Which Class Wins? HOF '19 and '15 Are Outliers
Ramon Liriano is a WFUV Sports intern from Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, New York.
This weekend, Mariano Rivera became the first player to be voted into the Hall of Fame unanimously. Edgar Martinez, Harold Baines, Lee Smith, Mike Mussina, and Roy Halladay were also inducted into the Hall of Fame this past Sunday with 53 other Hall-of-Famers returning to Cooperstown to support and congratulate the famers. The Hall of Fame class of 2019 holds a special place in the hearts of all teams because each of their individual performances stand out in their own ways. But who can really beat the class of 2015?
How can we forget Randy Johnson, the monster who once hit a passing bird in the middle of a spring training game? The power within his pitch killed a bird and plucked all its feathers. Johnson turned down the Atlanta Braves after they drafted him in 1982 but the Expos drafted him in the second round in 1985 and he joined the Montreal organization. The 6’10” monster displayed his 97-mph fastball in the minors, and by 1988, Johnson joined the majors, making him the tallest player to ever play in the league. Spending nearly ten years with the Mariners, he amassed a 3.50 ERA with 130 wins over 128 losses. Remember when the Expos traded Johnson to the Mariners? Even though he struggled to find his control at the time, Johnson appeared on the diamond and remained dominant. This was never more true than against the Tigers on June 2, 1990, when he pitched his first no-hitter. At the end of his career Randy Johnson finished with over 4,800 strikeouts, second all-time to Nolan Ryan’s record of 5,714. Johnson led his league in strikeouts nine times, earned four ERA titles and recorded 100 complete games to go along with an outstanding 37 shutouts. For his accomplishments, he was also named to 10 All-Star Games. With five Cy Young awards, one triple crown (led the league in ERA, strikeouts and wins) and one World Series MVP, even after playing for so many teams, Randy spent nearly ten years with the Mariners, where he built great relationships with his teammates. During the voting for the class of 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame, Randy Johnson endorsed Edgar Martinez, encouraging writers to vote for his former teammate and good friend.
Number 7 is an important number in Houston, and it was the number of a young man who eventually became known as “Mr. Astro.” Second baseman Craig Biggio settled on a partial baseball scholarship to Seton Hall University after his dream of becoming a pro football running back was taken away because his grades didn’t measure to his athletic achievements. But in 1987, Biggio was drafted in the first round by the Houston Astros and called up to the big leagues in the following year. In 1992, Biggio became Houston’s second baseman and appeared in all 162 games. Before the Altuve and Correa duo up the middle, it was the Biggio and Cedeno duo or the Biggio and Candaele duo at second base and shortstop. Biggio started as a catcher in the minor leagues, but had to make the difficult switch from behind the dish to second base. “I can’t explain to you how hard that was. That’s like giving you a bat and telling you to get a hit off Randy Johnson. Not just stand in there, but get a hit off him.” Biggio tells the National Baseball Hall of Fame Association. But from 1993 to 1999, Biggio made it look easy, as he became Houston’s leadoff hitter averaging better than 17 home runs and 33 steals a year, with more than 116 runs scored per season. In his last year in the bigs, Biggio joined the 3,000-hit club in 2007.
Amid his success as a starter, a troublesome elbow forced John Smoltz to go from a starting pitcher to a closer for a few years. Smoltz took his downfall and turned it into an achievement, making him the only player in major league history to have at least 200 career wins and at least 150 saves. Despite being selected by the Tigers in the 22nd round of the 1985 amateur draft and playing two years with the Tigers, Smoltz was acquired by the Atlanta Braves general manager Bobby Cox in exchange for fellow pitcher Doyle Alexander in 1987. Over his first five full seasons, from 1989 to 1993, Smoltz averaged 14 wins, with 34 starts and 182 strikeouts with a 3.42 ERA. This stretch also included the Braves’ remarkable “worst-to-first” campaign in which Atlanta lost an epic seven-game World Series title to the Minnesota Twins. The fall Classic of 1991 is most remembered for the performance of Twins starter Jack Morris, who pitched a 10-inning shutout en route to a 1-0 win against the Braves. But what about Smoltz, who tossed 7.1 scoreless innings? With Smoltz’s impressive fastball, a slider that slid away from right-handed batters and a splitter that darted under the swings of the left-handed batters, Smoltz would eventually become the only Braves player to be on the roster for the franchise’s entire historic run of 14 consecutive division titles. Smoltz would appear in 41 postseason games, and he finished his playoff career with a 15-4 record, a 2.67 ERA and 199 strikeouts. After having Tommy John surgery in 2000, Smoltz became a reliever. Although he was coming out of surgery, he went back to a starting role and got his 200th career win and in 2008, Smoltz became the 16th player to reach 3,000 career strikeouts. Smoltz. an eight-time all-star, finished his 21-year major league career with a 213-155 record with 154 saves, 3,084 strikeouts and a 3.33 ERA. “He led the way, he set the tone, he fought the fight and he had the will of a winner,” Atlanta Braves executive John Schuerholz said to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Association.
Now, let’s take it back to 2003 and more specifically, game 3 of the ALCS, with the Red Sox playing the Yankees at Fenway. The benches cleared for the second time in the game and Pedro Martinez defended himself against Yankees coach Don Zimmer knocking him down to the floor. “If you watched the video closely, I asked him ‘what?’ and I heard something. I don’t respect a coach or someone his age to say to a younger man because you’re supposed to serve as an example to younger players and teach the game. He’s the teacher of the game and you’re not supposed to say the things he said where my mom didn’t have anything to do with the field at the moment, and on top of that he tries to throw a punch,” Pedro later said. In 1993, Pedro got regular work in the Dodgers’ bullpen, posting a 10-5 record in 65 games while striking out 119 batters in 107 innings. With an impressive fastball, Martinez showed his dominance with his new team, the Expos, on June 3rd, 1995. In that game, he retired the first 27 Padres batters he faced before allowing a hit in the bottom of the 10th inning. In 1997, Martinez went 17-8 with a National-League best 1.90 ERA to go along with 13 complete games and 305 strikeouts to give him his first Cy Young Award. Martinez was nearly unhittable with his accuracy and control, as well as the off-speed changeup he used to mess with a batter’s timing. Oh, and there was also his 97-mph fastball. After signing with the Red Sox in 1998, he played seven seasons in Boston. Winning 117 out of 154 games, Martinez dominated the AL East with two more Cy Young Awards and becoming a World Series title in 2004. Out of the 409 games he started in his career, Pedro finished 219-100, his 3,154 strikeouts, rank 13th all-time, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.15-to-1 ranks third of all time. “Martinez is the first person I’ve ever seen with an above average-fastball and an above-average change up,” according to Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Association.
The Hall of Fame class of 2015 had so much talent. Having various setbacks didn’t stop any of these Hall of Famers from putting on a performance and carrying their teams to unbelievable memories. From killing pigeons to switching positions to getting their teams to the World Series – and even brawling with other teams — each of these members inducted into the class of 2015 had a major impact on the world of baseball. Not to say the class of 2019 didn’t have its moments: Mariano Rivera’s unanimous induction into the Hall of Fame, a tribute to Roy Halladay and the induction of Randy’s partner in crime, Edgar Martinez. There’s no doubt in my mind that Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina and even Mariano on the same team would dominate the league. But I’d rather have Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz on a team where each of them would just completely demolish the competition.