For many the first week in January marks the end of the intrigue around Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame announcement. It is during that time that the voter’s selections are announced and the party is set for late July in Cooperstown New York. But there is one other milestone before the induction ceremony and this year’s announcement may just be a precursor to what Diamondbacks fans could expect in 2015.
The baseball writers elected three players to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. First baseman Frank Thomas and pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine will be enshrined this summer. They will be joined by three managers – Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, and Tony LaRussa.
The next step on these six gentlemen’s itinerary is a meeting with the officials from the Hall of Fame to determine which cap they will each be wearing on their plaque in Cooperstown. It used to be that the player was allowed to select which cap they would wear but that rule was changed when teams began providing financial incentive in a player’s contract for selecting their hat should they ever be elected into the hall of fame. From that point forward the Hall of Fame has final say in hat selection but is mindful of the wishes of the player and will try to accommodate their requests.
From this year’s class most of the hat selections were relatively uneventful. Joe Torre selected the New York Yankees, Frank Thomas elected to go with the Chicago White Sox. Bobby Cox and Tom Glavine both chose the Atlanta Braves. It was the choices of both Tony LaRussa and Greg Maddux that should have Diamondbacks fans nervous.
Both LaRussa and Maddux had illustrious careers with varying degrees of success for multiple teams. Maddux had several great years in Chicago for the Cubs and went on to even greater success with the Braves. He could have chosen either of those caps and had a perfectly good justification. Likewise LaRussa had success with the White Sox, Athletics, and Cardinals and could have selected any of those to represent his Hall of Fame career. In both of these cases these two men decided to not have any logo represented on their plaque in Cooperstown.
So what does this have to do with the Diamondbacks? In 2015 perhaps one of the best left-handed pitchers ever to play the game will be eligible for induction to the Hall of Fame. It is almost a foregone conclusion that Randy Johnson will be elected on the first ballot which means he too will be asked to decide which cap will represent him in the Hall of Fame.
You could make a very strong case for either the Seattle Mariners or the Arizona Diamondbacks. Johnson became the most feared left-handed pitcher in the game during his time with Seattle. He led the Mariners to the play-offs and threw his first no-hitter and received his first Cy Young award while in Seattle.
In Arizona he solidified his place among the greats winning his only world championship, earning four consecutive Cy Young awards, logging his 4,000th strikeout, and of course throwing a perfect game.
On the surface it would appear that the choice would be simple and Johnson would select the Diamondbacks as his cap choice. But due to the rather acrimonious parting with Arizona after the 2008 season where the team did not bring him back to allow him to win his 300th game in a Diamondbacks uniform Johnson has distanced himself from the team.
Since his retirement Johnson has made appearances in Seattle throwing out a ceremonial first pitch, being elected into the Mariners Hall of Fame, and thanking the city for all of their support. In the same time period Johnson has made very limited appearances at Chase Field and declined to be recognized by the team who wanted to retire his number.
Worst-case scenario Johnson selects the Mariners and the Hall of Fame agrees. Perhaps more realistically the Hall of Fame would suggest Johnson wear a Diamondbacks hat and he declines going into the hall wearing neither team’s logo. Looking over the current roster, this may be the only realistic chance the Diamondbacks have of enshrining a player into the Hall of Fame. Hopefully the team won’t be the final strikeout in Johnson’s illustrious career.