New names on Hall of Fame ballot bring joy
Cooperstown calling for Glavine, Maddux, Thomas after disappointing shutout in '13
The Hall of Fame voting for 2014 will result in great rejoicing throughout the land.
Actually, "great rejoicing throughout the land" may be something of a relative measurement there. I mean great rejoicing throughout the land relative to the reaction to the last Hall of Fame vote, which seemed to be a blend of anger and dismay.
A Hall of Fame vote without any winners is a letdown for not only the unsuccessful candidates but for their legions of fans. And the fact that no candidate for the 2013 Hall class received the necessary 75 percent of the vote served only to exacerbate the debate over the standing of the candidates who had been connected to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
What is typically a celebration of individual greatness within the grand old game devolved into an argument that has no specific end date.
But this new balloting is going to be different, not to mention happier.
We have at least three brand new candidates whose merits are widely acknowledged not to mention admired and acclaimed. Their names have never been associated with even a hint of scandal. They are Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.
These are careers that are clearly significant enough to deserve that hallowed Cooperstown ground of first-ballot election. I don't pretend to speak for any other voters -- what sort of character would even try to speak for 500-plus baseball writers? But these three people -- Maddux, Glavine, Thomas -- have my votes immediately.
Remembering always that the National Baseball Hall of Fame is the most difficult club to join in all of North American professional sports, there are other likely candidates, worthy candidates, splendid candidates. A lot of them. Too many of them, perhaps, when the individual voter can vote for a maximum of 10.
This is the dynamic that has been set in motion: The eligible voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America guard the doors to the Hall like a bunch of Rottweilers whose lunches are late. The voters are prowling the property and they are trained to be anti-trespasser.
The operative concept for the writers in this exercise is: When in doubt, the vote is no. This is why the vast, vast majority of the baseball public's arguments with the writers' votes are on the topic of exclusion, not inclusion.
How could you not vote for this guy, he was one of the greatest players ever? That is the standard complaint. But there are variations, such as that in the case of one outfielder, which comes down to how could you not vote for this guy, he is one of the nicest people in the world? I know, I know. But this, unfortunately, is not about that.
Fans want players they pulled for to get that final validation, that singular honor that will elevate those players above the rest of humanity for the rest of time. It's a completely natural outlook. But each writer basically doesn't want to be accused of being somebody with standards that were too soft. That's a normal enough reaction for somebody in this business, too.
But this will be a better year to be a fan, because there will be Hall of Fame candidacies turning into Hall of Fame inductions. And in other cases, there will be progress made toward that goal.
On last year's ballot, Craig Biggio was the leading vote-getter with 68.2 percent of the vote. That was Biggio's first year on the ballot, and when a player does that well in his first ballot his election is typically a matter of when, not if. I don't understand why he couldn't have been elected last year.
Jack Morris, at the other end of the spectrum as far as time on the ballot, drew 67.7 percent. Now, in this 15th and final season on the writers' ballot, Morris is at the voting crossroads. His candidacy, more than even most, is in part an argument between career numbers and a more subjective sense of the game, which comes down to something like "I saw him on this day and that day and another day when he pitched the most important games in the world and he was always great."
Jeff Bagwell had 59.6 percent of the votes. Mike Piazza had 57.8. Tim Raines had 52.2 percent. These people are not only being considered, they are being accepted by a majority of the voters as Hall of Famers. Their long-term chances for induction are thus much more than mere hopes.
In addition there are first-time appearances on the ballot by Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent. Both careers demand, at the very least, serious consideration from Hall voters.
I apologize profusely for all the names that weren't mentioned here. I suppose that in a subsequent column I could list all of the names in alphabetical order with separate apologies for each.
But you get the overall picture. It won't all be roses. Some of it will be PED arguments. Still, with this much individual greatness on hand, this is a promising election; for the Hall of Fame, for some tremendous careers, and for the people who care about baseball.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.