Intro of this ‘Hall of Fame Staff Picks’ article is credited to staff writer Steven Bardwell.
Following Tuesday’s release of the 2014 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, the Cubbies Crib staff decided to list their top 5 candidates on who they believe would be joining Cooperstown next July.
This ballot is filled with talent, including 300-game winners, record holders, a 3,000 hit man and multiple Cy Young award winners. Analysts and voters alike, such as Buster Olney, have called this one of the most star studded ballots in years.
Although this is not saying much as the previous two seasons had merely one player off of the ballots inducted into Cooperstown, as it takes a 75% vote to become elected. No players were inducted last season with the closest being Craig Biggio who collected 68.2% of votes in only his first year on the ballot.
This year’s candidates hope to make an introduction into baseball’s greatest fraternity as some look to become first ballot hall of famers with others hoping for one last chance at immortality.
Cubbies Crib Staff:
1.) Craig Biggio: This man finished a mere 39 votes away from becoming enshrined into Cooperstown as the first player with a majority of his career taking place in Houston. Biggio ranks 21st all-time in hits (3,060) and has more doubles (668) than any right-handed hitter in Major League history. As a Chicago Cub’s fan I would always despise the “Killer B’s” in Houston as Bagwell, Biggio, and Berkman would take long balls to the Crawford boxes in Minute Maid Park on a nightly basis. Biggio was always known for his hard work and leadership, which he displayed on and off the field, and can be seen as through his 2007 Roberto Clemente Award for community service. He played his entire twenty year career in Houston compiling seven Silver Slugger Awards, four Gold Gloves and was named to seven National League All Star teams.
2.) Greg Maddux: In Mad Dog’s first year on the ballot he certainly seems to have all the credentials necessary to become a first ballot hall of famer. In that case I will not blabber about one of baseball’s greatest pitchers of all time and simply let the numbers do the talking. Maddux is a 18x Gold Glove winner (1990-2002 2004-2008), eight time All-Star (’88, ’92, ’94-’98, 2000), four time NL Cy Young winner (’92-’95), four time NL ERA Champion (’93-’95, ’98) and three time NL Wins Champion (’92, ’94-’95) while having his infamous number 31 retired by both the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves. If these numbers do not hold up enough for Mad Dog to get into the hall then I think a new system needs to be in place.
3.) Frank Thomas: Let’s begin with the stats, the Big Hurt is a five time All-Star (’93-’97), four time Silver Slugger award winner (’91, ’93-’94, ’00), two time AL MVP (’93-’94), AL Batting title (’97), AL Comeback Player of the Year (’00), had his number 35 retired by the White Sox in 2010 and had a life size statue placed outside U.S. Cellular Field. Thomas was one of the most feared men in baseball and you would often hear of pitchers getting nervous on the mound as he stepped into the on deck circle. In the batter’s box he brought with him a swagger that said he was here to beat you not only by getting a hit, but by getting a hit that drove in two teammates or that would send a baseball into the stratosphere. The Big Hurt became the 21st player to reach 500 homeruns and did so with a career batting average of .301.
4.) Jeff Bagwell: Finishing with the third highest vote total in 2013 with 59.6% of the votes, Bagwell looks for a bump in his fourth year of eligibility of the ballot. The longtime Houston Astro was 1991 Rookie of the Year and 1994 Most Valuable Player of the National League. Although injuries cut his career a little short and prevented him from reaching the 500 homerun milestone, Bagwell is still considered one of baseball’s greatest power hitters averaging 32 homeruns and 103 RBIs through his first fourteen seasons. Bagwell has said many times that he does not expect to be voted in, but to me another of the Killer B’s is almost a guarantee in the near future.
5.) Lee Smith: In Smith’s 12th attempt at baseball immortality I believe that he will succeed and get the final out to his illustrious career that he finally deserves. Over an eighteen year career, Smith held the saves record from 1993 until being passed by Trevor Hoffman in 2006. There have been five players to hold this record including hall of famers Hoyt Willhelm and Rollie Fingers and future Cooperstown representatives Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera. These are arguably the greatest relief pitchers in baseball history and for Smith to be in the same grouping has me questioning where is Lee’s plaque? The 6-foot-6, 240-pound giant of a reliever notched saves for eight teams in his journey of a career and spend the first eight seasons saving games at the Friendly Confines.
1.) Jeff Bagwell
2.) Craig Biggio
3.) Greg Maddux
4.) Mike Piazza
5.) Lee Smith
1.) Greg Maddux
2.) Tom Glavine
3.) Frank Thomas
4.) Craig Biggio
5.) Jeff Bagwell
1.) Jack Morris – This is the guy’s last chance. A 5x All-Star (’81, ’84, ’85, ’87, ’91), a 4x World Series champion with the Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays. He’s won 254 games in his career with a 3.90 ERA and 2,478 strike outs.. Even though he gave up the most hits, earned runs and home runs in the 1980’s, he still started more games, worked more innings and had the most wins in that decade. He was a World Series MVP in 1991. He’s been on the ballot for 15 years so something’s gotta give. Put the man in the Hall of Fame where he belongs.
2.) Craig Biggio – Biggio fell just 39 votes shy last year, but this year I see the greatest Houston Astros utility man finally cracking this ballot. I know we’re all Chicago Cubs fans, but Biggio is one of my favorite players of all time. The guy can do just about everything. He spent his entire career, nearly 20 years with the same baseball team he was drafted by back in 1987. He made his debut just a year later but was called up as a catcher. He played his first full season in 1989 and won the Silver Slugger award. Biggio played nearly 2,000 games without having to be placed on the disabled list until 2000 where he suffered a knee injury that put him on the shelf for the year. He recorded his 3,000th hit the very same day ‘Big Hurt’ Frank Thomas hit career home run number 500. Biggio holds a .281 batting average, 3,060 hits, 291 home runs, 1,175 RBI’s and 414 stolen bases. He’s won five Silver Slugger awards, named to seven All-Star games and picked up four gold gloves. His number was retired by the Houston Astros on May 23rd, 2008.
3.) Mike Piazza – Just like Biggio, this is second year on the ballot and JUST like Biggio, I expect him to be inducted. I’m not sure if a lot of people know this, but Mike Piazza was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers as a favor that was requested by his Father who reached out to Tommy Lasorda personally. He moved from his primary position which happened to be first base and started to work as a catcher. He made his Major League debut against our Chicago Cubs where he recorded his first hit which happened to be a double to center field. Piazza won Rookie of the Year in 1993 where he hit .318/.370/.561 across the line with 35 home runs, 112 RBI’s, 24 doubles, two triples, 46 walks and only 86 strike outs. One thing about Piazza, is he never struck out more than 93 times in his career. Pretty good for a player who put in 17 years of work. He’s a 12x All-Star from 1993-2002 then 2004-2005 and a 10x Silver Slugger award winner from 1993-2002. He has a career batting line of .308/.377/.545 with 427 home runs and 1,335 RBI’s. He played with the Dodgers from ’92-’98, Florida Marlins in ’98, New York Mets from 1998-2005, San Diego Padres in 2006 and his final stop was with the Oakland Athletics in 2007.
4.) Greg Maddux – This is Mad Dog’s first time on the ballot and I think he’ll get in with ease. The man had one heck of a career and to be honest, I miss watching him pitch. Even when he wasn’t with the Cubbies, he was still one of my favorite pitchers to watch. Maddux left a mark with every team he’s ever played with in his 22 year career. The most he spent with a team was with the Atlanta Braves from 1993-2003 where he won a World Series in 1995. The man is a 18x Gold Glove winner (1990-2002 2004-2008), eight time All-Star (’88, ’92, ’94-’98, 2000) four time NL Cy Young winner (’92-’95), four time NL ERA Champion (’93-’95, ’98) and three time NL Wins Champion (’92, ’94-’95) while having his infamous number 31 retired by both the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves. He’s the only pitcher in history to win 15 games in 17 straight seasons and holds the record for most Gold Gloves won by anybody at any position. He’s ranked eighth all time on the wins list with 355 and he’s one of 10 pitchers in history to have 300 wins and 3,000 strike outs in his career. The Professor holds a career record of 355-227 wins/losses with a ERA of 3.16 and 3,371 strike outs.
5.) Frank Thomas – Also known as ‘Big Hurt’. This guy was a freak of a man and could drive the ball out of the ballpark with ease. The long time Chicago White Sox designated hitter/first baseman did a lot of damage in his 18 year playing career. He didn’t emerge as the greatest player to ever play the game, but he’s on a list of players who were to be feared whenever they were in the batters box. Thomas is a five time All-Star (’93-’97), four time Silver Slugger award winner (’91, ’93-’94, ’00), two time AL MVP (’93-’94), AL Batting title (’97), AL Comeback Player of the Year (’00) and had his number 35 retired by the White Sox in 2010 after he signed a one day contract then announced his retirement. He later had a life size statue placed outside U.S. Cellular Field. In 2007 he become the 21st player to hit 500 home runs and is on a small list of players to have hit 500 or more home runs with a career batting average of .300. He has a career .301/.419/.555 batting line with 521 home runs, 2,468 career hits and 1,704 RBI’s.
The results of the election for 2014 induction will be announced at 2 pm ET on Jan. 8 on MLB.com and MLB Network, with a news conference at the Waldorf Astoria New York the next day to introduce any elected players.