What's interesting about the Hall of Fame Class of 2015 is the same thing that got us excited about the Class of 2014...there are some definite no-brainers, shoe-ins if you will.
Truth is, I don't know if the Hall of Fame has had back-to-back-to-back years (yup, already looking your way, 2016!) with so many quality, legitimate first ballot candidates. But, as was the case the last few years...the potential Class of 2015 does (still) reside in the long shadow of steroids.
Here are the players that will be appearing on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 2015.
Randy Johnson. With five Cy Young Awards, a no-hitter and a perfect game, Johnson is pretty much as safe a lock to end up in Cooperstown as anyone who ever toed the rubber. Add in 303 wins, 4875 strikeouts, a World Series ring and ten All-Star appearances and yeah...it'll be interesting to see what knuckleheads don't believe he is worthy of going in on the first ballot.
Pedro Martinez. Once Martinez stopped playing around with comeback attempts and finally announced he was officially retired, everyone began debating...in or out? Martinez has a career .687 winning percentage, sub-3.00 ERA, three Cy Young Awards and is a Boston legend. Put him in...if only to hear the speech.
John Smoltz. Smoltz is a tricky one. At first glance, he doesn't look like he has the numbers to make it to the Hall of Fame. That said, when you look deeper...he's a pretty special player. In 2002 he became only the second pitcher (Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley is the other) to have had both a 20-win season and a 50-save season. The 1996 National League Cy Young award winner is also the only pitcher in major league history to top both 200 wins and 150 saves. Oh yeah, he was also just the 16th pitcher to surpass 3000 Ks for his career.
ON THE BUBBLE.
Gary Sheffield. It is amazing to me how polarizing Sheffield is. Me? I love the dude. A career .292 batting average, 509 home runs and close to 2700 hits...the man is a hitting machine and performed at just about every stop during his 22-year career. He's "on the bubble" only because of the alleged company he kept.
Carlos Delgado. Delgado attempted a comeback late in 2011, but since he never made it back to bigs...here he sits as a first ballot guy in 2015. Sitting 27 home runs shy of 500 for his career, with more than 2000 hits and 1500 RBI, Delgado is not that far from becoming the second player enshrined as a Toronto Blue Jay. But, unfortunately, it probably won't happen.
OUT (in random order).
Nomar Garciaparra. Alright, reality check time. Garciaparra is one of my favorite players of all-time, so naturally...one would think that I would automatically pencil him in for a 2015 enshrinement. Unfortunately, his career numbers just aren't good enough. He started his career alongside Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter and, arguably, overshadowed them at first. However, injuries plagued the Whittier, California native, whereas the other two are legends.
Troy Percival. It's pretty safe to say that I have a soft spot for closers. For years, I've been trumpeting the efforts of Lee Smith. That said, I can't get behind Percival. His 358 saves (good for eighth all-time) is spectacular, but the dude never led the league and can't really hold a candle to some of his contemporaries.
The others. Rich Aurilia, Paul Byrd, Tony Clark, Joe Crede, Jermaine Dye, Alan Embree, Darin Erstad, Kelvim Escobar, Cliff Floyd, Brian Giles, Tom Gordon, Eddie Guardado, Braden Looper, Mark Loretta, B.J. Ryan, Jason Schmidt, Julian Tavarez, Ron Villone, Jarrod Washburn and David Weathers.