Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July. Now, it is up to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to determine if any players will join the three managers at the Cooperstown, N.Y., ceremonies.
The most dramatic story this year is pitcher Jack Morris, who is in his final year on the ballot. The most underrated candidates are Tim Raines and Alan Trammell, and it will be interesting to see how the voters evaluate former Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina.
Braves pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux and White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas are first-timers and should be the shoo-ins along with Craig Biggio. Will Glavine and Maddux be inducted with Cox, their Braves manager?
The crowded ballot could mean a dent in voting percentage for players such as Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez and Lee Smith. Last year, the BBWAA elected no one. This year’s ballots from the 500-plus members are due New Year’s Eve and the results will be announced Jan 8 live on MLB Network.
Here is one ballot:
Mike Mussina: A first-timer on the ballot, Mussina played 18 years in the American League East with the Orioles and Yankees, getting 270 wins and 2,813 strikeouts. He finished in the top six in AL Cy Young voting six times. He won seven Gold Gloves. Throw in a 3.68 career ERA pitching in the AL East and a 3.42 ERA during 23 postseason appearances, including 21 starts, and he’s a Hall of Famer.
Jeff Bagwell: Bagwell got 59.6 percent of the votes last time - his first on the ballot - but the first baseman defined the Houston Astros and helped them get to the 2005 World Series, one of six times the Astros were in the playoffs with Bagwell in the lineup. He’s a National League Rookie of the Year, a four-time All-Star with 2,314 hits, 449 home runs and 1,529 RBIs. A shoulder injury ended his career early. He should have had 500 home runs.
Craig Biggio: Bagwell’s Astros teammate had 68.2 percent of the vote last season and should make the jump to the 75 percent needed. He was a seven-time All-Star with 3,060 hits. He was a catcher and second baseman and played center and left. He led the NL in runs twice, in steals once.
Greg Maddux: Is there any doubt? Maddux averaged 238 innings a season and piled up 355 wins, most by a right-handed pitcher since World War II. He won four NL Cy Youngs, led the league in ERA four times and made eight All-Star teams. He led his team to the postseason 13 times. He had one stint on the disabled list.
Tom Glavine: The lefty starter had 305 wins. He and Maddux helped define the Braves in the 1990s. Glavine won two Cy Youngs, threw 200 innings 14 times and 180 innings 19 times. And he was never on disabled list.
Jack Morris: A pitching leader for the 1984 Tigers, 1991 Twin and 1992 Blue Jays teams that won the World Series, Morris is in his final year of eligibility, and if he doesn’t make it this time, the earliest he can be elected would be in December 2016. He got 67.7 percent last time. He didn’t have statistics that made him a yearly Cy Young contender, but he was easily the workhorse of his time. During the DH era, he threw at least eight innings 248 times, by far a record. He had a 2.96 ERA in the World Series. He is a modern-day version of Catfish Hunter.
Frank Thomas: The White Sox’s first baseman/DH hit .301 for his career with 521 home runs and 1,704 RBIs, and won consecutive AL MVPs in 1993 and 1994. The stats that define Thomas: He led the AL in on-base percentage four times, walks four times and won a batting title in 1997, hitting .347 with a .456 on-base percentage. He had seven consecutive seasons of 20-plus home runs, and even though he hit .224 in four postseasons, he’ll make Cooperstown.
Alan Trammell: Trammell, the shortstop that defined the Tigers in the 1980s, is the most overlooked candidate on the ballot and it’s difficult to understand why his vote total is at 33 percent. He’s the AL version of Reds shortstop and Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. He didn’t have as much power as Larkin, but he did have 2,365 hits and 1,003 RBIs. The 1984 World Series Tigers deserve to represented by both Trammell and Morris.
Mike Piazza: This is Piazza’s second year on the ballot, and it’s likely his Cooperstown climb will be steady. He was 98 votes short last season. He hit 396 home runs as a catcher, most in history for that position. He played for five teams in his 17 seasons, and if he gets in, does he wear a Dodgers or a Mets cap?
Tim Raines: The NL’s version of Rickey Henderson. He had 808 steals and is one of the best leadoff hitters of all-time with a .385 career on-base percentage, similar to Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn (.388). Raines is making a slow progress and eclipsed the 50 percent mark last season.