Tuesday, January 6, 2015
For the first time ever, three starting pitchers have been elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in the same year, and four players have been elected to the Hall for the first time since in 60 years.
Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz make up the triumverate of pitchers headed to upstate New York this July. They will be joined by catcher-turned-second baseman Craig Biggio, who spent 20 seasons with the Houston Astros.
Johnson struggled early in his career as a 6'10" member of the Montreal Expos, but once dealt to the Seattle Mariners, saw his Hall of Fame career get kicked into gear. Johnson won 303 games, five Cy Young Awards, and struck out 4,875 batters playing for the Mariners (10 yrs), Houston Astros (post deadline 1998), Arizona Diamondbacks (8), New York Yankees (2), San Francisco Giants (1), and the Expos (2).
The "Big Unit" was the 2015 top vote getter with 97.43% of the tally, the eighth highest total in Major Leauge History. A 10-time All-Star, Johnson received a no-decision when he struck out 20 Cincinnati Reds on May 8, 2001. He is one of five pitchers to throw a no-hitter in both leagues and was the 2001 World Series Co-MVP with teammate Curt Schilling, after he won Games 2, 6, and 7.
Martinez, a slightly built power pitcher with the Los Angeles Dodgers, saw his career begin to blow up after he was traded to the Expos prior to the 1993 season. But it was his time in Boston that made Martinez a household name. The crown jewel of pitching statistics, the Triple Crown, was accomplished by Martinez grabbed in 1999 when he topped the American League with 23 wins, a 2.07 ERA, and 313 strikeouts.
A three-time CY Young winner (once with Montreal, twice with Boston), Martinez was a character on and off the mound; a pitcher who wasn't afraid to throw inside at hitters of any stature. He won 219 games in parts of 18 years with the Dodgers (2 years), Expos (4), Red Sox (7), Mets (4), and Phillies (1). The native of the Dominican Republic produced two seasons - 1997 (1.90) and 2000 (1.74), with ERA numbers under 2.00), struck out 3,154 batters.
Martinez, who inexplicably received just 91.1% of the vote, won a World Series ring with the 2004 Red Sox and pitched in the 2009 World Series for the Phillies.
Smoltz is the only pitcher in MLB history to win at least 200 games and save at least 150, and just the second pitcher (Dennis Eckersley the other) to win at least 20 games and save a minimum of 50 games in separate seasons. Acquired for the Detroit Tigers' Doyle Alexander in a 1987 deadline deal, Smoltz spent 20 seasons with the Atlanta Braves. He won the NL Cy Young Award in 1996 when he earned 24 victories and struck out a league high 276 batters. After missing the 2000 season due to Tommy John surgery, Smoltz came back as a reliever and led the NL with a league record 55 saves in 2002. He would save 45 and 44 games the next two seasons before moving back into the starting rotation in 2005. A year later he tied for the NL lead in wins with 16.
An eight-time All-Star, Smoltz finished his career in 2009 with the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals. He compiled a 213-155 record with 154 saves and 3,084 strikeouts. "Smoltzie" won a World Series ring in 1995 and was a member of four other NL pennant winning teams. He'll join former teammates and fellow pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, and his former manager Bobby Cox, all of whom were induced into the Hall last year. Smoltz received 82.9% of the vote.
Craig Biggio came into Major League Baseball as a catcher out of Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Selected by the Houston Astros as the 22nd overall pick in the 1987 draft, Biggio spent his entire career in an Astros uniform. After four years behind the plate, Biggio moved to second base prior to the 1992 season and went on to win five Gold Glove Awards.
A five-time winner of the Silver Slugger Award, Biggio reached 3,000 hits in his final season (2007) and ended up with 3,060 for his career. He led the league in doubles three times, and topped the league in being hit by pitches, five times. He stole 414 bases, including a league best 39 in the strike shortened 1994 campaign. Biggio finished in the top five in the NL MVP vote in 1997 and 1998 and was a member of the 2005 Astros NL pennant winning team. (It's the only Houston team to reach the World Series.).
Biggio just missed out last season, his second year on the ballot, when he came up .2% shy of the required 75%. This year was no problem as he finished with 82.7% of the vote. He is the first player to entre the Hall as a Houston Astro.
For those that missed out this year, catcher Mike Piazza came the closest to making it a five-player induction when he received 69.9% of the vote. It's a good sign for him to get enough votes next year when Ken Griffey Jr. is the only first year eligible player who is a sure thing.
Carlos Delgado was the top player with under 5% of the vote required to remain on future ballots. Don Mattingly receievd 9.1% in his final year of eligibility, now that the rule has changed from 15 years to 10 years to be voted for.