Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux are linked — by position, as teammates, by a Sports Illustrated World Series-winning cover (the Braves’ only one since leaving Milwaukee 47 years ago) and now as Hall of Fame candidates.
They shouldn’t be. Both pitchers are up for election this year into the Hall of Fame, and of the voters who have revealed their ballots, support for both has been near unanimous.
Maddux is a no-brainer — if you’re against him, you have BDS (Braves Derangement Syndrome), and it’s time to turn off whichever Caray’s voice is in your head.
But Glavine isn’t so sure a case. And it’s hard not to think he’s riding his 305 wins and Maddux’s coattails into the Hall with him, and manager Bobby Cox (please, please, no Brave New World headlines).
If the Hall is home plate, Glavine’s career is like one of his pitches — either just on the edge of the target or an inch or two off. If you like a Hall as big as Phil Cuzzi’s strike zone, Glavine is in easily. If you like a Hall as small as Tim Tschida’s strike zone, then you could exclude Glavine.
This isn’t to argue that Glavine isn’t a Hall of Famer — I think he is, and I’m a small-Hall person. But he isn’t one moreso than Mike Mussina or Curt Schilling, whom his support dwarfs, and whom he’s likely to beat to Cooperstown. The question is why is support so great for Glavine and so weak for Mussina (first time) and Schilling (second time; 38.8% last year) when the latter two were arguably better pitchers.
The answer, presumably, is Glavine’s win total and Maddux’s company. Never mind that Glavine’s last 15 wins, which put him over the landmark 300, were achieved despite a 4.71 ERA.
Otherwise, by most advanced metrics, Mussina and Schilling had better numbers than Glavine. They had better WARs (Mussina 82.7, Schilling 80.7, Glavine 74.0), better ERA+s (Schilling 127, Mussina 123, Glavine 118) and betters OPSes against (Schilling .673, Mussina .696, Glavine .697).
Schilling had a better career ERA (3.46) and Mussina a worse one (3.68 to 3.54), a byproduct of Glavine pitching exclusively in the NL and Mussina the AL; Glavine had more wins than both (305 Glavine; 270 Mussina; 216 Schilling) but less strikeouts than both, despite pitching 900 and 1,200 more innings.
Glavine’s case of being better rests on longevity (4,413 innings to Mussina’s 3,562 and Schilling’s 3,261), more wins, two Cy Youngs (one deserved) and his Game 6 1-0 one-hit 1995 Series clincher.
The former is relevant, but to admit Glavine on a milestone number while denying Mussina and Schilling is arbitrary. Mussina won 20 games in his final season, reached 270 and retired before he turned 40. Glavine reached 275 at the same age and pitched on. Is it fair to punish Mussina for not continuing and depreciating in full view just so he could win 300 games? Would Mussina have been that much better a candidate if he matched Glavine’s 13-8, 4.45 ERA age 41 season?
Would Fred McGriff be a more viable candidate if he could have put up one more .249, 13-homer, age-39 season so he could retire with 506 career home runs rather than 493? McGriff received 20.7% of the vote last year in his fifth year of eligibility. How many more would he have received if he reached 500 home runs? Or would he already be inducted?
Glavine won two Cy Youngs, or two more than Mussina and Schilling combined. Relevant? You judge. Glavine received Cy votes in six seasons; Mussina nine, including his last, and Schilling just four.
Glavine was top three all six times; Schilling was second three years in a row, twice to Randy Johnson and once to Johan Santana. Mussina’s best was a second-place finish in a year Pedro Martinez fanned 313 batters in 213.1 innings.
Glavine’s second Cy is, at best, fortunate — his OPS against was 52 points worse than Kevin Brown’s. But Glavine won 20 games and Brown didn’t; to vote for him because of his second Cy instead of the others is to compound an error 15 years old (and Brown — 68.2 WAR, .655 OPS against — receiving only 12 votes of 581 cast in 2011 is another error to be charged. He’s not far removed from this argument).
All three pitchers could rightly go into the Hall. Hopefully, all three will go in and Jack Morris won’t.
But if Glavine is preferred because of a fascination with 300 wins, that’s fickle. And if Glavine is preferred because voters universally think he’s better than the other two, that’s a capricious judgment. Go ahead and put Glavine in the Hall. If you do, don’t leave Mussina and Schilling out for long.