Today is a day for celebration. Former Cub Greg Maddux easily sailed to Baseball Hall of Fame induction in his first year on the ballot, receiving 97.2 percent of the 571 ballots cast. That's the eighth-highest percentage ever, behind Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken, Ty Cobb, George Brett, Hank Aaron and Tony Gwynn.
Maddux will be inducted in Cooperstown, New York Sunday, July 27, along with Frank Thomas (83.7 percent) and Tom Glavine (91.9 percent). Craig Biggio just missed induction this year with 74.8 percent.
This class of three (along with Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox, three managers selected by the Veterans Committee), which includes many popular players who played with several different teams, will please the Hall honchos tremendously, since it almost assures a huge turnout for the induction ceremony. Traditionally, that's the Hall's biggest weekend of the year, and in 2013, when the three inductees had all been deceased for at least 75 years, attendance for Induction Weekend was way down (only 1,000), and so was overall annual attendance for the Hall. It's not easy to get to Cooperstown, as you know if you've been there, and so the Hall depends on its big summer weekends to remain the museum that it is.
Hopefully, this election of a large class will lead to structural changes in the way voting is done for Hall induction. I'm not in favor of induction strictly on statistical achievement, but restricting voting to BBWAA members leaves out, for example, team broadcasters, most of whom are far more familiar with the players on the ballot than some of the retired writers, many of whom haven't attended a game in decades. The Hall should also do something about those players actually placed on the ballot -- there's absolutely no reason that players like Jacque Jones, Paul Lo Duca, Ray Durham, Mike Timlin, Sean Casey, Todd Jones, or J.T. Snow should have even been given voting consideration. All of them were fine players, but none come anywhere close to immortality. All of those players fell off the ballot for getting fewer than 5 percent of the vote, as did Rafael Palmeiro, Moises Alou, Hideo Nomo, Luis Gonzalez, Eric Gagne, Armando Benitez and Kenny Rogers.
While the Hall of Fame should do something about voting procedures, Gabriel Schechter, who used to work there and who is quite familiar with Hall management, says they probably won't. He's likely right, which is truly unfortunate for those of us who care about having a Hall of Fame all baseball fans can truly be proud of.
There's one last thing to be said about the upcoming induction of Greg Maddux. Though his plaque will show him with an Atlanta Braves cap (and that's another problem -- why do we need caps at all on Hall plaques? The plaque is supposed to celebrate the player's entire career, not just his time with one team), we as Cubs fans will always fondly remember him for his nearly 10 seasons in blue pinstripes. Even though he spent his best years in Atlanta, his 33.8 WAR as a Cub ranks 11th all-time among Cub pitchers; his 133 wins rank 13th (and ninth among Cub pitchers since 1900), and his 1,305 strikeouts sixth. Greg recorded his 300th win (August 7, 2004) and his 3,000th K in a Cubs uniform (July 26, 2005).
Those are all worthy achievements. It's sobering to think that Maddux will be the last Hall inductee who played a significant portion of his career as a Cub for at least 30 more years. Perhaps Anthony Rizzo, or one of the Cubs currently in the system such as Javier Baez or Kris Bryant, will put together a Hall-worthy career. Thus, unless the voters one day soon decide to induct Sammy Sosa (who received 7.2 percent of the vote this year in his second try and thus remains on the ballot), this summer's induction of Maddux is probably it for Cubs players for decades to come.
So if you want to honor a great Cubs player at his induction into the Hall of Fame, this summer is likely your last chance for a long, long time. Congratulations, Greg Maddux. For nostalgia's sake, here's some video of Maddux pitching for the Peoria Chiefs in 1985, when he was 19 years old.