Baseball HOF Class of 2015: Pedro, Randy, Smoltzie & Biggio – MLBThursday, January 8, 2015 21:00
<em>It may be the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s largest class in 60 years, but all four players are indeed deserving.</em>
<h2>MLB HOF – Best of the Best</h2>
On Tuesday, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced their National Baseball Hall of Fame inductees for 2015. At four–Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio–the Class of 2015 is the largest the BBWAA has elected since 1955.
Four. Four inductees. Hall of Fame classes are invariably small, since the HOF is reserved for the best of the best in the history of the game, and rightfully only a small percentage of players warrant such honor. This year’s four inductees come on the heels of last year’s three–Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas, all in their first year of eligibiliy–but in 2013 the BBWAA elected a whopping 0 and in 2012, 1 (Barry Larkin). (All in this year’s class save for Biggio were chosen in their first year of eligibility; Biggio was in his 3rd.)
In terms of history, 2015 is only the 3rd time four players have been elected (the others being 1947 and the aforementioned 1955). Only once has there been more, 1936, with the HOF’s inaugural class of Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy, Mathewson, Honus Wagner and the one and only Babe Ruth (talk about best of the best).
And yet I actually read commentary stating that the Hall of Fame is being diluted by lesser talent.
<em>(HOF Vote: 97.3%)</em> At 6’10″ and a fastball that occasionally exceeded 100mph, The Big Unit was one of the most fearsome pitchers in the game, ever. Who could forget John Kruk’s infamous at-bat against Johnson in the 1993 All-Star Game, when Kruk stepped out of the batter’s box every subsequent pitch after the first sailed over Kruk’s head? Johnson retired with 303 career wins, and whether or not you agree with the HOF’s admittedly unofficial benchmarks, 300 wins is one of them. The only 300-game winner not already in the Hall of Fame is the PED-tainted Roger Clemens. Johnson is second only to Nolan Ryan with 4875 strikeouts, and his career 3.29 ERA is more than respectable in a hitting-dominated era–not to mention the steroids era. A no-brainer.
<em>(HOF Vote: 91.1%)</em> Physically the opposite of Johnson, the diminutive Martinez (5’11″, 170 lbs–the average height of MLB players is just over 6’1″, with pitchers being the tallest) may only have had 219 career victories, but his ERA was a sparkling (for his era) 2.93 and his 3154 careers strikeouts ranks 13th all time. But for his seven seasons (1998-2004) with the Boston Red Sox, Pedro wasn’t just the best in the game, he was the most dominant pitcher MLB had seen since at least Bob Gibson, if not Sandy Koufax. Over those seven years, Martinez had a 2.52 ERA (<em>1.74</em> in 2000), 117 victories (against only 37 losses, an average of 17 per year, topped by 23 in 1999), a .760 winning percentage (twice over .800, .852 in 1999 and .833 in 2002), 1683 strikeouts, 22 complete games, 8 shutouts, the pitching Triple Crown in 1999 (23 wins, 2.07 ERA, 313 strikeouts). Every pitch in his repertoire was absolute magic, with pinpoint accuracy. As a Red Sox fan, I saw Pedro pitch not only TV but in person, and he was brilliant. A second lock.
<em>(HOF Vote: 82.9%)</em> Smoltzie completes the triumvirate of Atlanta Braves pitchers that led the franchise to so many playoff appearances, first on the field and now, on the heels of Maddux and Glavine’s elections last year, in the HOF. Following in the path of Dennis Eckersley before him, Smoltz began his career as strong starter before becoming a reliever –and then became a starter again. He was more than effective in all his various pitching stints, leading the league in wins in 1996 (24), saves in 2002 (55) and then wins again in 2006 (16). Career totals in the two categories, 213 wins and 154 saves. Few pitchers have ever been so versatile, efficacious as both a starter and closer, and fewer still have shifted so seamlessly back and forth. Unquestionable.
<em>(HOF Vote: 82.7%) Biggio was the only inductee not on the ballot for the first time, and as such, one wonders if that is from whence the criticism stems. After all, the first timers elected are the absolute no-brainers, the best of the best <em>of the best</em>. Biggio’s numbers are not as dominant as any of his classmates in any given year (hitters’ apples to pitchers’ oranges, to be true), never leading the league in any of the traditional big three statistics of batting average, homers and RBIs or any of the sabermetrics. Biggio was, however, an incredibly consistent workhorse, near the top and frequently leading the league in plate appearances, runs, doubles and even steals. Three years he played every game of the season, two other years he only missed two and in ten of his twenty seasons he played in a 153 or more. Baggio is also a member of the 3000-hit club (clocking in at 3060). Again, say what you will about those unwritten benchmarks, but considering that the only players with 3000 hits not in the HOF are either banned (Pete Rose), steroid-tainted (Rafael Pameiro) or not yet eligible (Derek Jeter), how can one argue that Biggio does not belong?
As far as I’m concerned, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America got it all right.
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