May 20, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher former pitcher Pedro Martinez shows his World Series rings prior to a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
In the midst of all the free agent hoopla unfolding in Boston around Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval today, the National Baseball Hall of Fame player ballot was released without a ton of fanfare, but with a fan’s candy store of big names. Among the newcomers are three former members of the Cincinnati Reds — Rich Aurilia, Aaron Boone, and Eddie Guardado — but the real fireworks will come from the three pitchers who headline the class: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz. All three of them should get elected on their first ballot.
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The holdovers from last year include Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and a bunch of guys who fell below 40% of the vote announced in January 2014. I expect that Biggio will make it this time around, as he was just a handful of votes short last time, but Bagwell and Piazza maintain enough of a steroid taint — justified or not — that they’ll likely fall short yet again.
As has been the case the last few years, you can bet that there will be copious hand-wringing and moral stomping when it comes to the other players on the ballot with ties to the steroid mess of the last two decades. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa all fall into that category and will all receive less support than they probably should. One notable long-time ballot inhabitant is Don Mattingly, who is in his final year of eligibility. As great as Donnie Baseball was at his peak, those prime years were way too few for him to put up true HOF numbers, and he’ll drop off the ballot after January.
As for the Reds on this years ballot, well, someone has to fill out the lower reaches of baseball’s best players, right? Aurilia, Boone, and Guardado will be “one and done” as far as Cooperstown is concerned, but rabid baseball fans will never forget their on-field contributions.