It's time for my annual Hall of Fame predictions. This year's new crop should make the balloting pretty interesting!
Notable holdovers from last year include Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. If last year's voting is any indication of the direction we're headed in, then either Biggio or Piazza could be enshrined in 2015. Biggio missed by a hair's breadth, capturing 74.8% of the vote last year. Piazza received a 62.2% share--up 5% from the previous election. Bonds and Clemens (members of the steroid class) both finished in the 30th percentile and are long shots for the Hall regardless of their accomplishments.
There are several players approaching the end of their fifteen-year candidacy, all of whom seem to be falling out of favor with the Hall of Fame electorate. Former Tigers' pitching ace, Jack Morris, was eliminated last year after peaking at 67.7% of the vote in 2013. Other long-term veterans on the ballot include Don Mattingly, Alan Trammel and Lee Smith. Mattingly, whose prime years were cut short by chronic back trouble, will get his last shot this year. Trammel (an immensely talented shortstop in an era dominated by shortstops) is entering his fourteenth year of eligibility while Lee (the all time saves leader until 2006) has hung in there for the past twelve seasons. Each experienced a significant decrease in support last year and can be realistically eliminated as contenders.
So who's new this year?
There are a slew of candidates who will undoubtedly fail to meet minimum requirements for future eligibility. Those players include Jarrod Washburn, Joe Crede, Paul Byrd, David Weathers and Ron Villone (among others). But this year's rookie class includes at least one first-ballot Hall of Famer. With more than 300 wins and 4,000 strikeouts, I would be shocked and disappointed to see Randy Johnson get overlooked. I'm a bit skeptical about newcomer Pedro Martinez. Though he owns one of the highest winning percentages in baseball history, I'm not sure that his era of dominance extended long enough. It will be interesting to see how members of the Cooperstown electorate feel. Other players I believe will get moderate consideration in their first year of eligibility are John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield. Sheffield played for a long time and put up excellent power numbers despite suffering an ongoing string of injuries. Smoltz collected more than 200 wins and 150 saves--a unique combination in the modern era.
Predictions: Just for Fun
There is no doubt in my mind that Craig Biggio belongs in the Hall of Fame. He was a sparkplug for numerous Astro squads that didn't contend along with several that did. With 3,000 hits, four Gold Gloves and seven All-Star selections, I believe that 2015 will be his year. I think that Randy Johnson will be making an acceptance speech in Cooperstown this coming summer as well. Since there were multiple players enshrined last year, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find Mike Piazza among the 2015 inductees. Though he had some shortcomings behind the plate, he was among the greatest offensive catchers in history. Bagwell--a two-time 30/30 man with a stellar lifetime on-base percentage of .408--will have to wait along with Smoltz and Martinez.