The Internet exploded with outrage on Tuesday afternoon when Ken Gurnick, a Dodgers beat reporter with a Hall of Fame vote, revealed he wasn’t supporting Greg Maddux for Cooperstown this year. So far, with around a quarter of voters revealing their ballots, Gurnick is the first not to support Maddux’s candidacy. The sportswriter had the right idea when he left Maddux off; just for the wrong reasons.
Maddux is one of the greatest pitchers of all time. One could cite achievement after achievement for the Hall of Fame: 355 career wins, four consecutive Cy Young awards, his absolute dominance as a pitcher at the height of the juiced ball, steroid era. Debating whether he’s a Hall of Famer is like debating whether Shakespeare was good at stringing words together. But Gurnick left him off his ballot because of the era when Maddux played, writing “as for those who played during the period of PED use, I won't vote for any of them.” Instead, out of ten possible votes for 36 players on the ballot, Gurnick voted only for former Detroit Tiger pitcher Jack Morris.
Deadspin has already dismissed Gurnick as a jackass for this logic but the smart thing to do for sportswriters is to leave Maddux off the ballot but just not for Gurnick’s goofy reasoning. Maddux is a sure-fire Hall of Famer on a ballot stuffed with good players, many of whom will not achieve the 75% vote threshold acquired for admittance to Cooperstown as a result. Writer after writer has bemoaned that they only have 10 votes for far more than 10 qualified players. The result is that Hall of Fame worthy players like Tim Raines and Alan Trammell will fall short again while others like Jeff Kent or Rafael Palmeiro may fall off the ballot entirely (any player who receives less than 5% of the vote is removed from the ballot in future elections).
Greg Maddux is going to become a Hall of Famer this year and his plaque will have just as much luster if he makes it into to Cooperstown by just one vote than if he does so unanimously. With a Hall of Fame ballot crowded by the confusion of the steroid era, there’s a strong case not to vote for Maddux, it just isn’t the one made by Gurnick.