Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas appeared to be on track to gain election from the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Wednesday, and Craig Biggio could join them. The last time four players received the required 75 per cent was in 1955, when Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons and Dazzy Vance all got in. Surprisingly, it was the third ballot appearance for DiMaggio, who fell 81 votes short in 1953 and 14 shy the following year.
When he announced his retirement in December 2008, Maddux wouldn't talk about the Hall.
"I think there's a lot of good players in there," he said. "Don't really have any thoughts on it."
Maddux could break the mark for highest percentage (98.84), set when in 1992 when Tom Seaver topped the record Ty Cobb set in 1936.
"I just have just never come across any human being, whether they're a voter or just a fan, that doesn't think Greg Maddux is a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest pitchers who ever pitched," The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo said Tuesday. "I can't imagine someone not voting for him. So I would guess that he's going to break Seaver's record."
Maddux is among three high-profile players on the BBWAA ballot for the first time, joined by his former Atlanta teammate Glavine and Thomas. Holdovers include Biggio, who topped voting at 68 per cent last year, 39 votes short of the 75 per cent needed for election. It was only the second time in four decades the BBWAA failed to elect anyone.
Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, a former reporter for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, said Tuesday the only player he voted for was Jack Morris, on the writers' ballot for the 15th and final time after falling 42 votes shy last year.
"To me, I didn't exclude Maddux. I excluded everybody from that era, everybody from the Steroid Era," Gurnick said. "It wasn't about Greg Maddux, it was about the entire era. I just don't know who did and who didn't."
Gurnick said Morris also was the only player he voted for in 2013 and added he intends to abstain in future elections.
"Some people quibble over when the era starts, but the bulk of his career was in my opinion well before all of the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs," Gurnick said.
Given that 569 ballots were submitted in 2013, Maddux likely could be omitted from six this year and still break the record set by Seaver, who received 425 of 430 votes.
Seaver was left off by Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News, Bob Hertzel of The Pittsburgh Press and freelance writer Bob Hunter. They all submitted blank ballots to protest the decision by the Hall of Fame board of directors to bar Pete Rose from the vote because of his lifetime ban from baseball following a gambling probe.
Retired writers Deane McGowen and Bud Tucker also did not vote for Seaver.
"If it had cost Seaver anything, yeah, I probably would regret it at some level, but it didn't really cost him anything," Hagen, now with MLB.com, said Tuesday. "He still got the highest vote (percentage) total ever, and he wouldn't have been unanimous anyway."
The Steroids Era has impacted the vote totals of players with stellar statistics. In initial appearances last year, Mike Piazza was at 57.8 per cent, Roger Clemens at 37.6, Barry Bonds at 36.2 and Sammy Sosa at 12.5. Mark McGwire received 16.9 on his seventh try.
The Baseball Think Factory website compiled votes by writers who made their opinions public, and with 194 ballots had Maddux at 99.5 per cent, followed by Glavine (95), Thomas (90) and Biggio (78). The website's count had Piazza (69), Morris (61) and Jeff Bagwell (58) falling short along with Tim Raines (54), Bonds (42), Clemens (41), Curt Schilling (37) and Mike Mussina (26).
McGwire (11) and Sosa (8) had little support.
Approximately 600 writers who have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years at any point considered the 36-player ballot.
Next year's ballot could be even more crowded when Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Carlos Delgado and Gary Sheffield become eligible, five years after their retirements. The BBWAA last month formed a committee to study whether the organization should ask the Hall to change the limit of 10 players per ballot.