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.
How important are awards and All-Star appearances? In the battle for the best left-handed starter, it makes a big difference. With awards and All-Stars included, Randy Johnson comes out on top with a score of 270.10, followed by Steve Carlton (#2, 267.64) and Warren Spahn (#3, 244.40). When awards and All-Stars are removed from the equation, Spahn narrowly beats Carlton for the top spot and the Big Unit drops to third place. I know Johnson was intimidating, but there is no way I would pick him over either Spahn or Carlton when building my historical fantasy team. Sandy Koufax (#8, 180.58) would be another consideration, but he has a lower score due to his short career; in twelve years he won 165 games and compiled a WAR of 50.3.
Only two other lefties topped the 200-point mark: Lefty Grove (#4, 203.46) and Eddie Plank (#5, 200.01). Tom Glavine (#6, 198.62) just barely missed. Overshadowed by Greg Maddux during his prime, Glavine is perhaps the best number two starter in history. His baseball cards are a dime a dozen; even his rookie cards can many times be had for less than a dollar.
Carl Hubbell is next on the list with a score of 185.94, and two non-Hall of Famers, Tommy John (#9, 176.01) and Jim Kaat (#10, 170.14), round out the top ten. Both were very close to the 300-win mark, but had very long careers in which they amassed all those wins and only averaged 13 victories per season.
Only Gibson has been elected to the Hall of Fame so far, though Glavine will no doubt be inducted also.
Ron Guidry, New York Yankees
But what about Guidry? Should he be in the Hall? In his first full season in the majors, he posted a 16-7 record with a 2.82 ERA. In 1978, he had one of the best seasons ever, going 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA, 248 strikeouts, and 9 shutouts, winning the Cy Young Award unanimously. In 1985, he again posted a fantastic record, 22-6, though his ERA was up a bit and K’s were down. He finished second in Cy Young voting that year to Bret Saberhagen. Guidry dropped off the Hall of Fame ballot in 2002 with less than 5% of the vote. In eight years on the ballot, he never reached even 9% support from the BBWAA. I do not believe Cooperstown would suffer from his inclusion; what do you think?
Bob Gibson, St. Louis Cardinals
Tom Glavine, Atlanta Braves
Larry Dierker, Houston Colt .45s/Astros
Jimmie Reese, California Angels
The results were just announced a couple of days ago, and Andre Dawson was the only player chosen by the BBWAA to enter the Hall of Fame in 2010. It was Dawson’s ninth year on the ballot. Some are grousing about his lack of qualifications, while others are ecstatic that he is finally in. To me, Dawson is a Hall of Famer. He was one of the heroes of my childhood due to his exposure on WGN, and it’s hard to erase childhood memories even when statistics are hurled at you.
Another complaint I have seen on several blogs is the concept of “first ballot Hall of Famers.” The line of thought is, “How can someone be a Hall of Famer next year, but not this year? If you’re a Hall of Famer, you’re a Hall of Famer plain-and-simple!” While there is merit to this, I can understand the line of thinking of those who refuse to vote for certain players on their first ballot. The idea is that a first ballot induction is somewhat of a higher honor, and it is. Sure, there were oversights (Ryne Sandberg, Carlton Fisk), and there were some who got in on their first ballot that really didn’t deserve it (Paul Molitor? Seriously?), but in an imperfect system it’s a reasonable line of thought.
That’s why I don’t really have a problem with Alomar waiting a year, and Larkin a couple of years. I’m surprised that Alomar was not elected (especially after the Paul Molitor debacle), but not offended. He’ll get in next year, along with Blyleven, and while that may take a potential vote away from Larkin, I’m confident Barry will be inducted in 2012 or 2013.
Here are my predictions of Hall inductees for the next several years (* = first ballot, ** = final year of eligibility):
2011: Alomar, Blyleven
2013: Craig Biggio*, Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez
2014: Greg Maddux*, Tom Glavine*, Frank Thomas*
2015: Randy Johnson*, Tim Raines
2016: Ken Griffey, Jr.* (assuming he retires after this season), Mike Mussina
2017: John Smoltz (assuming he retires after this season), Lee Smith**
Bagwell may squeeze through in 2012 on his first try, but to me he just doesn’t qualify as a first ballot Hall of Famer if you are going to limit it to the greatest of the great (Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn). And I’m still not sold on Edgar, but I do believe he will pick up enough steam over the next few years.
2014 will be interesting – all three are more than deserving of first ballot status, but when is the last time three guys went in on their first try in the same year? It’s only happened once (excluding 1936, the first year of voting). You have to go back to 1999 – Nolan Ryan, George Brett, and Robin Yount – just barely. Ryan and Brett both received more than 98% of the vote; Yount got just 77.5%.
Thomas’ latter years may hurt him, but he should still go in on the first ballot with at least 80%. Glavine should also receive at least 80%, although if the writers look back at history and see that Warren Spahn only received 83.2%, a few might hold back their votes. Maddux, on the other hand, should receive 100%. He won’t, but he should. Any writer who fails to vote for Maddux should have his voting rights stripped, taken out into the street and be publicly flogged.
2015 is the year I have Raines finally getting in. The writers have to wake up eventually, right?
The Big Unit will cruise in, as will Junior (I’m assuming he retires after this season). The Moose will have to wait a couple years, and Lee Smith will get in during his final year of eligibility.
You might notice that I didn’t use any statistics in this post, other than the voting percentages that Hall of Famers received. I’m not anti-stat; I think stats are great. But I just get overwhelmed with all the new stuff that has picked up steam in this internet age. WHIP, WAR, Win Shares, OPS+…I don’t understand half of them. I’m more of a counting stat guy. And yeah, I know Molitor had 3k hits. But he still shouldn’t have been in on the first ballot.