How ironic would it be if Tom Glavine, one of the primary forces behind the elimination of PEDs from baseball, were to be tainted with the same broad brush used to tar the abusers and be passed over when the voting for the Hall of Fame is announced on Jan. 8?
How ironic and how unfair.
It could very well happen, however, even though the Billerica-bred lefthander's pitching credentials merit enshrinement in his first year of eligibility. Last year, in spite of being presented with one of the richest talent slates ever, the Baseball Writers Association of America declined to elect anybody for one of the very few times in history. Too many -- far too many -- of my voting brethren are punishing everyone on the ballot out of paranoia because they can't be certain who played dirty and who played clean, so let's keep 'em all out of Cooperstown.
This year's ballot was even more crowded with superstar-studded candidates, including the notable additions of Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas. Still there's a very real chance no one will be elected by the self-appointed crusaders for the second straight year, something that hasn't happened since players from the watered-down wartime era dominated the ballots from 1957-1961.
One long-time official at the Hall of Fame, who claims to have an 80 percent success rate at predicting who will be elected, recently went on the record by saying only Maddux, Glavine's perennial co-ace on the Atlanta Braves, will be elected this year.
If so, or if he's wrong and nobody gets in, that would be a shame.
Glavine's credentials are impeccable. He meets, if not exceeds, all the criteria for enshrinement. His dedication to the game and his craft are above reproach, as are his character and commitment to family and the community, including his hometown of Billerica. Tom Glavine not only looks the part, he IS the All-American boy. Heck, as a fourth-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Kings, he probably could have been a star in the NHL had he chosen that athletic route to fame and fortune.
On the mound from 1987-2008 for the Braves and New York Mets, Glavine won 305 games, 21st on the all-time victory list and fourth among lefthanders. He won two Cy Young Awards and was a 20-game winner five times, leading the National League in victories in each of those years. He was a nine-time All-Star and the MVP of the 1995 World Series. He was durable, almost never missing a start.
Perhaps most impressive of all for a pitcher without an overpowering fastball, Glavine accomplished most of these things in an era when a significant percentage of the batters he faced had bulked up on PEDs and were hitting tape-measure home runs by the thousands. He went to the forefront in the battle to clean up baseball, not because it was self-serving but because it was the right thing to do.
First as the player representative for the Braves and later as a union rep for the Players Association, Glavine was often the lonely voice of reason in the wilderness during those contentious, polarizing labor negotiations of the turbulent 1990s. At a time when MLB was turning a willful blind eye to the steroids issue because home runs were putting record numbers of fannies in the seats, and union membership was divided about prohibiting performance enhancing substances, Glavine was in the vanguard to re-establish some sanity and balance to baseball and earning the respect and admiration of all sides.
Yet he is unfairly lumped with everyone else who played during the Steroids Era, presumed guilty until proven innocent by the Inquisition under the aegis of the BBWAA.
Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I am. Perhaps last year's voting was more of a message, a one-time protest to proclaim the writers' disgust with the stain from one of MLB's blackest eras than a crusade to punish the infidels for perpetuity.
I anticipate there will some hard-liners among the voters but many, and hopefully most, will be satisfied they made the statement they wanted to make and have come to their senses.
For the record, I voted for Glavine, Maddux, Thomas, Roger Clemens, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling, and Mark McGwire.
In a few days we'll know if the writers have elected anybody. If Tom Glavine is not elected, or at the very least on a deep ballot close to the 75 percent required for election, the BBWAA will have blackened its own eyes.
That won't be irony. It will be ignominy.
About the author: Chaz Scoggins covered Major League Baseball for The Sun for more than 30 years and was the official scorer for the Boston Red Sox. He is a past president of the Baseball Writers Association of America.