2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Preview

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The 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame Class is missing from the Baseball Hall of Fame in a rare move for the voters. In 2013 no player was elected by the voters as only three players would hear their named called and all were by the veteran’s committee. It was a strange thing to see when the Hall of Fame class was announced for 2013 but it was for a reason. The Baseball writers were sending a message to those eligible for the Hall of Fame that cheating would not be tolerated. The ballot for 2013 would feature a number of huge names in baseball but many of the huge names were associated with one of the worst eras of the MLB. The Steroid era would claim the 2013 Hall of Fame class as players like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were kept out thanks to accusations about both players using steroids to get the numbers that they put up. The writers will now have another opportunity to do the same as many of the controversial players are back for another year of eligibility and the true test will be this year. The writers have been known to send messages in the past but will they continue to keep the message that reported steroid users are not eligible for the Hall of Fame no matter how good they were. Unlike last year these reported steroid users will not make up all of the top eligible players on the ballot. There will be some very talented players that were never linked to steroids on the ballot and some of them look to be first ballot hall of famers. There are always the older players a well who have been waiting a while for the call and have slowly gotten closer and closer. There are a number of players this year that could find themselves in the Hall of Fame this year as the likelihood of another year without a class will be empty. There is a lot to look at this year as the ballot is full of great players and with the way that the Baseball Hall of Fame voting is done there will likely be debate over the selections again.

The Brave Pairing

Tom Glavine Braves

It was one of the greatest eras in Atlanta baseball when Bobby Cox returned to the dugout in 1991. His return to the dugout marked the beginning of one of the most dominant teams in MLB history. The Braves would begin winning when he returned as they would take every division title from 1991-2005 except for one. As big as Cox was for this period it was the development of players that immediately became household names in Atlanta. Chipper Jones and John Smoltz became heroes to the Atlanta faithful but there were two players who took over the teams. Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux would join Smoltz in one of the best rotations assembled. Glavine was a home-grown product, drafted and developed alongside John Smoltz in the Atlanta Braves system. It wasn’t until 1991 when Glavine would see success though as the 1991 season would mark his first Cy Young Award. Greg Maddux was a different story as he would be brought in for the 1993 season from the Chicago Cubs. Maddux was already the best pitcher in the league when he signed a deal with the Braves. Maddux would bring with him the 1992 Cy Young Award and would give the Braves the last two Cy Young Award winners in the same rotation. The dominance was set for the Braves as their rotation would help the Braves to division titles in almost every year. Meanwhile Greg Maddux would win the 1993, 1994, and 1995 Cy Young Awards. After that John Smoltz would add another in 1996 while Glavine would add yet another in 1998. Between Glavine and Maddux there are 6 Cy Young Awards, 5 total won with the Atlanta Braves. Now both Maddux and Glavine will be up for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame and in 2014 are the best bets to get the call. For two pitchers that dominated for so long it is hard to argue that neither belongs and as they spent so much time together in the Braves locker room they will spend even more time as they will likely be a part of the same class in the Hall of Fame and their plaques will sit forever beside each other.

The DH Debate

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It is one of the constant debates among baseball fans and it divides the traditionalists and the modern thinkers. The Designated Hitter arrived in the MLB in 1973 in the American League as a way to make baseball more popular. Instead of the pitcher coming up a player designated to only hit would come up. These players would become the hitting specialists, the guys that could barely play the field. Big guys that are not fast enough for the field would be brought in and put at the plate for their power. They would come up with the goal to bat runners in and then sit down after they hit a HR to wait for their next at bat. It was a controversial decision to add the designated hitter but it was done and now the debate has shifted to the Hall of Fame. Traditionalists do not believe that designated hitter belongs in the hall of fame no matter how great they were offensively. They believe that a Hall of Famer needs to be a true baseball player and not someone who comes up every now and then to hit. The modern thinkers in baseball believe that the DH is a part of the game and that although not every DH should be considered there are a handful that had such an impact on the game that they belong with the best who ever played. Two of these players will be on the ballot this year and one is a sign of what might happen again. Edgar Martinez has been eligible for the Hall of Fame since 2010 but has never made it in. He is one of the first great designated hitters in baseball with the MLB DH award named after him. A career .312 batting average added to 309 HRs and 1,261 RBIs are great numbers for anybody but because he is mainly a DH he has never received the call. This year Frank Thomas will join him as he holds a .301 career average along with 521 HRs and 1,704 RBIs. He is one of the best power hitters in the history of the game and has never been linked to steroids but still his Hall of Fame spot is far from guaranteed as he may suffer from the same fate as Martinez with the DH remaining a non-hall of famer position in baseball.

Lesson Learned?

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The MLB writers are notorious for sending messages to the players that they did not like while they were playing. They would do it to Roberto Alomar, who despite being one of the best second basemen to ever play would be forced to wait a year. Alomar would spit in the face of an umpire near the end of his career and for that he would be forced to sit one year before he would make the Hall of Fame. Last year they would do it again when they would see some of the best player ever on the ballot and would elect none. The reason was that these great players had all been accused of sing Performance Enhancing Drugs at some point in their career. Names like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, and Rogers Clemens were ready to be named the Hall of Fame when they were playing as they were clearly the best players of their generation. The connections that all of these players had to performance enhancing drugs would stop them from getting the nod so far. More specifically it would prevent Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, possibly the best hitter and pitcher of a generation, from earning first ballot nominations. It was a clear message from the writers that they were not going to let cheaters into the Hall of Fame. The question this year is whether or not the writers have sent their message to all of these players. Will this year be like Roberto Alomar where they sent their message and see the numbers to justify letting these players in or will this be a permanent message. One could argue that many of these players were never truly convicted or caught using PEDs throughout their careers. In fact Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens went in front of the Supreme Court and were proved to not have lied about using PEDs in the initial investigation. Legally many of these players never used but in the minds of many fans and writers the accusations are good enough and lying about it makes it worse. It is an interesting debate that will be seen once again when the players are announced whether those linked to PEDs are allowed in or not.

The Holdovers

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In the Baseball Hall of Fame the requirements seem to be a lot tougher than any other hall of fame. As opposed to having a class of 5 or 6 players every year the Baseball Hall of Fame is happy electing 1 or 2 players every year. They also have no problem saying that nobody deserves a shot at the hall like they did in 2013. First ballot hall of famers are not necessarily rare if they are good enough but there is an almost tradition to make good players wait multiple years. These are the players that elicit maybe the most debate among the ballot every year. To be elected players must be put on 75% of the ballots to earn election while anyone on less than 5% of the ballots is permanently ineligible until the veteran’s committee votes. There are a number of players who have been looked at multiple times but there are always a few that have been passed up and just seem like they will eventually make it. For two players this year this is the case although both are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Craig Biggio was first eligible in 2013 and was not considered to be a first ballot hall of famer. Despite having a .363 batting average, 291 HRs, and 1,175 RBIs Biggio would only receive 68.8% of the vote keeping him out of the hall in a year that many believed would be his with few players eligible that were not connected to steroids. Then there is Jack Morris who in 2014 will see his 15th year on the ballot. A pitcher with 254 wins, a career ERA of 3.90, and a total of 2,478 strikeouts has been waiting for a long time to get in. Last year he would receive 67.7% of the vote and is hoping that he continues to go up instead of down on the ballot. This year might be tougher for both players with a few very good first ballot players. With at least two players seeming like locks to make it in there may only be room for one more. One of these two players could make it or neither could make it but both getting in seems to be a stretch.

 

2014 Ballot
Returning Nominees: New Nominees:
Craig Biggio, 2B (Houston Astros)

Jack Morris, RHP (Detroit Tigers)

Jeff Bagwell, 1B (Houston Astros)

Mike Piazza, C (New York Mets)

Tim Raines, LF (Montreal Expos)

Lee Smith, RHP (Chicago Cubs)

Curt Schilling, RHP (Boston Red Sox)

Roger Clemens, RHP (New York Yankees)

Barry Bonds, LF (San Francisco Giants)

Edgar Martinez, DH (Seattle Mariners)

Allen Trammell, SS (Detroit Tigers)

Larry Walker, RF (Colorado Rockies)

Fred McGriff, 1B (Toronto Blue Jays)

Mark McGuire, 1B (St. Louis Cardinals)

Don Mattingly, 1B (New York Yankees)

Sammy Sosa, RF (Chicago Cubs)

Rafael Palmeiro, RF (Texas Rangers)

 

Greg Maddux, RHP (Atlanta Braves)

Frank Thomas, DH (Chicago White Sox)

Mike Mussina, RHP (Baltimore Orioles)

Tom Glavine, LHP (Atlanta Braves)

Jeff Kent, 2B (San Francisco Giants)

Kenny Rogers, LHP (Texas Rangers)

Luis Gonzalez, LF (Arizona Diamondbacks)

Moises Alou, OF (Montreal Expos)

Ray Durham, 2B (Chicago White Sox)

Hideo Nomo, RHP (Los Angeles Dodgers)

Richie Sexon, 1B (Cleveland Indians)

Paul Lo Duca, C (Los Angeles Dodgers)

Armando Benitez, RHP (New York Mets)

Mike Timlin, RHP (Toronto Blues Jays)

Sean Casey, 1B (Cincinnati Reds)

Jacques Jones, OF (Minnesota Twins)

Eric Gagne, RHP (Los Angeles Dodgers)

J.T. Snow, 1B (San Francisco Giants)

Todd Jones, RHP (Detroit Tigers)

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