Last summer, the Baseball Hall of Fame didn't induct anyone from its regular ballot; all the July 2013 inductees were via the Veterans Committee, which inducted three men, all of whom had been dead for at least 75 years. That obviously wasn't very good for Cooperstown tourism on what is normally the biggest weekend of the year.
This year, the Hall has unveiled a 36-player ballot that includes 19 new names, and among the 36 total names are seven who had careers of varying lengths with the Cubs: Greg Maddux, Sammy Sosa, Lee Smith, Rafael Palmeiro, Jacque Jones, Moises Alou and Fred McGriff.
Obviously, Jones, McGriff and Palmeiro didn't spend much time with the Cubs and none is likely to be inducted any time soon (Jones will likely get less than five percent of the vote and be dropped after this year).
But Maddux, certainly, deserves first-ballot consideration, and there's an argument to be made that he should be a unanimous selection as the best pitcher of his generation (Roger Clemens fans could make that argument as well, I suppose, but Clemens seems pretty far from induction given his troubles).
The Baseball Writers Association of America has made almost a religion of not making anyone unanimous; the argument seems to be, "No one has before, so no one should." That has led to ludicrous things like people leaving Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn off their ballots. There's a lot more wrong with having the BBWAA be arbiters of who's in the Hall, but that's a discussion for another day.
I think Maddux should go in this year, and it would be great if he'd be the one who would be the first unanimous selection. He'll go in with a Braves cap, as his best years were there, but there will certainly be many Cubs fans at the induction.
That's another good argument: why does any inductee need a specific cap? They're being honored for their entire career, not just for what they did with one team. One good example is Carlton Fisk, who split his time with the Red Sox and White Sox. He's in with a Boston cap, but it can be argued that his White Sox career was just as significant.
In my view, players' plaques should have their face only, no cap at all. It's clear from the plaque who the man played for.
Here is the entire ballot:
Moises Alou, Jeff Bagwell, Armando Benitez, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Sean Casey, Roger Clemens, Ray Durham, Eric Gagne, Tom Glavine, Luis Gonzalez, Jacque Jones, Todd Jones, Jeff Kent, Paul Lo Duca, Greg Maddux, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Mike Mussina, Hideo Nomo, Rafael Palmeiro, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Kenny Rogers, Curt Schilling, Richie Sexson, Lee Smith, J.T. Snow, Sammy Sosa, Frank Thomas, Mike Timlin, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker.
The polling feature here doesn't allow you to vote for more than one choice, so putting all 36 names there and asking you to choose one would be an exercise in futility. It'd be a really, really long list on this page and I suspect if most of you had to choose only one player out of these 36, it just might be Maddux.
So, let's do it this way. BBWAA rules allow members to vote for up to 10 players (whether that should be increased is also a discussion for another time). I'll tell you my ballot; you leave yours in the comments. The BBWAA voters must mail in their ballots postmarked by December 31 and the 2014 class will be announced on MLB Network (and on the HoF and BBWAA websites) Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 1 p.m. CT.
My ballot (in alphabetical order):
Jeff Bagwell Craig Biggio Greg Maddux Mike Piazza Curt Schilling Lee Smith Frank Thomas