2014 MLB Hall of Fame class among best in recent memory
Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa are getting enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday.
The 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame class is officially being enshrined Sunday in Cooperstown (ceremony begins at 1:30 ET on MLB Network). Unlike a few lackluster classes in recent memory, this one is stacked. Here's a look at the six men being enshrined.
Greg Maddux, starting pitcher: In a 23-year career, Maddux went 355-227 with a 3.16 ERA (132 ERA+), 1.14 WHIP and 3,371 strikeouts in over 5,000 innings. It's not a stretch to say Maddux is one of the best pitchers in baseball history.
Through an era of colossal hitters, Maddux posted an ERA of 2.50 or better in six different seasons, including two in the 1s (1.56 in 1994 and 1.63 in 1995). He won four Cy Youngs, all consecutive and two unanimously, while making the All-Star team eight times.
A well-rounded player, Maddux won a ridiculous 18 Gold Gloves and also hit .171 with 180 career sac bunts.
Still, the focus should remain on his work on the hill, where he was a master of his craft. He was as skilled cerebrally as he was physically, working hitters over in any given at-bat, game or season. There's a story that he once allowed a home run in the regular season on purpose in order to set up a hitter for the postseason. There's also a story that a catcher once caught Maddux with his eyes closed because the Hall of Famer was so good at hitting his spots -- and this was when Maddux was at the end of the line, more than 40 years old.
Maddux pitched in 11 postseasons, including three World Series, in which he had a 2.09 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in five starts. He won one World Series ring.
Frank Thomas, first baseman/designated hitter: The Big Hurt cobbled together one of the most impressive offensive dossiers of the contemporary era. He ended his 19-year career with a batting line of .301/.419/.555 and an OPS+ of 156. That OPS+ happens to rank to 20th on the all-time list. As well, Thomas tallied 521 homers and 495 doubles. He also ranks 43rd all-time in total bases, 33rd all-time in times on base and 29th in extra-base hits. Oh, and despite, it would seem, all that power, he walked more than he struck out in his career. Such was his exacting discipline at the plate.
Peak value? Thomas' best years were unassailably brilliant. He won back-to-back AL MVP awards, and from 1991-97 he batted .330/.452/.604 (182 ERA+) with 40 home runs, 133 walks and 84 strikeouts per 162 games played. That's eight seasons of utter dominance.
Need more? Thomas batted .265/.382/.518 (134 OPS+) in 2,569 plate appearances ... from age 35 until the end of his career. He hit at home (.305/.424/.599 for his career), and he hit on the road (.297/.414/.511). He hit righties (.294/.410/.530), and he hit lefties (.322/.448/.635). He hit with the bases empty (.293/.401/.545), and he hit with runners on (.311/.438/.566).
Frank Thomas just hit ... all the way to the Hall of Fame.
Tom Glavine, starting pitcher: Glavine, a Massachusetts native, was drafted by both Atlanta Braves (second round) and the NHL's Los Angeles Kings (fourth round) out of high school in 1984. He opted to pursue baseball and spent parts of four seasons in the minors before making his MLB debut on Aug. 17, 1987, on the road against the Astros. Glavine allowed six runs in 3 2/3 innings.
Glavine remained in the rotation the rest of the year and became a mainstay the following season at age 22. He went 7-17 -- leading baseball in losses -- with a 4.56 ERA in 34 starts and 195 1/3 innings in 1988 but improved enough to win his first Cy Young in 1991, when he went 20-11 with a 2.55 ERA. Glavine won 20-plus games every year from 1991-93 and emerged as one of the game's top left-handers.
During his prime from 1991-2002, Glavine went 209-102 with a 3.15 ERA while averaging 33 starts and 224 2/3 innings per year. He won the Cy Young twice (1991 and 1998), had four more top three finishes in the Cy Young voting, and was an eight-time All-Star. Glavine helped the Braves win the 1995 World Series as well as the 1996 and 1999 NL pennants.
The best and most important start of Glavine's career came in Game 6 of that 1995 World Series. He held the high-powered Cleveland Indians to one hit and three walks in eight shutout innings, striking out eight for the title-clinching win. Glavine won Game 2 as well and was named World Series MVP. Overall, he went 14-16 with a 3.30 ERA in the postseason, including 4-3 with a 2.16 ERA in eight World Series starts.
Glavine signed a free-agent contract with the Mets during the 2002-03 offseason and remained there through the 2007. He returned to the Braves in 2008 and retired after being released in June 2009. Glavine finished his career with a 305-203 record, a 3.54 ERA, and those two Cy Youngs. He ranks 21st all-time wins, 28th in innings pitched (4,413 1/3), and 30th in WAR (74.0), and was elected into the Hall of Fame after appearing on 91.9 percent of the ballots in his first year of eligibility.
Joe Torre, manager: Following an excellent playing career, Joe Torre was unanimously elected into the Hall of Fame by the Expansion Era committee over the winter for his triumphs as a manager. The Brooklyn-born Torre managed the Mets (1977-81), Braves (1982-84), Cardinals (1990-1995), Yankees (1996-2007) and Dodgers (2008-2010).
Torre, 74, was most successful with the Yankees, leading their late-1990s/early-2000s dynasty to four World Series victories (1996, 1998-2000) and two AL pennants (2001 and 2003). He has the second-most managerial wins in franchise history (1,173) and his 2,326 career managerial wins are the fifth most all-time. Torre also won one division title with the Braves (1982) and two with the Dodgers (2008-09).
Torre was twice named Manager of the Year (1996 and 1998) and he finished in the top five of the voting in 1991 and every year from 1998-2009. He spent the 1985-90 seasons as a broadcaster for the Angels in addition to special assignments for NBC and ESPN. He was in the booth for the Loma Prieta earthquake during Game 3 of the 1989 World Series.
As a player, Torre hit .297 with 252 home runs in parts of 18 seasons. He played with the Braves (1960-68), Cardinals (196-74) and Mets (1975-77). Torre was a nine-time All-Star who was named the 1971 NL MVP after leading the league in batting average (.363), hits (230), runs batted in (137) and total bases (352). He was primarily a catcher and corner infielder.
Bobby Cox, manager: The longtime Braves skipper managed 29 years in all, going 2504-2001. He was at the helm for the Braves for four years, initially, before taking over the Blue Jays for four seasons in the '80s, culminating with a 99-62 record and AL East title in 1985.
When Cox took over the Braves in 1990, however, he would begin the stint that lands him in Cooperstown.
The 1991 Braves went worst-to-first and ended up in Game 7 of the World Series -- on the wrong end of the famous Jack Morris gem. The division title, though, would mark the first of a whopping 14 consecutive division titles. Along the way, the Braves would win five NL pennants and one World Series.
The venerable Cox would win four Manager of the Year awards and garner votes in the category 20 different seasons.
Cox ranks fourth on the all-time list in manager wins. He's one of only four skippers to win the Manager of the Year in each league and is the only man to win the award in consecutive seasons.
Also, Cox holds the record for the most career ejections with 158.
Tony La Russa, manager: In La Russa's sprawling, singular career in the dugout, he guided three different teams to division titles and joined Sparky Anderson as the only skippers to win a World Series in each league. To be exact, La Russa has to his credit three World Series titles (he's one of only nine managers to win at least three rings), six pennants and 12 division titles.
More numbers ... La Russa's 2,728 wins ranks behind only Connie Mack and John McGraw, and he ranks ninth all-time in games above .500. Oh, and only Mack has managed more total games. The list of managers to manage more All-Star Games includes Casey Stengel, Joe McCarthy and Walter Alston.
Adaptability? La Russa managed in five different decades. He guided a team to the postseason as a 38-year-old, and he won a World Series as a 66-year-old. Different teams, different players, different eras -- La Russa just won.
Not half bad for a career .199 hitter.