I like that it is difficult to get into the Hall of Fame. To me it’s better to keep a great player out than to be too loose with your entry standards and let a less than excellent player in. Now, the Baseball Writers Association of America took that to an extreme in 2013 by not inducting anyone. But I might be the only person in America who wasn’t overly offended that Craig Biggio didn’t make it in his first year of eligibility.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Biggio is a Hall of Famer. He did everything well. And he’ll get in, most likely this year. But his career numbers, while impressive, don’t jump off the page at me and scream “This guy has to go in on his first shot.” Then again, in my eyes, few do.
1. Greg Maddux
Few get in on the first ballot, but Greg Maddux is one of the exceptions. The Cub, Brave, Padre and Dodger starter was pinpoint, posting at one point seven consecutive sub-3.00 ERAs – that included back-to-back seasons of 1.56 and 1.63 ERAs. He won 355 games in an era where 300-game winners were heading toward extinction. His 3.16 career ERA and 1.14 WHIP and four Cy Young awards … Maddux was an all-timer.
2. Craig Biggio
Biggio fell just a couple handfuls of votes short of making the Hall in his first go-round last year with 68.2 percent of the vote. Some of his hit totals and other accumulated statistics strike me as more due to longevity than being one of the best ever, but when you factor in his defense, there I a strong case for him. He started his career as a catcher and was an All Star. He moved to second base in year five and immediately played 162 games and again was an All Star. Late in his career he moved to the outfield and played between 141 and 156 games and … well, no All Star appearances, but he retained a positive Wins Above Replacement value up to his final season in 2007. No, I didn’t feel as offended by some that he didn’t make it to Cooperstown in year one, but he definitely does belong.
3. Frank Thomas
Count me among the many who aren’t terribly excited about seeing primarily designated hitters inducted into the Hall. Count me also among the many who find Frank Thomas to be the exception. His 521 homeruns are impressive. His power swing was ridiculous. He was feared. He belongs.
4. Tom Glavine
I debated this one for awhile. Glavine definitely be in Cooperstown one day. The 305 wins are top notch. But he never struck me as nearly the dominant pitcher Maddux was or, even at times, John Smoltz. But at the end of the day he was a star pitcher on some great Atlanta teams and so he gets my vote.
5. Tim Raines
Okay, so here’s my nod to a slightly earlier time. Tim Raines was an All-Star seven consecutive seasons. He is fifth all-time in stolen bases with 808 and he led the league from 1981-84, finishing no lower than seventh from 1981-1992, with the exception of 1988. He won a batting title in 1986 and finished with a .296 career average. His on-base percentage was .385 due to his impressive eye. And though he won no Gold Gloves in his career, he was considered an excellent defensive outfielder. He’s slowly moving up the vote list. He’s got mine.