All of them belong: Four worthy candidates elected to Hall
For a moment, set aside the social-media snark, the counterproductive constraints placed on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, the perpetual distress over performance-enhancing drugs.
In the end, here are the men elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the last two ballots:
2014 — Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas
2015 — Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio
The four players elected Tuesday are the most on a single ballot since 1955. The two-year total is the greatest since the BBWAA sent seven to Cooperstown between 1954 and 1955.
Apparently, the business of honoring baseball’s past is alive and well on the shores of Otsego Lake.
Did others on the ballot deserve to be inducted July 26 alongside Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz and Biggio? Absolutely. But let’s postpone those grievances for a while — at least until dinnertime tonight, OK?
While reasonable people can say the BBWAA made errors of omission, there were none of inclusion. Anyone who travels to Cooperstown on the final Sunday of July will be able to look upon the dais and say, “All of them belong.”
At the end of the day, that is worth celebrating.
Johnson is perhaps the greatest left-handed pitcher in baseball history. Martinez’s prime was the most dominant stretch of pitching the game had witnessed since Sandy Koufax. Most observers figured both would be locks, and they were.
Smoltz owns a unique place in baseball history as the lone pitcher with 200 victories and 150 saves, to go along with a postseason track record that reads like a Cy Young year: 15-4 record, 2.67 ERA, and 199 strikeouts in 209 innings.
Biggio collected 3,000 hits and was equally known for the athleticism and savvy that enabled him to thrive at three demanding positions — catcher, center field (when the Astros needed it), and most often second base. He is the only player in major-league history with at least 250 games played at those three spots.
Unless you are absolutely heartbroken that a particular candidate fell short of the required 75 percent, it’s easy to feel satisfied with this result. And with only one lock (Ken Griffey Jr.) among the first-timers next year, others on the ballot should see their totals rise in 2016. Mike Piazza, for one, is poised for election next time.
True, the Hall voting process is imperfect and increasingly overwrought — due in large part to the specter of steroids, which will linger for a generation or more. The Hall of Fame hasn’t done the BBWAA any favors, either, by shortening a player’s eligibility from 15 years to 10, while maintaining the 10-player limit on each ballot. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to consider my moral dilemmas without pressure from arbitrary restrictions.
To get it right, voters need time and space to give all candidates the proper consideration. The Hall’s current rules make that effort more difficult, so the BBWAA refreshed the ballot in a manner not seen in 60 years: Four eminently deserving candidates are headed to the Hall of Fame, and the route to baseball heaven is a little clearer for those who remain in limbo.