COMMENTARY | It should come as a shock to no one, but Greg Maddux did not become the first unanimous inductee into baseball's Hall of Fame.
The former Atlanta Braves ace was elected as a first-ballot selection to Cooperstown with 97.2 percent of the vote, but that means 16 of the 571 voters chose to leave one of the greatest pitchers in MLB history off the ballot.
What possible defense could these writers have?
The first of these brave individuals to show the world his lack of baseball knowledge was Los Angeles Dodgers beat writer Ken Gurnick. Out of the 10 available players he could nominate, Gurnick used only one vote to nominate pitcher Jack Morris.
Gurnick's defense: "Morris has flaws -- a 3.90 ERA, for example. But he gets my vote for more than a decade of ace performance that included three 20-win seasons, Cy Young Award votes in seven seasons and Most Valuable Player votes in five. As for those who played during the period of PED use, I won't vote for any of them."
Yes, because the first thing anyone thinks about when they look at Greg Maddux is, "That guy must be juicing." Slap a tweed jacket on him and Maddux would have been mistaken for a college professor much quicker than he would have ever been confused for a world-class athlete.
If anything, the fact Maddux played during the Steroid Era should only do more to underscore just how dominant he was. He and Randy Johnson remain the only two players in MLB history to win four consecutive Cy Young Awards, and they each did so against hitters hopped up on the jacking juice.
Maddux vs. Steroids
It ridiculous to allow Gurnick to stand on his steroid soapbox when the player he did vote for pitched until 1994, making him a part of the Steroid Era as well. But Gurnick opened the steroid door, so let's explore this PED concept one step further.
Since taking steroids is supposed to make the act of picking up a baseball bat on par with Thor picking up his hammer, certainly Maddux was rocked again and again as he feebly tried to pitch around these home-run-hitting behemoths.
What's that? You're telling me Gurnick did absolutely no research before quickly dismissing Maddux from Cooperstown?
Maddux vs. Barry Bonds
Maddux faced a lot of different hitters over his career, but the player he faced more than any other was arguably the most imposing hitters the game has ever seen.
Bonds had 154 regular-season plate appearances against Maddux, and, although Bonds hit .299 against everyone not named Greg Maddux, his average dropped to .262 with "Mad Dog" on the hill. Bonds did get eight of his 762 career home runs off of Maddux, but that also just means pitching in the Steroid Era made Maddux's impressive 3.16 career ERA much higher than it should have been.
Maddux vs. Sammy Sosa
Maddux utterly dominated Sosa in the postseason. The player with 609 career home runs went 0-for-6 against Maddux in the games that mattered most. Overall, Sosa managed only a .210 average off "The Professor" for his career with an on-base percentage of just .279.
Surprisingly, most of Sosa's success against Maddux came early in his career. From 1997 to 2003, when Sosa was hitting home runs with unrealistic regularity, he only hit .149 off Maddux, but all three of his home runs came during this period. Take away the long balls and Sosa only really hit .090 against Maddux during his most likely steroid-infused days.
Maddux vs. Rafael Palmeiro
The Texas Rangers star had a very small sample size of just nine at-bats against Maddux, but Atlanta's diminutive right-hander only allowed Palmeiro a .222 average in those appearances with zero home runs. We all now remember Palmeiro as the guy who pointed his finger and lied directly to United States congressmen about his PED usage, but Maddux just remembers him as one of the easier outs he faced during his career.
Maddux vs. Mark McGwire
McGwire was really the only PED guy to have solid numbers against Maddux (.316 career average), but half of McGwire's hits off Maddux came in the 1998 or 1999 season when Big Mac was suspected to be at the height of his steroid usage. Yet, even backed by enough testosterone to bring down a horse, McGwire only took Maddux deep twice in his career.
What Gurnick, and the 15 other baseball writers who didn't vote for Maddux, failed to realize is that pitching in the Steroid Era as a non-steroid user makes his accomplishments even more extraordinary. For a pitcher with 10 different seasons with an ERA under 3.00, how much more dominant did Maddux need to be against an uneven playing field for these writers to think him worthy of a first-ballot selection? How many losses and earned runs ended up being unjustly tacked on to Maddux's career totals simply because he pitched in a dirty era?
Leaving Maddux off of the Hall of Fame ballot should be enough cause to show those 16 writers are unfit to vote in the future.
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter who has been following the Atlanta Braves for over 20 years. He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
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