For the first time in 60 years, the Baseball Writers Assn. of America has voted four players into the Hall of Fame.
Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio were elected to the Hall of Fame on Tuesday, two years after the BBWAA elected no one and triggered a national debate about how voters should account for baseball’s steroid era.
Johnson got 97.3% of the vote, more than any pitcher except Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan. Martinez got 91.1% of the vote, Smoltz 82.9% and Biggio 82.7%.
Candidates required 75% for election. Mike Piazza, arguably the greatest hitting catcher in MLB history, got 69.9%, his high in three years on the ballot and appears poised for election next year.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose candidacies have become a referendum on the steroid era, again failed to gain traction in the voting.
Bonds, who holds the MLB all-time home-run record and a record seven most valuable player awards, got 36.8% of the vote, after getting 36.2% in 2013 – his first year on the ballot – and 34.7% last year. Clemens, winner of a record seven Cy Young awards, drew 37.5% of the vote, after getting 37.6% in 2013 and 35.4% last year.
Johnson, whose 4,875 strikeouts rank as the most of any left-hander in MLB history, won five Cy Young awards – including four in a row from 2001-04 -- and finished second three times. He won 303 games and led the Arizona Diamondbacks to the 2001 World Series championship.
Martinez’s name still evokes a shudder for Dodgers fans. The Dodgers traded Martinez, then a 21-year-old middle reliever perceived as fragile, to the Montreal Expos for star second baseman Delino DeShields.
DeShields was injured and ineffective in Los Angeles, while Martinez blossomed into an elite starter for the Expos and Boston Red Sox. Martinez, pitching at the height of the steroid era, twice posted an earned-run average under 2.00 while winning the Cy Young award three times, finishing in the top four three other times, and sparking the Red Sox to the 2004 World Series title – their first since 1918.
Smoltz follows his Atlanta Braves rotation mates – Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, each inducted last year – into the Hall of Fame. As the Braves won a record 14 consecutive division championships, Smoltz prospered as a starter and closer, with 210 wins and 154 saves. He is the only major leaguer with at least 200 wins and 150 saves.
Biggio, primarily a second baseman for the Houston Astros, collected 3,060 hits and holds the MLB record for doubles by a right-handed hitter. Of the 11 players with 3,000 hits and 1,800 runs, the only two not elected are not yet eligible: Derek Jeter and Pete Rose.
The four-person BBWAA class is the largest since 1955, when Joe DiMaggio was the marquee electee. The only larger class was the first, in 1936, which featured Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner.
Dodgers batting coach Mark McGwire, who unlike Bonds and Clemens has publicly admitted using steroids, got 10% of the vote, his low in nine chances. McGwire has one year left on the ballot.
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly, in his 15th and final year on the ballot, got 9.1%. He received 28.2% of the vote in 2001, his first year on the ballot, and never got even 21% thereafter. Mattingly becomes eligible for consideration by a veterans’ committee that next meets in 2016.
Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman are the most notable players that become eligible for election next year.