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2015 Baseball Hall of Fame Selections: Tough Choices Abound

Posted on January 02, 2015 by Dean Hybl
Pedro Martinez seems to be a lock for the 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame class.

Pedro Martinez seems to be a lock for the 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame class.

After seeing three first-year candidates join the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014, the class of 2015 has the potential to match or exceed that total. However, unlike a year ago when all three inductees appeared clear-cut (as much as any in this post-PED era), there are fewer guarantees and more questions surrounding the 2015 candidates.

Even with there being more unpredictability amongst the potential 2015 class, there are two players whose inclusion seems to be nearly certain.

Last year the Hall of Fame welcomed the two most consistent pitchers of the 1990s and early 2000s in Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. This year it should open the doors for the two most dominant pitchers of the same era (at least among pitchers not linked to PEDs) in Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez.

With 303 career victories, two no-hitters and 4,875 career strikeouts, there seems little doubt that Johnson will reach the Hall of Fame in his first season of eligibility.

The same should be true for Martinez. Though he won significantly fewer games (219) than several pitchers who have fallen short of HOF selection, his career ERA of 2.93 during the PED era might be one of the most impressive statistics of all-time. In addition, his three Cy Young Awards and .687 career winning percentage are also worthy of a spot in the Hall.

It is very possible that a third first-year-eligible pitcher could earn selection, but this is when the 2015 selection process starts to move into the land of confusion.

To some, the combination of his 213 career victories and 154 career saves, along with an amazing 15-4 post season record is enough to warrant a vote for John Smoltz. However, critics will point out that except for the 1996 season when he won 24 games and the Cy Young Award, Smoltz never won more than 17 games in a season and his time in the bullpen was so brief (only three seasons) that it really shouldn’t be a boost to his candidacy the way his relief career was for Dennis Eckersley.

Given that his career resume isn’t significantly better than that of two other pitchers who have received only minimal support since becoming eligible (Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling), it could be a tough road for Smoltz to Cooperstown.

Despite his postseason heroics, John Smoltz still could miss out on the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot.

Despite his postseason heroics, John Smoltz still could miss out on the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot.

Should John Smoltz Get Into the Baseball Hall of Fame in His First Year of Eligibility?

  • Yes (76%, 39 Votes)
  • No (24%, 12 Votes)

Total Voters: 51

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It also could be a tough run for the hitter with the best career statistics amongst the first-time eligible players. With 509 career home runs, 1,676 career RBI and a lifetime .292 batting average, Gary Sheffield would certainly have been a Hall of Fame lock had he not been among the multitude of players directly linked to PEDs. Since his connections to performance enhancement is significantly more documented than that of others who have so far been denied selection (most especially Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell), it seems highly likely that Sheffield’s vote total will fall well below the 75% needed for induction.

Another interesting first-time candidate is slugging first baseman Carlos Delgado. With 472 career home runs, 1,512 RBI and a career .280 batting average, his numbers are comparable to several Hall of Famer sluggers from the last 50 years, most notably Tony Perez and Orlando Cepeda. However, two sluggers with better resumes, Jeff Bagwell and Fred McGriff are still on the ballot and have struggled to gain support.

Despite hitting 493 career home runs with 1,550 RBI and a career .284 batting average, McGriff was included on only 11.7% of the ballots last season and seems unlikely to ever come close to being voted in by the writers.

With 449 home runs, 1,529 RBI and a .297 career batting average, Bagwell has fared better than McGriff, but at 54.3% votes last year in his fourth year on the ballot, he still has quite a hill to climb.

The only other first-time candidate that could receive some support is former Boston Red Sox star Nomar Garciaparra. His career .313 batting average, two batting titles and seven All-Star selections are impressive, but much like Don Mattingly a generation earlier, his time among the elite was a bit too short and his career numbers don’t warrant a Hall of Fame plaque.

Among the holdovers, the most likely to earn a spot in the HOF class is Craig Biggio. The former Houston Astros star finished just one vote short of selection last year and while he hasn’t increased his career statistics in the last 12 months, his 3,060 hits, 291 home runs and career .281 batting average remain impressive for a player who split his career between catcher, second base and the outfield.

The other returning candidate likely to reach the HOF within the next couple years is Mike Piazza. Though some have chosen to exclude him from their ballot because he didn’t have back hair or had back acne, you have to believe that eventually his 427 home runs, 1,335 RBI and .308 batting average will push him over the top, especially as the years continue with no proof that he was ever involved with PEDs.

Among those who have been on the ballot for a while, Tim Raines enters his eighth year on the ballot at a crossroads in his candidacy. After earning votes on 52.2% of the ballots in 2012 and looking like he might be heading towards the required percentage, Raines fell back to 46.1% last year. It will be important that he move back over 50% this year or his decline could continue into the coming years.

Of course, in addition to the candidates we have mentioned, there are four players on the ballot whose stats alone would seem to dictate easy admission into the HOF. However, for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire the PED accusations have taken a toll and seem to be a noose they cannot remove from their necks. Bonds and Clemens both had a decline in support from their first year to second and in 2014 received less than half the votes needed for induction. Both Sosa and McGwire are closer to being dropped from the ballot (anyone who receives less than 5% is removed) than they are from reaching the HOF.

My Hall of Fame Ballot: Though I unfortunately do not have an official HOF ballot, it is still fun to share the players I would select if I had a vote.

As highlighted earlier, two names are pretty easy in Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez. In addition, I would vote for Raines, McGriff, Biggio and Piazza. While I expect Raines and McGriff will ultimately have to go before the Veteran’s Committee if they are to earn a spot in the HOF, I do believe the writer’s will eventually elect Piazza and Biggio. It likely will be this year for Biggio, but will probably be a couple more years for Piazza.

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