An Early Look At The 2015 Hall Of Fame Candidates
Congratulations to Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas for being inducted into sports most prestigious Hall of Fame this afternoon. Craig Biggio missed out by just two votes, so it’s tough to envision a scenario where he’s not making an induction speech in the summer of 2015.
As for the rest of the 2015 ballot, there’s a plethora of interesting names to keep an eye on.
Let’s get to it.
These players will most likely be forever lumped together in a performance-enhancing, ethics bending, muscle flexing, record-breaking (well, you get what I mean) category for Hall of Fame voters.
Possibly four of the best 10 players of their generation statistically, it’s unlikely any of them will ever make a Hall of Fame induction speech. Clemens and Bonds received 35.4% and 34.7% of the vote this year, respectively, and stand the best chance at eventually making it in if perspective changes over the next ten years. The fact some believe they were Hall of Fame worthy players before they took steroids could also work in their favor.
As for McGwire and Sosa–at 11% and 7.2 percent of votes–their impact on the game will likely end with the magical summer of 1998, when they brought the game of baseball back to the national forefront, and breathed life back into America’s pastime. Unless something drastically changes, they’ll never make it.
Mike Piazza, C, New York Mets & Los Angeles Dodgers
Piazza was a 12-time all-star, 10-time silver slugger, smacked a position leading 427 home runs, and batted .308 in his 16-year major league career.
The former 62nd round selection of the Dodgers as a favor to his father’s childhood friend, Tommy LaSorda, in the 1988 draft, Piazza is widely considered the best offensive catcher in the history of baseball. With that in mind, and 62.2% of the sportswriter’s vote this year, it seems like a forgone conclusion that Piazza becomes a Hall of Famer, despite a slight suspicion Piazza used steroids (who doesn’t have that?), because there’s nothing close to hard evidence, he’ll continue to have the benefit of the doubt with voters.
Jeff Bagwell, 1B, Houston Astros
Baggy received 54.35 of votes this year and that puts him in position to reach Cooperstown eventually. One of the best players to grace the field during the 1990’s, Bagwell smacked 449 career home runs, tallied 1529 RBI’s, won an MVP award, and posted a .408 career OBP.
There are some things working against Bagwell, however. He rarely led the league in any categories, won only one gold glove, made just four all-star teams in his 15 year career, and fell short of what many consider major milestones. The concern is, while Bagwell was exceptionally good, some feel he isn’t Hall of Fame good. This one might come down to his last years of candidacy.
Pedro Martinez, SP, Boston Red Sox
Martinez will be on his first ballot in 2015, and it’ll be interesting to see how he’s received. He didn’t hit the milestone of 300 wins, in fact he wasn’t really even close, winning 219 ball games over his 18 year major league career.
But he did have a career .687 winning percentage, good for 5th-all time, and was without a doubt the most dominant pitcher of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s–in an era dominated by offense, no less–leading the majors in ERA an unheard of five times in a seven year span from 1997-2003, winning three Cy Young awards, and finishing in the top three in Cy Young voting in three of the other four seasons.
Frankly, Pedro just plain didn’t lose, and despite the fact he was 5’10” and 160 pounds soaking wet, he was one of the fiercest competitors in baseball history, armed with a quick arm and one of the best changeups ever witnessed. There’s a place for him in Cooperstown for sure, and if it’s not on the first ballot in 2015, it’ll happen on the 2nd or the 3rd.
Randy Johnson, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks & Seattle Mariners
There’s no denying The Big Unit’s Hall of Fame resume. Johnson reached 300 wins, had a .646 career winning percentage, fanned the second most batters in the history of baseball, won five Cy Young awards, threw a perfect game, struck out over 200+ batters 14 times in his 22 year big league career, and struck out 300+ batters five times. He did everything short of winning a Nobel Piece Prize on a pitching mound.
Like Glavine and Maddux this year, Johnson is a shoo-in candidate for a first ballot induction. The only odd thing would be to see him standing next to Pedro Martinez–a foot shorter than Johnson–if they’re both inducted in 2015.
John Smoltz, SP/RP, Atlanta Braves
Smoltzie is an interesting case for sure. Possibly this generation’s most versatile pitcher, Smoltz won 200+ games and saved 150+ more. He won just one Cy Young award, but he was an eight-time all-star. His career ERA stands at 3.33, and he fanned 3,084 batters over 21 big league seasons.
It’s a wonder how the sportswriter’s will vote on Smoltz. His stats as a starting pitcher alone or a closer alone aren’t enough to make him an inductee, but together they make a polarizing case. The best career comparison is Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, who wasn’t as successful as a starter, but was much more established as a closer. With that as a guideline, it seems like we’ll see Smoltz in Cooperstown sooner rather than later.
Follow Shawn Ferris on Twitter @RealShawnFerris for more MLB news and updates.