Greg Maddux very well could eclipse Tom Seaver’s 98.8% for the highest ever voting percentage upon election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but the world learned on Tuesday he won’t be unanimous. Ken Gurnick is MLB.com’s Los Angeles Dodgers beat reporter and left off Maddux on his ballot. The only name he voted for was Maddux’s fellow former pitcher Jack Morris.
Upon his explanation, Gurnick said, “Morris has flaws — a 3.90 ERA, for example,” Gurnick wrote ahead of Wednesday’s Hall announcement. “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 Award votes in five. As for those who played during the period of PED use, I won’t vote for any of them.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, fans and reporters gave a negative response to Gurnick’s ballot. Some of the things used to poke holes in his argument was Morris and Maddux pitched together from 1986 to 1994 and that Morris retired after steroids had entered the game.
His logic is rather irrational. Somebody who also had three 20 win seasons, MVP votes in five seasons and actually won a Cy Young, Morris never placed higher than third, was Don Newcombe when he scooped up the first Cy Young and also MVP honors in 1956. Newcombe also had a 3.56 ERA. I also have to inquire about one of Morris’ contemporaries: Dave Stewart, who has a lot in common with the former being in his 15th and final year on the ballot. Stewart received Cy Young votes in four seasons (1987-1990) and though Morris never placed higher than 3rd, Stewart equaled that twice and finished 2nd in 1989. Stewart may not have the gem Morris does of game 7 of the 1991 World Series, but he, too, threw a no-hitter and also won a World Series MVP award like Morris did. Stewart authored four 20-win seasons to Morris’ three. Stewart had a 3.95 career ERA to Morris’ 3.90.
That’s not to say I necessarily endorse Newcombe or Stewart for the Hall of Fame, but one can easily take Gurnick’s logic and apply it to other pitchers. Newcome and Stewart can only receive election through a special committee. Stewart was able to eclipse the needed 5% to stay on the ballot in 2001 before missing the minimum in 2002. Based on the comparisons, it seems like at the very least, Stewart deserved much better treatment, especially considering how much steam Morris has picked up in recent years.
It could be that Gurnick is taking the everybody is guilty approach, including Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas, all of whom are likely to get the call on Wednesday. I talked about this Monday on isportsweb that not voting for steroid users or suspected steroid users in understandable, but it seems like Gurnick is going to punish those who were never questioned to engage in such activity. That is his prerogative, but apparently the three aforementioned names, along with some of the other names on this ballot, are not Hall of Famers simply because of the era they played in that was out of their control.
If Gurnick did this to get notoriety and to stand out, he accomplished that. If people didn’t know who he was beforehand, they sure do now. No matter what one thinks of him, he has made a name for himself and has people talking. Some have called for him to be stripped of being able to vote. I would agree with this. The only exception would be if he seriously thought every single name on the ballot engaged in PED use or if he literally doesn’t think anybody besides Morris belongs in the Hall of Fame
People should be disappointed, but not surprised that Maddux won’t be the first unanimous Hall of Famer. One can’t get their hopes up that one day there is going to be a unanimous Hall of Famer. Never say never, but there’s going to someone like Gurnick, no matter the intentions, who won’t vote for someone people think is deserving of 100% of the vote. When Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez come up next year, or Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones and Mariano Rivera are eligible in years at the end of the decade, they are all going to get in with no trouble and some may even view them all as worthy of being a unanimous Hall of Famer. Negative attention is still attention and my guess is someone is going to not vote for them in order to make a name for themselves. Maybe Gurnick genuinely doesn’t want to vote for players who were in the steroid era, be it guilt by association or he may have thought they all took part in the PED usage at that time. However, it wouldn’t shock me one bit if he wanted to be “that guy” either.