Author Archives: JT
The Kid. Need I say more? Ken Griffey came within three votes of being the first unanimous selection for the Hall of Fame. I’m not sure if anyone will ever get every vote.
Of course, Griffey is best known for his time in Seattle. He was an absolute monster in his first eleven years, and everyone knew he was on his way to Cooperstown. The Mariners shocked the world when they traded him to Cincinnati. As a Reds fan, I was stoked, and I’m glad I got to see him play in person on several occasions.
After nearly nine years in Cincinnati, Reds fans turned on Griffey (as Reds fans always turn on their heroes, sadly). The Chicago White Sox decided to add the legend to their roster for the remainder of the 2008 season. It’s always strange to see him in a Chicago uniform.
Griffey returned to Seattle for one last hurrah, finally retiring in June, 2010.
Mike Piazza, drafted as a favor to Tommy Lasorda, was never expected to make the majors. He was never even expected to sign. His dad had to badger the Dodgers to give his son a contract, and it’s a good thing he did. Piazza became one of the greatest catchers of all-time. Not only could he hit for power (427 home runs), but he hit for average too (.308 lifetime average). The 1993 NL Rookie of the Year was named to 12 All-Star teams in his 16-year career, and his 396 home runs as a catcher is the most by anyone at that position.
Craig Biggio missed induction in 2014 by two measly votes, but the real travesty is that he didn’t get inducted in 2013, his first year on the ballot. No living persons were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013. In addition to Biggio, eventual BBWAA inductees Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell were also passed over in 2013. But the writers finally did the right thing in 2015 and elected Biggio on the strength of his 3060 hits as well as his versatility. The Astros legend started his career as a catcher, switched to second base, then to the outfield, then back to second. He started one final game at catcher in his second-to-last game in 2007, playing two innings behind the plate before moving to second base.
It’s a shame John Smoltz didn’t retire a year sooner, as it would have been cool to have seen him inducted along with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine in 2014. But he decided to hang on a year longer, splitting time between Boston and St. Louis in 2009. Smoltz spent the majority of his career as a starter, and won the Cy Young Award with 24 victories in 1996. But after an injury in 2000, he came back to the Braves as a reliever. In four years out of the bullpen, Smoltzie saved 154 games, then went back to the starting rotation in 2005.
I was actually a tad surprised to see Smoltz elected in his first year of eligibility. I thought it might take him three or four cycles, especially with Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez debuting on the same ballot. But he was definitely worthy of induction, and rightfully has a place among the immortals in Cooperstown.
Pedro Martinez is the only Montreal Expos pitcher to win a Cy Young Award; he was immediately traded to the Red Sox for Carl Pavano and the infamous PTBNL. Bowie Kuhn would have had a field day with that one. Pedro won two more Cy Young Awards for Boston, on his way to 219 career wins and a 2.93 ERA. He led his league in ERA five times, and struck out 3154 batters in his 18-year career.
Five Cy Young Awards. Second on the all-time strikeouts list. Randy Johnson‘s career had a rocky start, but once he gained command of his pitches, there was no doubt the 6-foot-10 hurler was bound for Cooperstown. He is actually the third Randy Johnson to play in the big leagues. The first was a designated hitter for the White Sox in 1980 and Twins in 1982. The second was a third baseman for the Braves from 1982-1984. Obviously, neither amounted to much at the big league level.
When Frank Thomas was first called up to the White Sox in 1990, I fired off an autograph request to him. A week or two later, I received my 1990 Score card back with his name scrawled across it. I had no idea how great he would become, but I was happy to add the Big Hurt to my autograph collection. He quite answering fan mail just a few weeks later, so I considered myself fortunate to have scored his signature. Thomas was an intimidating player, always a threat to go deep. He hit 521 home runs in his career for the White Sox, A’s, and Blue Jays, and won back-to-back MVP Awards in 1993 and 1994.
The left-handed Tom Glavine was part of one of the greatest pitching rotations in baseball history. Along with Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, the Braves were almost guaranteed to win three games in a row when these guys took the mound. In 22 seasons with the Braves and Mets, Glavine was selected to 10 All-Star teams and took home two Cy Young Awards. He flew into the Hall of Fame with 91.9% of the vote in 2014.
Am I the only person in the world that believes the Cy Young Award should be renamed the Greg Maddux Award? The Mad Dog was an artful pitcher, relying more on finesse than fastballs. It broke my heart when he left Chicago for Atlanta, but I was happy to see him return to the Cubs after his success with the Braves. Sixteen voters declined to put a check mark next to Maddux’s name in 2014.
Bobby Cox‘s managerial career began in 1978 with the Braves. In 1982 he began his tenure as the Blue Jays’ skipper, where he stayed until 1985. In 1990, he returned to Atlanta and the Braves began an unbelievable run of success. Fourteen first-place finishes, five National League Pennants, one World Championship. For years, America’s team was actually one of the best teams in America.
I considered trolling Braves fans by making this a Blue Jays card, but decided to stick with Atlanta.