By Ross Newhan
The Hall of Fame voting results mirror the complexity of the 2014 ballot.
Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas survived the bottleneck to become deserving winners, and, yes, 16 voters failed to include Maddux on their ballot but with 97.2% of the 571 votes it will not matter much to the 355 game winner when he is inducted on July 27 in Cooperstown.
Craig Biggio needed only two more votes to also qualify for a plaque.
Biggio, who led the winner-less 2013 election in his first year with 68.2%, climbed to 74.8% this time, so close to the needed 75% that he seems certain to attain in 2015, though there also seems to be no predicting an electorate of which I am one.
Maddux, Glavine and Thomas were all in their first year of eligibility and reflected the quality of a large frosh class that compounded a) the similar worthiness of a large group of ballot holdovers, b) the lingering question for many, many voters of what to do with an otherwise qualified group of players tied to the Steroid Era and c) the ongoing 10 vote limit when there were probably 20 players deserving of serious consideration.
It was virtually impossible not to vote for 10--which I did for the first time in 43 years and many others did as well, according to their published accounts--and the difficulty of that process can best be measured by the results behind Maddux, Glavine, Thomas and Biggio (the latter also being impacted by the depth of the ballot and the widespread differences in voter thinking).
In fact, behind the top four, the only holdover to show an appreciable increase in percentage was Mike Piazza, and none of the newcomers attained a percentage--as illustrated by Mike Mussina's 20.3 and Jeff Kent's 15.2---that indicated they will have a serious chance in the next 14 years to climb to 75.
Jack Morris, who was second in 2013 voting at 67.7%, fell to 61.5 in his 15th and last year on the ballot, a victim, perhaps, of the NewThink metrics and a blow to those of us who have continued to support his candidacy. Morris will now go to a veteran's committee in 2016.
Jeff Bagwell, who was third in 2013 at 59.6, fell to 54.3, a modest drop compared to many others. Piazza, fourth in 2013 at 57.8, withstood the earthquake, climbing to 62.2 to rank fifth behind Maddux, Glavine, Thomas and Biggio.
Curt Schilling, Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell, Fred McGriff, Lee Smith and Larry Walker, all among candidates thought to have a chance now or in the future, took major hits, and the PED boys all slipped. If the majority thinking in regards to Barry Bonds, at 34.7, and Roger Clemens, at 35.4, is changing affirmatively, it wasn't demonstrated by the 2014 vote, and a third member of the PED contingent, Rafael Palmeiro, fell to 4.4, below the 5% need to stay on the ballot despite a career of more than 500 home runs and more than 3,000 hits.
Whether the vote limit will be increased before the 2015 election is uncertain. Hall officials seem disinclined to make any changes, and it is unclear if the Baseball Writers Assn. of America will muster a lobbying campaign.
One thing IS certain: A complex process will remain complex, with Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz among those joining the ballot.
My 2014 ballot again: Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, Biggio, Piazza, Morris, Martinez, Kent, Schilling and Smith.