The Baseball Writers’ Association of America will have their hands full in little over a month as they vote on candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The list of eligible players, announced on Tuesday, boasts numerous new candidates. Last year, for the first time since its inception, the Hall welcomed three first-time nominees: Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas. That mark may be matched this year as eligible superstars include Cy Young Award winners Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz, and position players Carlos Delgado, Gary Sheffield, and Nomar Garciaparra.
Of the 34 names on the ballot, half have been nominated before, and half adorn the ballot for the first time. The results will be announced on January 6.
Some former stars who just missed making the Hall of Fame last year will attempt to join the Hall this year, despite the fact the players almost universally garner less votes in succeeding years than they receive in their first year of eligibility. Former Houston Astros second baseman Craig Biggio, who missed the 75% of votes needed to gain admittance last year by just two votes, will try to pick up needed ground; Mike Piazza, who amassed more home runs than any catcher in history, gathered 62.2% of votes last year and may pick up enough extra votes to have a legitimate shot at Cooperstown.
Barry Bonds, the all-time home run leader, Sammy Sosa, who ranks fourth, Mark McGwire, and superstar ace Roger Clemens have little chance of entrance, due to drug allegations against them. Last year Bonds received only 34.7% of the vote, Sosa, 7.2%, McGwire, 11%, and Clemens 35.4%.
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has one more chance to make the Hall; this is his 15th year on the ballot. The Hall inducted the most players in its first year, 1936, when Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner were chosen; in two other years, four candidates were chosen. Mickey Cochrane, Frankie Frisch, Lefty Grove, and Carl Hubbell were selected in 1947, and Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons, and Dazzy Vance were chosen in 1955.
Randy Johnson has five Cy Young Awards, including four straight, 10 All-Star Game Appearances, led the league in league in strikeouts nine times and ERA four times, ranks second on the all-time strikeout list behind Nolan Ryan, and won the pitching Triple Crown in 2002, appears a lock for the Hall.
Pedro Martinez will have as good a chance as Johnson, with three Cy Young Awards, eight All-Star Game appearances, five league leads in ERA, the 1999 pitching Triple Crown, and the highest career winning percentage among pitchers who began their careers after 1950.
John Smoltz may have an outside shot; he won the 1996 National League Cy Young Award, appeared in eight All-Star Games, and displayed amazing versatility, as he led the league in games started three times and wins and strikeouts twice while also setting the NL single-season mark with 55 saves in 2002 during his reemergence as a closer.
Hitters may have a more difficult time gaining entrance to the Hall this year; although Carlos Delgado had 473 career home runs, he is slightly less likely to gain entrance, as Fred McGriff had 493 and has failed to make the Hall in his first five years of eligibility. Gary Sheffield and Nomar Garciaparra have excellent statistics, but none of the three ever won an MVP award. Whereas Sheffield played as a very good player for a long time, Garciaparra played as an elite shortstop for several years until injuries sidetracked his career.
Other first-time eligible players include: Tony Clark, Darin Erstad, Tom Gordon, Eddie Guardado, Troy Percival, Jason Schmidt, Rich Aurilia, Aaron Boone, Jermaine Dye, Cliff Floyd, and Brian Giles.