First-ballot thoughts: Smoltz should join Maddux, Glavine

It’s time for the guy in the middle to join his Hall of Fame teammates. (AP photo)

It's time for the guy in the middle to join his Hall of Fame teammates. (AP photo)

It’s time for the guy in the middle to join his Hall of Fame teammates. (AP photo)

(UPDATED: 6 p.m.)

One year after former Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were inducted into the Hall of Fame with manager Bobby Cox, the top of the Braves’ Cooperstown rotation should be complete soon.

The 2015 Hall of Fame ballot was released Monday. As anticipated, John Smoltz was on it.

Like Maddux and Glavine, Smoltz has first-ballot potential. He didn’t win 300 games, a number some voters and baseball fans lock onto (present company excluded). But he had a tremendous career that included a great record as a starter (209-149, 2,804 strikeouts in 3,211 2/3 innings), 154 saves as a closer, comebacks from countless surgeries — that prompted his transition from starter-to-closer-and-back again — a Cy Young Award, eight All-Star Games, an NLCS MVP award and a postseason record of 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA.

“I was honest when I told people that I had never really thought of the Hall of Fame, until last year when Tommy, Greg and Bobby went in,” said Smoltz, who was in Cooperstown as an analyst for the MLB Network. “It was the first time I had a chance to see it, I had a great time watching those guys go in, and I thought what an honor it would be to get that call. It’s honestly never really consumed me before. But now the reality of at least the first part happening is a great honor. If it happens, it would be the coolest thing in my career.”

Smoltz is first-ballot worthy, but voting is difficult to predict. Some voters don’t believe in first-ballot inductees, at least those not named Greg Maddux. Some may not give proper weight to his years as a closer and only view his win total.

When asked if he thought about the potential of going in his first year of eligibility, he said, “When people talk about being in the Hall of Fame, nobody ever asks, ‘What year did you get in?’ The process is what it is. The bottom line for me is I never played to get in the Hall of Fame. I played for championships, as evidenced by the things I did for the team (transitioning to the bullpen). I sacrificed a lot. I had five or six surgeries but I was able to sustain enough time on the field to miss only about a year and a half. It truly was a blessing. Whatever happens, my experiences in the postseason are something I’ll never forget.”

Smoltz is one of 34 players on the ballot, including 17 newcomers. Two other first-year candidates would form a nice top-of-the-rotation with Smoltz: Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez. Other newcomers include former Brave Gary Sheffield, Nomar Garciaparra and Carlos Delgado. The 17 returnees on the ballot include Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Lee Smith and former Brave Fred McGriff.

I’m not going to finalize all my votes now. But in past years, I’ve voted for Biggio, Raines, Smith, Trammell, Smith and McGriff. I’ve generally taken a position to:  1) Not voting for players who are strongly believed to have used performance-enhancing drugs, at least not without their admission to doing so and some clarity about context; 2) Not voting for players possibly suspected of PED use, at least until the end of the 10 years that they’re on the ballot. I believe that offers the best chance for information about their individual career and the era to become public.

So if you’re wondering why I have not voted for a specific player above who has seeming HOF credentials, they probably fit into one of those two categories.

A recent writer’s dozen from the digital jukebox
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— MyAJC: Dogs have a statement win, now hope for best with Gurley
— AJC: Short takes on Georgia’s win and Gurley
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— MyAJC: Ladies and gentlemen Georgia vs. Georgia Tech (in basketball, yes now)
— AJC: If Georgia wins out, would it sway playoff committee?
— MyAJC: All eyes are on Gurley (even if you can’t find him)
— AJC: Hart should deal both Uptons and Gattis
— MyAJC: Falcons’ division hopes hinge on beating teams other than Bucs
— AJC: Short takes on Falcons’ win over Tampa Bay
— MyAJC: If Georgia Tech has come together, we’ll find out against Clemson, UGA
— AJC: Short takes on Georgia Tech’s win over N.C. State
— AJC: Weekend Predictions: Falcons’ find their penicillin — the Bucs
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— AJC: Weekend Predictions: No Gurley (oooh, scary); but Dogs over Gators
— AJC: Rules are dumb but that’s no excuse for Todd Gurley

Reader Comments 0

27 comments
JeffCriswell
JeffCriswell

Smoltz is first round worthy. No doubt the greatest Brave of that era. Never folded during the big games. Love Maddox and Glavine but Smoltz was the man. If only Smoltz had not had all those injuries, but it's a testament to his greatness that he went out to the pen and was great there, too. 

Wilbo
Wilbo

John Smoltz's stats stand in incredibly stark contrast to the 3 postseason losers you have mentioned him with. Glavine = MLB postseason's losingest pitcher of all times. Maddux = MLB postseason's 2nd losingest pitcher of all times. Cox w 1 World Series ring in 16 postseason attempts set an incredible standard for utter playoff incompetence which no professional sports manager or coach will ever duplicate. Add in 8 consecutive losses in his last 8 World Series games... Smoltz was a postseason battler, and was for a time the winningest pitcher in MLB postseason history. Good for him! If those other suckuhs even sniffed the HoF, then Smoltzy belongs in on his first opportunity!

maxman2660
maxman2660

i always said the braves won ISBC(in spite of bobby cox)

Wilbo
Wilbo

@maxman2660 And they lost in the postseason because of Cox & Shurholtz

Mulk
Mulk

@maxman2660 I always will say that Bobby Cox is a first ballot hall of famer. First ballot.

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

How in the world did Cox manage just one WS title with this HOF rotation? Still boggles my mind given the collective stats of these guys.

Wilbo
Wilbo

@GeorgeJetsen Uh, because he was the worst postseason manager in professional sports history?


30yrAtlBravesFan
30yrAtlBravesFan

I remember going to  alot of games w/ smoltz staring & closing games during the season & in the playoffs. Year 2002 when the braves played the Giants in the NLCS Smoltz challenged steriod bolsterd Bonds. Even w/first base open & Bonds so swollen broke HR records for the season & all time records. He still pitched to him & Bonds took him deep. John Smoltz  has always had my respect. He never backed down from anyone one when PED'S was at it peak. Hope he gets in, cause if anyone is a Huge Gamer he is. One of my favorite Braves of all time. FYI- While he was a closer,it would just send chills through me seeing him run from the bullpen to the pitchers mound with the song THUNDERSTRUCK. I wouldn't mind him being the Braves future coach. He would be the perfect canidate.

30yrAtlBravesFan
30yrAtlBravesFan

Of all the Smolts supporters out there. What was his song when he came out of the bullpen, when he was a closer? I know it just wondering if anyone eles knows? I will wait for the response.

bigdoggie1
bigdoggie1

The greatest HOF there is! It SHOULD be hard to get in! However, I loathe the dolts who don't vote for a Maddux or Mays or Ripkin Jr! How no one has been 100% is beyond me. But, there ARE little people in this world!

Go Smoltzie!

Chop_Chop
Chop_Chop

Smoltzie will get in, but it will probably be a couple of years. He has an easier path than a guy like Curt Schilling because of the years of dominant closing. Nevertheless, both guys are Hall of Fame-worthy. (Hell, if you've got over 3000 K's in the bigs and dominate the way those two did in the postseason, you've gotta be in.)

GWJ0525
GWJ0525

He won 200+, and saved 150+ in only 3 years as a closer. It took Kimbrel until late in his 4th season to pass him. 3000+ strikeouts, and 15 playoff wins. Hall of fame is a no brainer here. If I had my choice of Smoltz , Johnson, or Martinez in a Game 7 of a playoff series, Smoltz would be my guy. He could have pulled a Bumgarner if Cox had used him better knowing he was the big gun.

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

Should Smoltz get in on the first ballot - yes.  Will he - who knows.  Joe DiMaggio wasn't a first ballot HoF'er

Randy and Pedro are locks for first ballot and there are some idiots who won't vote for more than a few players

forexbomb
forexbomb

he talks too much....  not sure if he is a HOF...  but he can run his yap...

RedStick1
RedStick1

Smoltz was always one of my favorite Braves.  I hope he gets in.  He deserves to.

Zing
Zing

He *should* get it, but I'm not sure that he will on the first ballot.  If not the first time, he'll get in on the 2nd or 3rd try, though, and surely deserves it.

Kynik
Kynik

There's no one criterion that would get Smoltz in the hall, but if you take all the things he did in his career, he should be a first-ballot lock.

BSNBC
BSNBC

Bobby Cox was a poor manager to only win one WS with these guys!

Mulk
Mulk

@BSNBC Bobby Cox was a first ballot HOFer......

BaseballTopFan
BaseballTopFan

BaseballTopFan(c) wish John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine good luck and success in their Hall Of Fame (HOF) bid  !!!


The trio of former Atlanta Braves stars are well deserving of this honor.


Election to Baseball Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown is the HIGHEST honor available to a Major League Baseball (MLB) player.

jmccoy1252
jmccoy1252

Johnson and Martinez should be shoo-in's on this ballot. Smoltz will get in, but he may have to wait another year or two.

DapperDanDawg
DapperDanDawg

Jeff, thank you for telling us some of your previous votes as well as your voting criteria.  I know that we don't have any right to that information, but it is nice to read through some of the thoughts of a HOF voter.  I think all three of the first-time pitchers at the top of this class deserve first ballot, but I wonder if the presence of three pitchers of this caliber may work against each of them individually.

Nick Lastname
Nick Lastname

uh yea I do, but I think he gets the short end of the stick this year and gets in in 2016.

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

Yessir, even the dopiest of ballot holders can't get around his post season record.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Let me be the first to say #29 John Smoltz is a first ballot Hall of Famer!

greg48b
greg48b

@Buschleaguer  DUH!!  Just within the confines of this article and related comments, the title of this article "First-ballot thoughts: Smoltz should join Maddux, Glavine" kinda makes you the SECOND to say...

@JeffShultz  People who are granted a HOF vote should realize that players may be on the ballot for 15 years - not 10 years.  If that's a typo, maybe you should consider proof-reading your own stories instead of leaving it to someone who obviously isn't qualified.


If you use a 3 to 1 ratio of saves to wins to translate stats for a great closer to that of a great starter, then what Smoltze did in the just over 3 years as a closer would have added 50+ wins to his record.  I think that plus his post-season record should make him a no-brainer first-ballot HOFer.  That Johnson and Martinez are also first-timers will likely mean he falls just short, but hopefully not.