winning percentage. Four Cy Young awards, which he won with the Chicago Cubs in 1992 and then with Atlanta from 1993-95, and he finished in the top 5 in the voting on 5 other occasions. He struck out 3,371 batters in his 23-year career while walking only 999. He compiled a ridiculous string of 19 years in a row with at least 13 games won. He registered a 3.16 career earned run average, including 4 ERA titles. In the strike year of 1994, he posted an ERA of 1.56 (while winning 16 games, I should add), and then showed it wasn’t a fluke by going 19-2, 1.63 the following season. An 8-time All-Star and winner of 18 Gold Gloves, he appeared in 3 World Series along with Glavine as a member of the braves, winning one.

I could go on, but I think the case has been made.

FRANK THOMAS – One thing that will undoubtedly work against Thomas in the voting is the fact he played more games (1,310) as a designated hitter than as a first baseman (971). But to be fair, the number of games he played as a fielder numbered in the majority until late in his career, when age and injury combined to help shift the balance.

Another factor that will likely hurt Thomas is that he played in the steroid era, although he has never been linked to them except, ironically, as someone who spoke out publicly against their use by baseball players.

Nobody, however, attacks Thomas on the basis of his offensive numbers. Known mostly for his power, he nevertheless batted .301 for his career, and his 1,667 walks helped him to a .419 on-base percentage. He hit 521 homers and batted in 1,704 runs while scoring 1,494 times. And when he did play first base, he was good at it.

Thomas won the AL MVP award with the White Sox in 1993 and 1994, was runner-up one other time and finished in the top 10 on a total of 9 occasions. He was an All-Star each year from 1993-97, and won 4 Silver Slugger awards.

Goldman, the Indians beat writer for the Star Beacon, is a freelance writer from South Euclid. Reach him at steve558@roadrunner.com.