The MLB Hall of Fame Class of 2015.

Today is January 6th 2015, a cold day here in America’s Heartland. But sitting here in my living room at 10:00am CST, it is an exciting time. Within the next few hours, the MLB Hall Of Fame will announce the newest class for induction. There are many choices, as there are every year, but there is something decidedly different about this class. There are also new rules in place that will certainly have an effect on the voting. Fair or not, the new rules are there. Then there is the PED issue, the albatross around the neck of MLB. It is not even the elephant in the room anymore. It is a big…fat…albatross. That being said, I am going to try not to focus on the PED thing. I would rather try to simply answer ‘the question’ as objectively as possible…Is the player a Hall Of Famer, or isn’t he? Some people have a hard time separating the multitude of subplots that come with HOF voting. I do not claim to have the definitive answer. I do claim to have an opinion. Here we go…
I believe that the locks for induction this year are Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio, and Mike Piazza. Straight forward, no nonsense, these guys in my opinion are going to Cooperstown.
Now it starts to get sticky. It has been decided by whoever it is that decides these things that the window to remain on the ballot has been reduced from 15 years to 10 years. That shortens the window for players such as Alan Trammell , Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Tim Raines, and others, even though some of the players on that particular bubble have been grandfathered to allow them the 15-years. Another issue that comes up is the ‘5% rule’, which simply states that for a player to remain on the ballot, he must garner 5% of the vote, or he falls off. The HOF also reduced the maximum number of players that any given voter can vote for, maximum of 10. This brings up another issue, vaguely referred to as ‘strategic voting’, meaning that a voter may choose not vote for someone who is a ‘lock’ in their opinion, and choose to give that vote to someone who is close to falling off of the ballot. Rant done…
So, I have decided to put together my own ballot of the 10 players that I would vote for if I had a BBWAA vote. Including the 5 players I have already mentioned (Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz, Biggio, and Piazza), I would also include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Tim Raines, and Alan Trammell. Those are my 10. I am not going to give arguments and reasons for my picks. We have all heard every possible argument over the years as to why a player on my list should be included, or why he should not. The arguments and debates get a little old after a while, and they are somewhat convoluted this year because of the reasons that I mentioned earlier. There is also the item that some of the players on my ballot have not attained the ‘magic numbers’, such as 300-wins, 500 home runs, 3000 strikeouts, and so on. These numbers used to mean an almost automatic ticket to Cooperstown. John Smoltz had 213 career wins, and Pedro Martinez had 219. Does that mean that they do not belong in The Hall? Nonesnse! Of course they do! If you use the ‘magic 300-win’ benchmark, Sandy Koufax, with a career mark of 165-87, does not belong in the HOF either. Really? A HOF without Sandy Koufax? I don’t think so… So now it is 11:45am CST. I am stopping for right now. My next entries will be the post-mortem on the newly minted MLB HOF Class Of 2015.
Fast-forward to 1:15pm CST. I had a great lunch that I got eat while watching the announcement. After all the debates, which included a beauty between Chris Russo and Brian Kenney on MLB Network, we found out that Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio are the HOF Class Of 2015. Before I go any further, I want to offer my sincerest congratulations to the 4 newest members of The Hall. It seems that I got all my ‘locks’ right (except for Piazza, who just missed with 69.9% of the vote…). If you look at the percentages of the vote, Randy Johnson was elected with 97.3%, which places him 8th on that all-time list. Pedro Martinez garnered 91.1%, while John Smoltz got 82.9%, and Craig Biggio got 82.7%. Just as a goofy question, who are the 9% of voters who are such pinheads that did not vote for Pedro Martinez? Geez…Anyway, I have always maintained that the % of the vote is irrelevant. Who cares if an inductee got 75.1% or 100%? It does not matter. 75%=HOF. All of the 4 inductees are worthy of the honor that is the call to Cooperstown. They can now be counted among the baseball immortals, the elite, the best.
What does this mean going forward for a guy like Mike Piazza? Or Alan Trammel? Or guys that have watched another year of eligibility on the HOF ballot slip away? Players who know that their time to be on the ballot has just gotten shorter? Well for a guy like Mike Piazza, it simply means that as the greatest offensive catcher in MLB history, he will get to be inducted with first-ballot lock for 2016 Ken Griffey Jr. The next three closest after Piazza were Jeff Bagwell (55.7%), Tim Raines (55.0%), and Curt Schilling (39.2%). I think that Bagwell will go in within the next two years, as will Raines and Schilling.
It would seem that the BBWAA is still digging their heels in on the players most closely connected with the PED usage issue. Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa are nowhere even close, and it would appear that at this rate, the only way that any of them are going to Cooperstown is if they buy a ticket. Bonds and Clemens did have a slight upturn in their percentages of the vote, but are still a Mt. Everest away. Curiously enough, of the players that you would think were certain inductees by the end of their careers, Don Mattingly only got 9.1% of the vote in his final year of eligibility. In two years, he will be eligible for induction by the veterans committee.
I want to close with this. Some people look at the Hall of Fame as a kind of popularity contest. Some people will maintain that in the grand scheme of things, it is really not important. With so much going on in our world, is it really that important to celebrate a bunch of sweaty guys who hit a ball with a stick? I would answer that by saying this. Because of all the things going on in the world, it is more important than ever to celebrate the accomplishments of these men. Kids (and some adults) need heroes. We watched these guys through our childhoods, either rooting for them or against them. We hung on the edge of our seats when in this supposedly unimportant endeavor, there were two outs, bottom of the 9 inning, and one of our favorite sweaty guys came to bat with the game on the line. People need to dream, and there is no bigger field of dreams than baseball. It is timeless and classic. It is old and new. It is young and old. And the Mount Olympus of the baseball pantheon is a little town in upstate New York called Cooperstown, home of The National Baseball Hall of Fame.

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