Tomorrow the National Baseball Hall of Fame will announce its newest inductees. There are several intriguing first-timers on the ballot, including Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Randy Johnson. Hall voting is always something I follow closely, so I’ll be greatly interested in tomorrow’s announcement.
BBWAA voters are limited to only 10 names per ballot, which complicates voting when you have noteworthy holdover candidates like Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell along with deserving first-ballot nominees. Of course, the pall of PEDs continues to hang over this discussion as well, with names like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens (among others) forcing voters to make moral decisions as they cast their ballots.
For what it’s worth, here are the candidates I would be voting for if I had a vote:
- Randy Johnson – 5 Cy Young Awards, 303 wins and 4875 strikeouts (2nd all time) arguably make Johnson the most dominant left-handed pitcher of all-time. I think the Big Unit is an absolute lock as a first-ballot inductee.
- Pedro Martinez – Pedro’s .687 lifetime winning percentage (219-100) and 3 Cy Young Awards are indicative of his precision and dominance in an era marked by inflated offensive statistics.
- John Smoltz – 213 wins and 154 saves give Smoltz the kind of diverse portfolio Cooperstown hasn’t seen since Dennis Eckersley. While Eck may have had a longer run as a dominant closer, Smoltz seamlessly transitioned to the bullpen mid-career only to move back to the rotation three years later, reasserting himself as one of the premier pitchers in the National League. Throw in a 15-4 record over 200+ postseason innings and Smoltz is a slam dunk. It’s just a shame he couldn’t have been inducted alongside his longtime teammates Maddux and Glavine last summer.
- Craig Biggio – Biggio should’ve been inducted two years ago if you ask me. But the BBWAA guys have a goofy thing about who gets in on the first ballot, so Biggio is still waiting on the call. Last year, Biggio barely missed the mark, garnering 74.8 % of the votes (75% is necessary for induction). Expect him to get over the hump this year.
- Jeff Bagwell – Biggio’s teammate deserves to get the call as well. I think PED suspicion has kept Bagwell from serious consideration so far, but he has also garnered a greater percentage of the votes than many of the other sluggers of his era such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro (who has already dropped off the ballot). This is one of those conundrums for Hall voters: while the aforementioned sluggers have all been identified with PEDs, other batters from the same era — like Bagwell — unfortunately fall under the same judgment. But without concrete evidence of PED use, I think you’d be hard pressed to keep a player with Bagwell’s numbers from induction.
- Mike Piazza – Same argument I used for Bagwell holds true for Piazza. The numbers simply point to him as the greatest offensive catcher of all-time. Defensively, he was never great, but an absolutely potent bat.
- Tim Raines – I think Raines is unfairly remembered for his final years as a platoon player on the Yankees. But Raines was the most dynamic leadoff batter in the National League in the 1980s and for a couple of years there (1983-87) you could argue he was the best player in the league (along with Dale Murphy). Take a look at his numbers from the 80s and you’ll be reminded that Rock Raines was an offensive force.
- Fred McGriff – I’ve been on the fence about Crime Dog for a while, but I think the same PED suspicion that hurts the chances of some of his contemporaries actually helps McGriff’s case. 493 HRs and not a hint of controversy counts for something in my book.
That’s 8 players, which is an incredibly high number. Realistically, I think Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz, and Biggio will get the call this year; I think some of the others will have to wait. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Gary Sheffield. I don’t think he’ll get the call, but I wonder what percentage of the vote he’ll have. I wouldn’t vote for him, although I suppose my arguments for Bagwell and Piazza could create some criteria for his inclusion someday. But I need more time to think on that one. Also, watch out for Sammy Sosa’s vote total. Last year he barely held on with 7% of the vote; given that voters can only select 10 players per ballot, this might be the year he finally drops off the ballot with less than 5% support.
Also, I’m reading that more voters are feeling comfortable putting Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens on their ballots this year. I still think we’re a few years away from either of them being elected, but I do think their supreme talents will eventually be enough to ensure their election.
What do you think? Which players will become the newest members of the Hall of Fame tomorrow?