Two Long-Time Braves And A Slugger Go To The Hall Of Fame

Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas are the Baseball Hall of Fame's newest inductees. Last year, baseball writers pointedly left some of the biggest stars off the list due to links with performance-enhancing drugs, and this year has been no different. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were again denied induction.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were Atlanta Braves teammates, Cy Young Award winners and, as of this afternoon, they are the newest members of Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame. Also making the hall was the slugger known as the Big Hurt, Frank Thomas.

But some of the game's most notable players were kept out again this year by the baseball writers, the taint of performance-enhancing drugs still overshadowing their careers. NPR's Mike Pesca joins us now to talk about the new class. Hi, Mike.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hello.

SIEGEL: Let's hear about the players who got in. How would you say - what makes Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas so special?

PESCA: Oh, just impeccable credentials, you know. Greg Maddux, four-time Cy Young Award winner. One of these great stories, because never the guy with the fastest fastball or the biggest, most intimidating guy, but could perfectly place his pitch wherever he wanted to, extremely cerebral pitcher. Glavine collected a couple of Cy Young Awards himself.

And Frank Thomas, I mean, he hit over 500 home runs, won the MVP twice, a fantastic slugger of his era. And in the current climate, he wasn't seen as a guy who'd ever done steroids. He came into the game huge. He played tight end at Auburn. He stayed huge throughout his career, so sportswriters didn't think he got artificially huge.

SIEGEL: Now, all-star Craig Biggio came close. He played 20 seasons for the Houston Astros. Does history suggest that he'll eventually make it into the Hall of Fame?

PESCA: Yeah. I mean, he came really close. He came within two votes of making the 75 percent of voters necessary to gain the hall. And everyone who's been in that position, that close with years remaining, has made the Hall of Fame. Another player who's on an upward trajectory but also is somewhat tainted by the steroid/PED thing is Mike Piazza. Other catchers like Gary Carter, also a Mets catcher, he took a few years to get into the Hall of Fame. Piazza is the greatest-hitting catcher of all time but his defense was bad.

I suppose there are some non-PED arguments against him being in the hall, but so many voters have come out and said, you know, we strongly suspect that he did PEDs, and he seemed to have gotten large. And things like the fact that he had acne on his back during some seasons were held against him. But it just goes to the nature of there's no formalized process of how to vote for who and what constitutes proof of steroid use. So a strong suspicion seems to be keeping guys like Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza out.

SIEGEL: What about the players with the greatest accomplishments who again were excluded - Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, a couple. Has there been any movement by voters to rethink their exclusion from the hall?

PESCA: Not good movement for them. I mean, when I listed some of the Big Hurt's credentials, there are clips by Barry Bonds. Bonds, probably the best hitter of all time not named Babe Ruth. But because he is a PED user, you know, he said didn't knowingly rub the cream into his body but - that did have PEDs. He's out of the hall.

And so right now, those are two of the greatest players of all time. And it's called the Hall of Fame, but it doesn't have them. So it probably should be called, you know, the hall of really good players but for those we think cheated.

(LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: But, Mike, we're talking about the steroid era. It's more than a decade of Major League Baseball, some great players. The sportswriters are going to have to figure out what to make of this (unintelligible).

PESCA: The sportswriters don't - I mean, some of the sportswriters are at each others' throat. In fact, the website Deadspin, in an act of civic disobedience, sold the ballot, and it was revealed that the ESPN/Miami Herald writer Dan Lebatard filled out the Deaspin readers' ballot. So I don't know if he's going to be punished by the hall. But, yeah, even the voters themselves are saying, we don't really know exactly what we're doing.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Mike.

PESCA: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: NPR's Mike Pesca on the latest selections to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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