Cooperstown is calling
Time is fast approaching for the Hall of Fame Class of 2015 to be announced. On Tuesday, January 6, the results of the BBWAA voting will be announced, with at least three players expected to be ushered into Cooperstown. The intimidating Randy Johnson, the dominant Pedro Martinez, and lifetime Astro Craig Biggio should all share the stage this summer. But who else might join them?
Early ballot tracking shows John Smoltz receiving a lot of support, and will likely be the fourth man inducted in July, joining teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and manager Bobby Cox, all who were immortalized in 2014. I’m not going to debate whether Smoltz was better than Mike Mussina or Curt Schilling; regardless of who was better, I believe all three should have plaques in the Hall of Fame. But allowing Smoltz in on his first appearance on the ballot should create more conversation about Mussina and Schilling, whose career statistics are very similar, and hopefully we will see support for them increase next year.
What about Mike Piazza? He was one of the greatest hitting catchers of all-time, but he is now in his third year of eligibility. Suspicions about steroid use create a dark cloud over his candidacy, but there has never been a shred of solid evidence or a Jose Canseco allegation against him. With 109 ballots revealed, Piazza is barely over the 75% threshold, but as Tuesday approaches that number is expected to drop. It would be nice to go ahead and get him in the door to clear room on the ballots of those who like to check off the full ten names allowed.
Same for Jeff Bagwell, who currently has just under 75% support. The steroid suspicions are in the minds of many writers, but Bagwell has vehemently denied using and his numbers merit induction. How fantastic would it be to see six men standing on the stage in Cooperstown on induction day?
The next name on the list is Tim Raines, who has seen a steady increase in votes with the exception of last year, when his percentage dropped from 52.2% to 46.1%. The early numbers show him at 63.3%, still far short of the required 75%, but giving hope to fans of the Rock that he will climb the rest of the way by the time his eligibility ends. 2015 is Raines’ eighth year on the ballot; a new rule allows a player’s name to be listed for ten years instead of fifteen (with the exceptions being those who were already past the ten-year mark when the rule was enacted this year).
After Raines comes Schilling and Mussina, then the PED posterboys Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. I don’t expect (or want) those two to ever receive enough support from the writers or the Veterans Committee. Designated hitter extraordinaire Edgar Martinez is next, followed by four guys that I believe should be given more consideration than they have received so far: Alan Trammell, Fred McGriff, Lee Smith, and Jeff Kent. Sadly, none of them have any shot of election in 2015.
The big names in danger of falling off the ballot after this round include Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, along with first-timers Gary Sheffield, Nomar Garciaparra, and Carlos Delgado. Yankee superstar Don Mattingly is on the ballot for his fifteenth and final time.