How former Cardinals fared in the 2015 Hall of Fame Election
Just a few short hours ago, three pitchers and one hitter were elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. First year eligible pitchers Randy Johnson (97.3%), Pedro Martinez (91.1%) and John Smoltz (82.9%) all earned nods and were joined by third year eligible second baseman Craig Biggio (82.7%).
With Smoltz cracking the 75% cutoff, today marked the first time that one of the nominees was a former Cardinal since relief pitcher Bruce Sutter was inducted in 2006. This year’s Hall of Fame class became the first in six decades with four nominees, making several baseball fans across the country wonder how difficult can it be for a player to earn a spot in Cooperstown?
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In order to be listed on a ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame, players must have served at least 10 years in the Major Leagues and have been retired for five. Then, hundreds of BBWAA members who meet voting requirements can select up to 10 names on the specific ballot to become a Cooperstown legend.
After the votes are casted, players listed on over 75% of ballots earn an entry to the Hall of Fame. A player is dropped off future ballots if their name appeared on less than 5% of ballots for that year or if they were denied Hall of Fame status after 15 consecutive years on a ballot.
So given this criteria, lets take an inside look on how former Cardinals fared in the 2015 ballot.
Most fans associate John Smoltz with the Atlanta Braves, but some may have forgotten that the 8-time All-Star pitched his final half-season with the Cardinals in 2009. As a former All-Star starter and closer, Smoltz was recognized for his successfully accurate four-seam fastball. In his 21 seasons, the righty accumulated 213 wins, 3084 strikeouts, 154 saves and a career ERA of 3.33. Add in his five World Series appearances and lone title from 1995, Smoltz was a lock-in on most ballots, earning Hall of Fame nomination with on 82.9% of ballots.
With Smoltz cracking the 75% cutoff, today marked the first time that one of the nominees was a former Cardinal since Bruce Sutter was inducted in 2006.
Another former closer experienced a bit of a setback on the Hall of Fame ballot, as Lee Smith only mustered votes on 30.2% of ballots. Smith played on eight different teams in his 18-year career and was a league leader in saves four times between the Cardinals, Cubs and Orioles. Smith showed great control in his prime, compiling a 3.03 ERA and 1.26 WHIP with 478 career saves. While the closer reached 50% of votes in 2012, Smith only has two more years of eligibility for the Hall of Fame and hopes to fill vacancies on next year’s ballots with three big-name pitchers elected today.
While coming clean on steroid usage may be gradually helping Mark McGwire‘s credibility, the first baseman’s journey to the Hall of Fame may still be farfetched. Many baseball fans knew the former Cardinal as Big Mac for the power he brought to the game, he is consistently left off Hall of Fame ballots for his involvement with PEDs. McGwire is best remembered for breaking the single-season home run record in 1998 with 70 blasts, but even though the record stood for three years, he just managed votes on 10% of ballots in his ninth year eligible.
Larry Walker was arguably one of the biggest building blocks for the Colorado Rockies just a few years after they became an expansion team. The Canadian Clubber served six years with the Montreal Expos before the 1994 baseball strike, but revitalized his career in Colorado with three batting titles and his only MVP award in 1997. Although he never won a World Series, Walker played an integral role on St. Louis’s playoff hungry teams in 2004 and 2005. He retired after his final postseason runs with 383 home runs, 1311 RBI and a career .313 batting average, but earned votes on just 11.8% of ballots this year.
As the only former Cardinal to be eliminated from future ballots, Troy Percival only garnered votes on 0.7% of ballots this year. Yet, the reliever still compiled 35 wins, 781 strikeouts and 358 saves in a noteworthy 14-year career with four teams. Percival won his only World Series title with the Los Angeles Angels in 2002 and represented them on four different All-Star teams. Joining the Cardinals in 2007, Percival posted a 1.80 ERA and made his only career start before retiring two years later.
Smith, McGwire and Walker will all be eligible for Hall of Fame voting next year. They could be joined by projected first-year eligibles Jim Edmonds, Troy Glaus and David Eckstein for the 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, but only time will tell when the next Cardinal is elected into Cooperstown.
Click this link to see the results for the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot.