Move over, Class of 2013. The next group of players eligible for the first time to be elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame is on its way, and it, too, is loaded with talent.
After a shutout of an election with awe-inspiring career achievements and spirited debate surrounding the first-timers on the ballot, the Class of 2014 will bring with it some serious credentials to further deepen what will remain a heavily-stocked ballot next time around.
Ace pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine join with slugger Frank Thomas to lead a group of newcomers that is thick with the types of accomplishments of which Hall of Famers are made.
Starter Mike Mussina, second baseman Jeff Kent and outfielder Luis Gonzalez will have their first cracks at the ballot as well in 2014, each of them bringing production and longevity over successful Major League careers.
Each of the new members of the Hall of Fame ballot has been retired for five seasons and will remain on the ballot for 15 years unless they're elected or receive less than five percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers' Association of America electorate.
With his 355 victories and four consecutive National League Cy Young Awards, Maddux heads the list of as many as 30 candidates who could be added for the first time in 2014. Through an era that increasingly became dominated by offense, Maddux was one of the main standard bearers on the mound, absolutely dominating in his prime and consistently delivering starting savvy into his 40s.
From 1992-96, starting with his last season with the Cubs into the beginning of an 11-year stay in Atlanta, Maddux ran off four straight years with an ERA between 1.56 and 2.36, throwing 37 complete games and 11 shutouts. Including a return to the Cubs and stints with the Padres and Dodgers, Maddux closed out his career with a record 18 Gold Glove Awards and the eighth-highest career wins above replacement (WAR) for pitchers at 99.4 -- always outsmarting hitters with some of the game's best mound guile.
It was Maddux and Glavine who were told in a commercial that "chicks dig the long ball," but both of them made a career out of keeping that from happening. The twosome, along with 2015 first-time eligible John Smoltz, led the Braves to 10 consecutive NL East Division titles and the 1995 World Series championship.
In fact, longtime Braves manager Bobby Cox and GM John Schuerholz also are up for consideration by the Veterans Committee and could be headed for induction as well. "That would truly be something," Cox said. "I've always said, I just want to be there when Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz and all of those guys get in."
Glavine, who spent five years with the Mets before returning to the Braves for a final season, won 305 games and a pair of NL Cy Young Awards while registering five 20-win seasons and 10 All-Star honors.
Thomas, meanwhile, reached the Majors a year after being selected in the first round by the White Sox out of Auburn University. He earned the nickname "Big Hurt" through 18-plus years of offensive prowess while winning back-to-back American League Most Valuable Player Awards in 1993-94 and bashing 521 homers. He had 11 seasons of more than 100 RBIs, nine seasons with 30 or more homers and five with 40, all while managing a .301 career average.
More than just a slugger, Thomas won the AL batting title with a .347 mark in 1997. Thomas also was known, and sometimes criticized early in his career, for taking a lot of walks -- which, of course, made him one of the top on-base percentage guys of his time. He ranks 19th in career OBP (.419) and 22nd in career slugging (.555).
Mussina won 270 games and was consistently among the elite pitchers in the game through 18 years split between the Orioles and the Yankees. Kent helped reshape second base as an offensive position with a record 351 homers from that spot, winning an NL MVP Award in 2000 and going to the postseason with the Giants, Astros and Dodgers. Gonzalez went for 57 homers and 142 RBIs in 2001 for the D-backs, but his biggest hit of the year was a bloop single to beat the Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series.
Other candidates who could be included in the 2014 ballot, according to the Hall of Fame: Moises Alou, Armando Benitez, Sean Casey, Jose Cruz Jr., Ray Durham, Damion Easley, Keith Foulke, Eric Gagne, Scott Hatteberg, Jacque Jones, Todd Jones, Jon Lieber, Esteban Loaiza, Paul Lo Duca, Matt Morris, Trot Nixon, Hideo Nomo, Jay Payton, Kenny Rogers, Richie Sexson, J.T. Snow, Shannon Stewart, Mike Timlin, Steve Trachsel and Jose Vidro.
The following year, the 2015 ballot will welcome even more great pitching, with Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Smoltz, along with slugger Gary Sheffield.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. Reporter Mark Bowman contributed.