HOUSTON (CBS Houston): January 8th, 2014 can be an atonement day of sorts for the Baseball Writers Association of America.
A year ago, the group of approximately 550 voters chose not to elect anyone to Cooperstown for only the second time since 1971. Between those who have been deserving and on the ballot, and an impressive newcomers list, there should be several former players elected this year. An opportunity exists for baseball, as a whole, to truly generate positive impressions and good will towards its sport by honoring some of its greats.
Each year, the members of the BBWAA can vote for up to 10 people on the ballot to be elected to Cooperstown. This year’s ballot is stacked as deep as any in the last 30 years, and a strong case can be made for a full 10 members to join Veterans Committee electees Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa, and Bobby Cox on the last weekend of July in upstate New York for enshrinement into baseball immortality.
The members of the BBWAA are a fickle sort, and some use their ballots to further personal agendas, which is a right they have earned. The outcome of individual ballots is still shrouded in secrecy, though some writers choose to make theirs public to demonstrate their choices and why.
Despite the fact that it’s a foregone conclusion there’s no way a full 10 men will get elected, here’s a look at the 10 former greats (not in any order) who SHOULD BE joining the ranks of the all time best in the Hall of Fame in 2014.
Craig Biggio (2nd year on ballot): The 22nd overall pick of the 1987 draft from Smithtown, NY, Biggio spent his entire 20 year career with the Houston Astros. He came up a catcher in 1988, eventually moved to second base full time in 1992, moved to the outfield in 2003, and then back to second base in 2005. Biggio retired after the 2007 season.
Biggio was a consistently strong producer, earning 7 All Star appearances from 1991-98. He won 4 Gold Gloves and 5 Silver Sluggers. He earned one of the ‘magic numbers’ in baseball – 3000 hits – finishing his career with 3060.
Biggio’s career line: .281 AVG .363 OBP .796 OPS 3060 Hits 1844 Runs 291 HR 1175 RBI 414 SB
His line features some impressive numbers, made more impressive when you consider he spent all but 2 seasons as a catcher and second baseman. 3000+ hits and 400+ steals are noteworthy numbers for anyone. Biggio was also noted for being hit by pitches, a category he led the league in 5 times.
Biggio’s consistency is impressive, and he was among the top at his position for over a decade. He is also considered to be free from the PED influence that negatively impacts so many of his colleagues.
Biggio garnered the highest vote percentage a year ago at 68.2%, he should make the grade this year.
Jeff Bagwell (4th): Biggio’s “Killer B’s” teammate from Houston, also spent his entire career in Houston, where he played 15 seasons. Bagwell was a 4th round pick in the 1989 draft by the Boston Red Sox. He was a part of what is considered to be one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history, when he was traded as a 22 year old minor leaguer to the Astros for reliever Larry Andersen August 30, 1990. Andersen would be declared a free agent in MLB’s second collusion settlement and leave Boston at the end of that season, and Bagwell wound up on the ballot.
Bagwell’s trophy case is lined with a 1991 NL Rookie of the Year award, the 1994 NL MVP, a Gold Glove, 3 Silver Sluggers and 4 All Star appearances from 1994-99.
Bagwell was one of the most feared hitters in baseball for a decade, a dominant hitter who spent 9 years in one of the most dominant pitcher’s ballparks in baseball, the Astrodome. Bagwell hit 30 or more HRs in a season 9 times, and likely would have made 10 consecutive were it not for the work stoppage that breached the 94 and 95 seasons. He led the league in runs scored 3x,
Bagwell’s career line: .297 AVG .408 OBP .948 OPS 2314 Hits 1517 Runs 449 HR 1529 RBI 202 SB
Bagwell’s career average, OBP, and OPS would make an excellent season for any player, and he maintained that level of production over a 15 year career.
A dominant run for 10 years that included an MVP, Bagwell is well deserving of the Hall of Fame. While PEDs have marked the era he played in, Bagwell has never failed a test or been proven to have any connection to banned substances, and should not be punished with blockage to the Hall as a result.
Mike Piazza (2nd): From a 62nd round pick in the 1998 amateur draft to the greatest hitting catcher of all time, Piazza played 16 years in the majors, primarily with the Dodgers and Mets. He should be a no-brainer.
Piazza was a 12x All Star from 1993-2005, won 10 Silver Sluggers, and was the 1993 NL Rookie of the Year. Piazza finished in the top 7 of MVP voting 6x. He was the 1996 All Star Game MVP.
Piazza spent all but 2 of his 16 years primarily as a catcher, and all but his final season in the NL, where he could not DH to get a day off from being behind the plate. As a result of catching, Piazza only played in more than 136 games 6 times in his career, setting a personal high of 152 in 1997 for the Dodgers.
From 1993 to 2002, Mike Piazza struck fear in the hearts of pitchers every time he stepped to the plate. Piazza would deliver 30+ hrs in each of those seasons (except the strike shortened 94 season where he hit 24) and over 90 RBI from the catcher position, and did so playing all but his final 2 seasons (and 5 games in Florida) in either Dodger Stadium or Shea Stadium, two of the most pitcher friendly parks in all of baseball.
9x Piazza hit over .300, including .346 in 1995 and .362 in 1997. 4x he had an OPS over 1.000.
Piazza’s career line: .308 AVG .377 OBP .922 OPS 2127 Hits 1048 Runs 427 HR 1335 RBI
Some of Piazza’s accolades include: Most home runs by a rookie catcher, 35 (1993), most hits in a season by a player who caught a minimum of 130 games, 201 (1997), the only member of the LA Dodgers to ever hit a ball out of Dodger Stadium (1997), His 10 consecutive Silver Slugger award are a record, led league in All Star voting 3x (96, 97, 2000), his 396 HR as a catcher are the most all time.
Piazza garnered 57.8% of the necessary votes last year, largely due to the suspicion of PED use for all prolific hitters of his era. Piazza has never failed a drug test. Piazza addressed alleged steroid use is his book, Long Shot, that he released last year. Piazza admitted to using androstenedione in his book (and also in a 2002 New York Times article), however ‘andro’ was a legal supplement and available over the counter for sale in the U.S. until April 2004. MLB did not include ‘andro’ on its list of banned substances until June 29, 2004. Piazza was in the twilight of his career by then.
I don’t believe its fair to punish Piazza by barring him from entry to the Hall of Fame for using a product that, at the time, was not banned by baseball, and was available over the counter at any supplement shop. The U.S. government did not determine ‘andro’ to be a steroid until March 2004.
The greatest hitting catcher of all time belongs in Cooperstown.
Curt Schilling (2nd): Schilling and the role he played in destroying “The Curse of the Bambino” is almost Hall-worthy in and of itself. The ‘bloody sock’ that Schilling wore in his game 6 victory over the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS has become legend.
Schilling was a 2nd round pick in the 1986 draft by the Red Sox. He was traded, along with Brady Anderson, to Baltimore in exchange for Mike Boddicker in 1988. Schilling would spend 2 years in Baltimore and one in Houston before joining the Philadelphia Phillies in 1992. Schilling played in Philadelphia from 1992-2000, Arizona from 2000-03, and the Red Sox from 2004-08). In all, he spent 20 years as a major leaguer.
Upon arriving in Philly, Schilling would become a dominant pitcher when he wasn’t sidetracked by injuries. He would go on to have one of the storied careers in baseball, including unprecedented postseason dominance.
Schilling led the league in wins 2x, and won 20+ 3x. Led the league in games started 3x, complete games 4x, innings pitched 2x. The fact he pitched over 200+ innings in 9 seasons despite his history of injuries in astounding. Schilling led the league in strikeouts 2x, and 3x struck out over 300 batters in a single season. Schilling was a 6x All Star, and finished in the top 4 of Cy Young voting 4x, including 3x as the runner up.
Schilling is a 3x World Series champion, in 2001 with Arizona, and in 2004 and 2007 with the Red Sox. Schilling’s 11-2 postseason record gives him the highest winning percentage (.846) in postseason history among all pitchers with at least 10 decisions.
Schilling’s career line: 216-146 record .597 winning % 3.46 ERA 1.137 WHIP 83 Complete Games 20 Shutouts 3116 Strikeouts
Schilling averaged nearly a strikeout per inning for his career (3261 IP/3116 K). His strikeout total is even more impressive when you consider he only walked 711 batters. That strikeout ratio of 4.38 K/BB is the 2nd best all time, and the best of the modern era (since 1900).
Schilling doesn’t have the magical 300 wins, partly due to serious injuries and partly due to being on some bad teams, but his sheer dominance is apparent, and his postseason heroics will be in the storybooks forever.
Somehow, Schilling only earned 38.8% of the vote a year ago. That number is ridiculously low. Schilling is a Hall of Famer.
Roger Clemens (2nd): Let me preface this by saying that I have zero love for Roger Clemens the man. He’s never been on my favorite players list. I’ve often rooted against him vociferously. That said, he is the greatest pitcher of his generation, and easily top 10 all time.
Clemens was the 19th overall pick in the 1983 draft by the Boston Red Sox. He made his debut for the big league team a year later, at age 21. He pitched 24 years in the majors with Boston (1984-96) Toronto (97-98) the Yankees (1999-2003, 2007) and Houston (2004-06).
The hardware is undeniable. An 11x All Star between 1986-2005, a record 7 Cy Young awards (1986, 87, 91, 97, 98, 2001, 2005), 2x World Series Champion (1999, 2000), 1986 AL MVP, and the 1986 All Star Game MVP. Clemens was named to MLB’s All Century Team as well.
Clemens’ career line: 354-184 record .658 win % 3.12 ERA 1.17 WHIP 118 Complete Games 46 Shutouts 4672 Strikeouts
Clemens led the league in wins 4x, won 20+ 6x, led the league in win% 3x, led the league in ERA 7x, complete games 3x, shutouts 6x, innings 2x, and strikeouts 5x. Clemens is 3rd all time in strikeouts, and one of only 4 pitchers to strike out over 4000 batters for his career.
The spectre of steroids clouds Clemens candidacy, as evidenced by the fact that a man whose numbers clearly indicate first ballot shoe-in only received 37.6% of the vote a year ago.
So why vote in Clemens? Easy. Clemens was a Hall of Famer long before the idea of steroids ever came into play. If Clemens has retired after 1996, his final year in Boston, he was already a Hall of Famer.
Whether you think Clemens is innocent or guilty, he certainly wasn’t guilty in the years before the 94 work stoppage, when he had already won 3 Cy Youngs. The greatest pitcher of the last 50 years belongs in the Hall.
Barry Bonds (2nd): Perhaps the surliest man in baseball of the last 40 years not named Albert Belle, he is also perhaps the greatest player in baseball since Babe Ruth.
Bonds was the 6th overall pick in the 1985 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He helped to revitalize that baseball team before leaving as a free agent after the 1992 season, to follow the footsteps of his father Bobby and his godfather Willie Mays, and signing with the San Francisco Giants. In 1993, Bonds signed a 6 year $43.75 million dollar contract, the most lucrative deal in baseball history at the time.
Bonds probably needs an entire house to hold his hardware. A 14x All Star from 1990-2007, 8 Gold Gloves, 12 Silver Sluggers from 1990-2004, a record 7 MVP awards (1990, 1992, 1993, 2001-2004).
Bonds is the all-time leader in Home Runs (762), Walks (2,558), and Intentional Walks (688). He also holds the single season home run record, 73.
Bonds’ career line: .298 AVG .444 OBP 1.051 OPS 2935 Hits 2227 Runs 762 HR 1996 RBI 514 SB
In 22 seasons, Barry Bonds was a 30-30 player (30 HR/30 SB same season) 5x, and was 40-40 in 1996. Bonds led the league in runs in 1992, HRs in 1993 & 2001, RBI in 1993. He led the league in walks 12x. He led the league in average 2x, and hit over .300 11x. He hit 30+ home runs 14x and 40+HRs 8x.
No one has been singled out more for steroid use than Barry Bonds. Though no one could prove Barry took PEDs, he’s been a marked man in baseball since breaking Mark McGwire’s home run record in 2001.
So how can I put Barry in the Hall Of Fame? Same way I put Clemens in the Hall. Barry was a clear Hall of Famer long before steroids ever came into the picture. Bonds already had 3 MVP seasons before the 1994 work stoppage, including a ridiculous 1993 season, his first in San Francisco, where he hit .336 with a league leading 46 HR and league leading 123 RBI. He led the Giants to 103 wins that season. That 93 Giants team is cited as one of the biggest reasons MLB instituted the Wild Card playoff system, as they missed the playoffs despite 103 wins, as the Braves had 104 in the old NL West.
Bonds has the pall of PEDs over him. Eventually baseball is going to have to take ownership of the fact it turned its back on PEDs (if not endorsing them outright) and is easily just as responsible for players using them as the players themselves. Bonds, however, like Clemens, is the rare case where he was a Hall Of Famer before the idea of PEDs come to fruition. Barry should be in.
Greg Maddux (1st): The greatest control pitcher of all time, Greg Maddux could challenge Tom Seaver for the highest percentage of the vote of all time.
Maddux, a 2nd round pick by the Cubs in the 1984 draft, was a master artist on the mound, painting corners, moving the ball high and low, in and out, changing speeds, and leaving hitters baffled for most of his 23 year career. He pitched the majority of his career with the Cubs (1986-92, 2004-06) and Braves (1993-2003), with late career stops in San Diego (2007-08) and with the Dodgers (2006, 2008).
Maddux was a marvel in that his fastball would peak at 93mph in his early career, and during his career generally worked between 90-92 mph. Maddux never focused on velocity, but on movement. He was the first pitcher to ever win 4 consecutive Cy Young awards, and is the only pitcher in history to win at least 15 games for 17 consecutive seasons.
In addition to being Picasso with the ball in his hand, he was perhaps the greatest fielding pitcher of all time as well, earning a record 18 Gold Gloves. Outside of 2003, Maddux won the Gold Glove at pitcher every year from 1990-2008.
Maddux was an 8x All Star between 1988-2000, 4x Cy Young winner (1992-95), and a World Champion in 1995.
Maddux’ career line: 355-227 record .610 Win % 3.16 ERA 1.14 WHIP 109 Complete Games 35 Shutouts 3371 Strikeouts
Maddux was a horse on the mound, leading the league in innings pitched 5 consecutive years from 1991-1995. He threw at least 200 innings 18x in 19 years from 1988-2006 (he threw 199.1 IP in 2002). Maddux led the league in wins 3x, Win % 2x, ERA 4x including 1.56 ERA in 1994 and 1.63 ERA in 1995. He led the league in starts 7x, complete games 3x, shutouts 5x.
Maddux’ control was always a marvel, but for his career he walked only 999 batters in 5008.1 IP.
Greg Maddux is as much a no-brainer as there ever was.
Tom Glavine (1st): A second round pick in the 1984 draft by the Atlanta Braves, Glavine and Maddux would team up to be one of the most prolific 1-2 punches in baseball on the mound. Glavine spent 22 years in a major league uniform with the Braves (1987-2002, 2008) and the Mets (2003-2007).
Glavine, like Maddux, is a 300 game winner, with 305 career wins. He was another control master, often freezing hitters with pitches hitting corners that had Braves fans howling and opposing fans screaming in agony.
Glavine was a 10x All Star from 1991-2006, and a 2x Cy Young winner (1991,1998). He won a World Series in 1995 and was the World Series MVP that year as well. Known as an excellent hitting pitcher, Glavine won 4 Silver Sluggers (1991, 1995-96, 1998).
Glavine’s career line: 305-203 record .600 Win % 3.54 ERA 1.31 WHIP 56 Complete Games 25 Shutouts 2607 Strikeouts
Glavine led the league in wins 5x, and won 20+ in each of those seasons. He led the league in starts 6x, in complete games in 1991, in shutouts in 1992. he also pitched at least 200 innings 14x.
While Glavine is not the pitcher his teammate Greg Maddux was, he was a terrificly consistent winner who finished 102 games over .500 for his career. Remarkably reliable, Glavine is Hall worthy.
Jeff Kent (1st): The best power hitting second baseman ever. His offensive power production from his position was unprecedented. He redefined 2nd base offensively. Kent spent his 17 year career between Toronto (1992), the Mets (1992-1996), Cleveland (1996), San Francisco (1997-2002), Houston (2003-2004) and the Dodgers (2005-2008).
It didn’t always look like Kent would play the 17 major league seasons he did, let alone be a candidate for Hall of Fame consideration. Kent was a 20th round pick in the 1989 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, where he played half a season in 1992 before being traded to the Mets with OF Ryan Thompson for All Star pitcher David Cone.
Kent showed some pop for the Mets, but was dealt again, midway through the 1996 season, to Cleveland in a deal that sent former All Star 2B Carlos Baerga to New York. After the season, Kent was sent packing yet again, as the Indians shipped him to San Francisco as part of package that brought All Star 3B Matt Williams to Cleveland. The deal to San Francisco was widely ripped by fans and media alike, causing first year Giants GM Brian Sabean to famously tell the media “I am not an idiot.”
However, in San Francisco, batting behind Barry Bonds and having a manager who believed in him in Dusty Baker, Jeff Kent went on to become the best power hitting 2B of all time.
Kent would go on to be a 5x All Star (1999-2001, 2004-2005), win 4 Silver Sluggers (2000-2002, 2005) and the 2000 NL MVP.
Kent’s career line: .290 AVG .356 OBP .855 OPS 2461 Hits 1320 Runs 377 HR 1518 RBI
Kent, from 1997-2005, drove in 100+ runs 8x, a feat unmatched by a second baseman ever. He is the all time leader in home runs by a second baseman. He had a long road to travel to get there, but he is a Hall of Famer.
Mike Mussina (1st): Steady as a rock, Mike “Moose” Mussina pitched 18 years in the majors with Baltimore (1991-2000) and the Yankees (2001-2008). He was the 20th overall pick in the 1990 draft.
Mussina was a model of consistency, winning double digit games for 17 straight years. A testament to his longevity and reliability, he had his first 20 win season in 2008, his final year in the big leagues. He also won one of his 7 Gold Gloves that year.
Mussina was a 5x All Star (1992-1994, 1997, 1999), and a 7x Gold Glove winner (1996-99, 2001, 2003, 2008)
Mussina’s career line: 270-153 record .638 Win % 3.68 ERA 1.19 WHIP 57 Complete Games, 23 shutouts 2813 Strikeouts
While not as acclaimed with awards as Tom Glavine, Mussina’s numbers actually grade out to be superior to Glavine, when you consider Glavine pitched his whole career in the National League, and Mussina pitched his whole career in the American League, and in hitter friendly parks of Camden Yards and Yankee Stadium.
Mussina led the league in wins in 1995, win % in 1992, games started in 1996 and 2008, and shutouts in 1995. He led the league in innings in 2000, and pitched 200+ innings 11x, including 9x in a row. Mussina won 15 or more games 11x as well. He finished in the top 5 in Cy Young voting 6x despite never winning the award.
Mussina was a staff ace almost his entire career, finished 117 games over .500, and is deserving of the Hall.
Patrick Creighton is the host of “Nate & Creight”, along with Nate Griffin, Sundays 2-5p on Sportsradio 610 Houston. Follow him on twitter: @PCreighton1