2015 HOF Ballot: Sneak Preview
The people have spoken.
Well, at least the voice of roughly 600 baseball writers did, as they put their think caps on for a brief afternoon in December in between viewings of A Christmas Story marathon and meaningless college football bowl games.
Voting for the 2014 baseball HOF featured the election of three very deserving candidates, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas. Former Astros C/2B/OF Craig Biggio missed election by just two votes. Next year, Craig! Maybe voters like the Boston Globe's Dan O'Shaughnessy will put more than one name on his ballot next year and other who refuse to vote for anyone in the steroid area will stop painting all the players with the same brush.
While they could’ve elected anywhere from 2-15 others, depending on your definition of Hall of Famer, to elect three in one year is pretty amazing. In fact, the only time in recent history this happened before was in 1999, when Nolan Ryan, George Brett, and Robin Yount were all elected on the first try. The class of 2014 will be one of the best ever when you include former managers Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa, and Joe Torre, elected by the Expansion Era Committee in December.
Let’s gaze into that crystal ball for a moment and take a look at next year’s ballot which features three well deserving first-time eligible players ... err ... pitchers. Consider this your voter’s pamphlet.
- Randy Johnson – Greg Maddux came close to receiving 100% of the vote -- 16 voters didn’t deem him worthy -- and the Big Unit shouldn’t be far behind. What possible logical reason could a voter have for leaving this dude off the ballot? Sure, he was a surly, Type-A personality who wasn’t always media friendly, but this isn’t the NFL, where players get fined huge amounts for their lack of media interaction. Just ask Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks. Johnson won five Cy Young awards, including four consecutively from 1999-2002 while a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, which is probably the team that will be represented on his HOF plaque. Sorry, Seattle Mariner fans, but he was just flat out dominant in the desert. Johnson's 2001 World Series MVP award was won with Arizona, along with a perfect game he threw in 2004. He probably should’ve won the Cy Young that year, too. He ranks second all-time in strikeouts with 4,875; you do know who’s first on that list, right? Johnson also reached the magical benchmark of 300+ wins; 303 to be exact, good for 22nd all-time. Vote yes for Randy.
- Pedro Martinez – Another of the truly dominant Steroid Era pitchers, his numbers look even more incredible when put into historical context. Martinez had a shorter career than Johnson, so even though his overall numbers don’t jump out at you, his 1997-2003 stretch should. Like the Big Unit, Martinez won Cy Young awards in both leagues -- 1997 with Montreal; 1999 and 2000 with Boston -- finished in the top five in voting after four other seasons, and probably should’ve won in 2002. Martinez had pinpoint control, never walking more than 70 batters in a season (1996 with the Expos), and was incredibly stingy at allowing hits, with a career .214 OAV. Even with his shortened career, Pedro ranks 13th all-time in strikeouts with 3,154 in just 2873 innings pitched. Even though the images of him throwing Don Zimmer to the ground in the 2003 ALCS may still be fresh in baseball fan’s minds, it shouldn’t take away from his HOF candidacy, and he has never been linked to performance enhancing drugs. One other question: Will Mahow be at his induction speech? I’m sure Zimmer won’t be in attendance. Vote for Pedro.
- John Smoltz – If Curt Schilling is regarded as the greatest post-season pitcher of the Steroid Era, then consider Smoltz his second in command. As a member of the Atlanta Braves, Smoltz earned 1992 NLCS MVP honors and has a career 15-4 October record, compiling a 2.67 ERA, striking out 199 batters in 209 October innings pitched while starting 27 games in the post-season. Now, if Whitey Ford or Bob Gibson played during the wild card era, they may rank 1-2 all-time in every post season pitching category, but if you want to play the What If game, sign up there. Be sure and mention my name, as I’ll get referral credit. Back to Smoltz; injuries wiped out his entire 2000 season, but he returned doing his best Dennis Eckersley impression as a dominant closer from 2001-2004. In fact, Smoltz and Eck are the only pitchers with 200 wins and 100 saves in their careers. If Smoltz hadn’t of been so selfish and pitched one final meaningless season with the Cardinals in 2009, he could’ve been elected with Maddux, Glavine, and Bobby Cox. How awesome would that be to have all those legendary Braves at the same ceremony? I’m sure there will still be some Tomahawk Chops going at Cooperstown this summer, anyways. A vote for Smoltz is a vote for working class heroes everywhere.
Other notable players appearing on the ballot for the first time in 2015 are: Gary Sheffield, Nomar Garciaparra, and Carlos Delgado. Sheffield’s PED use will likely keep him out of the HOF forever if this year's results are any indicator. Nomar had an even shorter window of dominance than teammate Pedro Martinez, and Carlos Delgado was a powerful player, but never really considered the best of the best.
Along with the three notable newcomers in 2015 are holdovers Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, and Tim Raines. Of the non-qualifiers, these dudes received the highest level of support, and Biggio should easily scrape up two votes in order to get the nod next year.
Two players who won’t appear on the 2015 ballot are longtime Tigers SP Jack Morris, who failed to gain election in his 15th and final try, and Rangers/Orioles 1B Rafael Palmeiro, who failed to get 5% of the vote. His time in purgatory has ended.
Players remaining in purgatory include Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds.
2015 will also see Don Mattingly’s final appearance on the ballot, and with just 8.2% of the vote, he will most likely suffer the same redundant fate as Jack Morris. Their only hope of gaining entrance to the Hall now is to win the support of the Veterans Committee.
At least Mattingly just got a contract extension. Maybe he can make the HOF as a manger?