In the eyes of the known electorate for baseball's Hall of Fame, right-hander Greg Maddux is — at the moment — a perfect candidate for Cooperstown.
The Baseball Think Factory's Primer blog attempts to track HOF voting every season and, with 101 ballots made public so far, Maddux's name has been checked on every one from the Baseball Writers Association of America. Voters aren't required to make their ballots public, but many often do. The official announcement comes Wednesday. Who else would be a Hall of Famer if the election ended with what we know?
Tom Glavine — 97 percent
Frank Thomas — 90 percent
Craig Biggio — 80.2 percent
With the threshold for election at 75 percent, Mike Piazza misses the cut at 72.3, as does Jeff Bagwell at 65 and Jack Morris at 62.4 in his final attempt with the BBWAA. The only holdover in danger of falling off the ballot (by receiving less than 5 percent of the vote) appears to be Don Mattingly. First-year guy Jeff Kent appears to be safe. Luis Gonzalez does not.
Caution: It's only 17.8 percent of the possible ballots (based on the total number cast a year ago) and the sample size also might exclude a segment of voters who historically have shown an unwillingness to see a unanimous Hall of Famer elected.
And yet, Maddux just might be the first.
He certainly has a chance to break the record set in 1992 by Tom Seaver, 98.84 percent. Nobody — not Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Johnny Bench or Honus Wagner — has ever done better in balloting since the first election in 1936. Now, why in the world anyone wouldn't vote for Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb on the first ballot is a mystery. But the precedent has led to other writers later in history being unwilling to make "X player" the first unanimous choice, because if "Babe Ruth wasn't unanimous, then why should anyone else be?" As if there's a wing of Cooperstown set aside for guys with 100 percent of the vote or more. As if there's really an extra honor, above and beyond enshrinement. It's silly, tortured logic that hopefully dies with Greg Maddux's election. He is the best pitcher (Pedro Martinez aside?) of a generation dominated by hitters, and certainly deserves 100 percent of any vote.
Yet, there's reason to think it won't happen this time, either. Consider that most of the ballots counted (with some exceptions) are from "younger" writers more willing to embrace new ideas — like the internet, or color television. There's still a good chance that certain curmudgeonly types, beholden to out-of-date concepts and misplaced honor, will ruin Maddux's perfect game.
There are no special privileges that go with getting 100 percent. It just would be nice to destroy such an irrational barrier.
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