The 3rd Man In

My 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

Last year the Baseball Writers of America elected Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Tom Glavine into the Hall of Fame, and this year’s class is expected to be just as special.

To be elected for the Hall of Fame, a player must receive 75 percent of the votes, while the voters are able to elect up to 10 different players. When I constructed my list of players I would vote for, I used all 10 votes because I felt that every one of these players deserve to be elected. If I was able to vote for the Hall of Fame, here is who would be on my 2015 Hall of Fame ballot:

* = First-time candidates

Randy Johnson* – LHP – 1988-2009: Randy Johnson will be a first-ballot selection. The Big Unit spent 22 major league seasons with six different teams compiling 303 wins with a respectable 3.29 ERA and 4,875 strikeouts – the most by a left-hander and second all-time to Nolan Ryan.

In his playing days, he won five Cy Young Awards, one with the Seattle Mariners in 1995 and four in a row with the Arizona Diamondbacks from 1999-2002.

He even pitched a perfect game against the Atlanta Braves in 2004, and shared the 2001 World Series MVP Award with Curt Schilling after the D-Backs knocked off the Yankees in the Fall Classic.

Johnson is one of the greatest pitchers in Major League Baseball history, and there is no question that he will be entering the Hall of Fame this summer.

Pedro Martinez* – RHP – 1992-2009: Pedro Martinez is also a lock to be elected in the Hall of Fame. In 18 seasons, Martinez pitched for five different teams and enjoyed a dominant prime at the height of the steroid era.

He finished his career with 219 wins, but he is best known for the seven years, 1998-2004, he pitched for the Boston Red Sox. With Boston, he recorded a remarkable 117-37 record, winning two of his three Cy Young Awards with them, including 1999 when he won the American League pitching Triple Crown with a career-high 23 wins, 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts.

In 2004, he also helped the Red Sox win their first World Series title since 1918.

With all of this said, there is no question that Martinez has punched his ticket into Cooperstown.

John Smoltz* – RHP – 1988-2009: John Smoltz is best known for the 20 years he spent with the Atlanta Braves developing into a dependable starter and eventually into a shutdown closer. The right-hander spent 21 seasons in the big leagues compiling 213 wins and 154 saves, while becoming one of the best pitchers in postseason history, recording a 15-4 mark – four wins shy of the all-time wins mark set by Andy Pettitte. He also won the World Series with the Braves in 1995.

Smoltz will be a Hall of Famer, and in my mind should be a first-ballot selection. He was a workhorse throughout his time, battling through injuries to be an excellent pitcher, while also being a tremendous teammate on successful ball clubs. If he doesn’t surpass the 75 percent mark that is required to get in, it will be a shame.

Craig Biggio – 2B – 1988-2007: This will be Craig Biggio’s third year on the ballot after falling less than a percentage point (two votes) short in his second year on the ballot, receiving 74.8 percent of the votes. This tied Biggio for the smallest margin ever for a candidate who was not elected.

Biggio was never the best player in the game, but he was always a solid and reliable player. In his 20-year career, all with the Houston Astros, he collected 3,060 hits, while making numerous All-Star Game appearances and winning Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards.

Biggio’s name has never been linked to PEDs, and because of this along with his impressive career, he will be voted in the Hall of Fame this time around.

Mike Piazza – C – 1992-2007: Mike Piazza is an interesting candidate because although he is the greatest hitting catcher in baseball history, there has been speculation of him using PEDs. While anyone can speculate, there is no convincing evidence. In fact, he has stated in his book he never took any illegal steroids.

Piazza is the all-time leader in home runs and OPS by a catcher, and this is his third year on the ballot, after receiving 62.2 percent of the vote a year ago. Expect this percentage to increase, and don’t be surprised if he is able to get passed the 75 percent required to elected into the Hall.

Jeff Bagwell – 1B – 1991-2005: In his 15-year career Jeff Bagwell was an excellent first baseman. He was a well-rounded player showing his ability to hit for power, steal bases, hit for average and play adequate defense. Bagwell was a muscular player in his playing days, but besides that, there are no ties to him using PEDs.

Last year Bagwell received 54.3 percent, which was less than the 59.6 percent he received the year prior. With so many other deserving candidates on the ballot, it will be hard for him to get elected, but he definitely deserves to be a Hall of Famer.

Curt Schilling – RHP – 1988-2007: Curt Schilling has a Hall of Fame resume, but it is just a matter of the voters looking past his win total. In his career he won 216 games, but he was always referred to as one of the top pitchers in the game. He finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting four times including three second place finishes.

In the history of the game, there might not be a better postseason pitcher than Schilling, who went 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 12 postseason series. He also won three World Series titles while winning the 2001 World Series MVP Award with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Schilling received 29.2 percent of the votes last year, nearly 10 percent less than he received the year before. It will be hard for him to get in this time around, but there is no doubt the he deserves to be in.

Mike Mussina – RHP – 1991-2008: During Mike Mussina’s 18-year career he was the most under appreciated pitcher in the game. He pitched his entire career in the difficult American League East, and put up incredible numbers during the steroid era, as he won 270 games while posting a 3.68 ERA.

Mussina was overlooked on his first time on the ballot, receiving just 20.3 percent of the vote, and expect him once again to not receive the attention he deserves. Mussina should eventually get in, but voters need to understand how difficult it was for him to be successful due to the talented lineups he faced.

Jeff Kent – 2B – 1992-2008: In 17 seasons, Jeff Kent batted .290 with 377 home runs, 560 doubles and 2,461 hits. He even tallied five All-Star appearances, four Silver Sluggers and a National League MVP Award.

Of his 377 home runs, 351 came as a second baseman – the all-time record at that position. He was a terrific player, and arguably one of the better middle infielders when he played.

Despite all of this, he only received 15.2 percent of the votes last year. With another stacked ballot this year, Kent won’t get near the 75 percent required, but expect his ballot percentage to increase. Kent deserves to be in Cooperstown, but unfortunately he might have to wait many years until he is finally elected.

Fred McGriff – 1B – 1986-2004: Fred McGriff was an underrated player during his time, and while he did not blow you away, he was a consistent performer. He was never a big name star, but he did hit nearly 500 home runs while holding a .284 career batting average and playing solid defense.

With the ballot being filled with many star players, it will not be easy for McGriff to get voted in especially after receiving 11.7 percent of the votes last year, but he does deserve to have his name among the others in Cooperstown.

Final thoughts:

Since the BBWAA began electing the Hall of Fame candidates in 1936, only twice have four candidates been elected in a year, and only once – in the inaugural 1936 election – have five players earned enough support.

Obviously not all 10 of these players I listed will be elected into the Hall of Fame. But, it will be a special and historic induction class with some of the greatest players to ever play the game finally getting elected into Cooperstown.

Who do you think will be elected into the Hall of Fame this year? Leave your comments below or tweet me @DanZielinski3.

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