Major League Baseball announced Wednesday afternoon that three of its retired superstars – Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas – were newly elected into Cooperstown’s Hall Of Fame. The great annual debate often surrounds the potential of the voting classes.
The best and worst arguments are made on whether players are “truly relevant” as was proposed by one writer this week defending his ballot. Are morals worth qualifying? Are stats worth quantifying? Are statistics alone worth measuring, or are legacies the true ruler of success and eternal fame?
There is no denying the baseball accomplishments of any of the three men whom were inducted.
Maddux piled up 355 wins, 3,371 strikeouts, had a career WHIP of 1.14 and won a World Series ring with the Atlanta Braves. Maddux also won four Cy Young awards and 18 Gold Gloves. Possibly the most dominant pitcher of his generation. And a shame he didn’t garner all 100 percent of the votes.
Glavine was just as good as Maddux, and did it as a lefty, winning 305 games in his 22-year career. He won 20 games five times and was also a decent hitter, collecting 246 hits and 90 RBIs at the dish.
The ‘Big Hurt’ was perhaps the most feared hitter of his generation. Thomas was a beast, standing 6’5″, 240 pounds and a football tight end at the University of Auburn as well as a baseball player. The slugger mashed 521 homers and had a career slash line of .301/.419/.555. Thomas was also very selective at the plate, walking more (1,667) than he struck out (1,397).
What is often debated are the merits of those whom don’t make it in. This year, Craig Biggio was unfortunately TWO VOTES short of induction, receiving 74.8 percent of the required 75 percent of the consensus. His résumé of 3,060 hits and five Silver Slugger Awards will have to wait at least one more year. So, who else was worth debating? The sports writers of Stacey Page Online offered up their opinions on candidates who should have a bust in Cooperstown.
Barry Bonds & Roger Clemens – For what they did between the lines on the field, not for what they are accused of. Bonds and Clemens, poster boys for the PED Era of the game, deserve better. The game deserves better. A game that grew in leaps and bounds in popularity and value thanks to the on-the-field performances by Bonds and Clemens for years and years. As fans, we deserve better.
Bonds is simply the greatest home run hitter the game has ever seen. A five-tool player for the Pirates years before any allegations of steroid use ever surfaced, his 762 home runs was not manufactured in a lab somewhere. Clemens, the owner of 354 wins and seven Cy Youngs, was as dominant a pitcher as has ever stood atop the hill. He, too, has snubbed his nose at his accusers, making him a villian too much like Bonds.
Those who cry that the Hall of Fame is not a place for “cheaters” need to only take a look in the mirror before making judgments on the character and integrity of athletes like Bonds and Clemens, who are first and foremost human beings and not simply athletic icons.
Craig Biggio – The longtime face of the Houston Astros fell just two votes short of making it Wednesday. The man who always seemed to possess a dirty jersey was the model of consistency and amassed over 3,000 career hits.
Barry Bonds - Just like Scott, I think the athletic accomplishments on the field should be recognized. If only because when you look at MLB.com and the record book they display, Barry Bonds is still listed as the all-time home run leader with 762. He still used a round bat and hit a round baseball. Drugs cannot make you hit a curve ball or a 100-mph fastball any further, I don’t care. And in an era when MLB did not have formal drug testing, there is no more proof of Bonds cheating than anyone in the 70s using greenies or historically revered players abusing alcohol (Re: Mickey Mantle). Eventually Bonds will have to be recognized for his total baseball career, not just the person most media members didn’t like.
Mike Piazza – I hated Piazza’s mullet and when he dyed his hair blonde. But Tommy LaSorda’s favorite Pizano could really rake. Redefining the catcher position from an offensive standpoint, Piazza hit 427 bombs, drove in 1,335 runs and finished with a .308 batting average. The 1993 Rookie of the Year was a 12-time All-Star and won 10 Silver Slugger Awards. Piazza will likely get in, just a matter of when.
Curt Schilling – In a “Hall of Fame”, Schilling definitely holds a portion of the ‘Fame’ in baseball lore. You can’t discuss Schilling without the bloody sock coming up while he pitched Game 2 of the 2004 World Series with the Boston Red Sox. The fabled series that shook Boston’s Curse of the Bambino and gave Beantown a World Series after 86 years. Schilling was a bulldog on the mound, winning just 216 games but led the league in wins in 2001 and 2004, both seasons his teams won World Series titles. In 2001, the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the New York Yankees in seven games, largely due to the pitching efforts of Schilling and Randy Johnson. The ’04 Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals. Schilling also struck out 3,116 batters and broke 300 in a season three times.
Roger Clemens – The fact of the matter is, watching him play year in and year out, he was always THE ace. He was completely dominant, and was that way all the time. He embodied what Hall of Famers look like. He was my grandpa’s favorite player, and that counts for something. Roger Clemens was the class of his position before and even after the accusations of PEDs. The alleged drugs didn’t teach him how to pitch or give him the mechanics he had when he first started. He was a polarizing figure on the mound.
Sammy Sosa – Growing up, Sammy Sosa was my baseball hero. When you watched the Cubs, you watched Sosa try to hit home runs for the North Siders. He was influential in helping resurrect the game we loved in 1998 when he hit 66 homers and was the National League MVP. He was the focal point – with Mark McGwire – in the home run race which helped save baseball. That brings in his level of ‘fame’ to the matter. He also helped bring back the faith for a pitiful franchise that hadn’t had anything to root for since 1989. He made it more believable that the Cubs could win, that the Cubs had a shot at the pennant.
Mark McGwire – The same holds with McGwire as with Sosa, he helped save the game of baseball in 1998 with his 70 home runs that captivated everyone’s attention all over the country every night. The game was in jeopardy as to the attention span of baseball fans, and McGwire brought life back to the ball diamond with his ability to hit the ball. McGwire seemed like he was everybody’s buddy while he was a Cardinal, he radiated likeability. He made a Hall of Fame impact in two cities, small market cities at that in St. Louis and also in Oakland. I don’t believe McGwire should go in without Sosa, because their connection to history seem tied together. Like Glavine and Maddux, or even John Stockton and Karl Malone or Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, they just go together.