BRAVES MADDUX FIRES A PITCH AGAINST EXPOS.

The Hall of Fame still matters. It matters to the players and it matters enough to create an inordinate amount of chatter during the slowest time of the baseball year.

Last year was the darkest days of the darkest time in Hall history. No players elected, acrimony between writers, fans, and those caught in between. The lack of a no-doubt “first ballot” guy (free of PED baggage, that is) made it easier to split the vote and splintered the electorate as well.

If there is one thing all baseball fans can agree on, it is Greg Maddux. Even the most ardent skeptics cannot deny Maddux’s place in baseball’s shrine.

With Maddux goes his teammate Tom Glavine, an uncommonly durable and gifted pitcher who may have earned a some “Maddux shine” from pitching beside his brilliant teammate for so long but, at the end of the day, belongs in Cooperstown all the same.

Listen as Andrew Stoeten and I break down the voting results from top to bottom with an eye towards next year as well.

The bar for Hall of Fame first baseman is set quite high. Some mighty argue it should move even higher, as the Hall slightly overrepresents sluggers with good RBI and home runs totals.

By any measure, Frank Thomas clears the threshold with a minimum of effort. Quite simply, he is one of the best right-handed hitters of all time. Period.

Rk Player OPS+ G H HR BB OPS
1 Rogers Hornsby 175 2259 2930 301 1038 1.010
2 Albert Pujols 165 1958 2347 492 1067 1.008
3 Mark McGwire 163 1874 1626 583 1317 .982
4 Jimmie Foxx 163 2317 2646 534 1452 1.038
5 Hank Greenberg 158 1394 1628 331 852 1.017
6 Frank Thomas 156 2322 2468 521 1667 .974
7 Dick Allen 156 1749 1848 351 894 .912
8 Willie Mays 156 2992 3283 660 1464 .941
9 Hank Aaron 155 3298 3771 755 1402 .928
10 Joe DiMaggio 155 1736 2214 361 790 .977
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/8/2014.

While Barry Bonds struggles to break through the steroid fog, Frank Thomas and his vehement anti-drug stance glide into the Hall on merit. Back-to-back MVP awards and a reputation as one of the games most fearsome performers, Frank Thomas is a feel-good vote for both those looking to send a message and those happy to see greatness rewarded.

That’s the biggest takeaway from today’s results – there is no perfect ballot. Thomas and Maddux are inner circle Hall of Famers, worthy of the nebulous “first ballot” designation that never made much sense. The story of game cannot be told without their years of dominance and career numbers. Not to take anything away from Glavine who might not be on the same level as his “class mates” but is a selection few can begrudge.

There is still much work to do for the voters. Two of the games greats lost some support this season and a few other worthy candidates just missed election. Craig Biggio came within two votes the Hall, a likely victim of voting malfeasance and steroid politics. Not that the writers, or the players, or any one group bears the full responsibility for the current drug pall hanging over an entire generation of ball players.

Owners, managers and the league itself created a permissive environment for abuse. Tony La Russa enters the Hall this coming summer as well – he does so smelling like a brilliant strategist rose despite drug allegations trailing him at every stop.

But the politics and finger pointing is for another day. Today is the day for Greg Maddux and others. Maddux, too often praised for his brains and pitching intelligence and not for his determination, hard working and the straight up physicality required to throw carry such an intense workload for so long.

Too praise him for outsmarting hitters does his physical gifts a great disservice. It was the marriage of all aspects of his game that put him where he is today – on his way to baseball’s Hall of Fame wit the blessing of 97% of eligible voters. An endorsement he did not need but will accept with pride.