The Hall of Fame has released its 2015 ballot, with the voting results to be released January 6. Thus, we've got six weeks' worth of articles to come about who's going to make it, who isn't, who should be unanimous and which writers are going to give snubs to deserving players.
I thought I'd weigh in now so as to get those six weeks going right away! Here's who will be eligible for votes:
The new candidates on the ballot include Cy Young Award winners like Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz, along with sluggers Carlos Delgado and Gary Sheffield, two-time batting champion Nomar Garciaparra and lock-down closer Troy Percival. Other first-time candidates include: Rich Aurilia, Aaron Boone, Tony Clark, Jermaine Dye, Darin Erstad, Cliff Floyd, Brian Giles, Tom Gordon, Eddie Guardado and Jason Schmidt. The 17 candidates returning to the BBWAA ballot (with their 2014 election percentages) are: Craig Biggio (74.8%), Mike Piazza (62.2%), Jeff Bagwell (54.3%), (46.1%), Roger Clemens (35.4%), Barry Bonds (34.7%), Lee Smith (29.9%), Curt Schilling (29.2%), Edgar Martinez (25.2%), Alan Trammell (20.8%), Mike Mussina (20.3%), Jeff Kent (15.2%), Fred McGriff (11.7%), Mark McGwire (11.0%), Larry Walker (10.2%), Don Mattingly (8.2%) and Sammy Sosa (7.2%). Mattingly is eligible for the BBWAA ballot for the 15th-and-final time. If he is not elected in January, he will become eligible for consideration by the Expansion Era Committee beginning in the fall of 2016.
Of the 17 new names on the ballot, that second group under "Other first-time candidates" can probably all be eliminated. (Eddie Guardado? Rich Aurilia? Really?) Of the other seven, Percival was indeed a "lock-down closer," but not for a long enough time; the same short-career-peak issue will probably keep Nomar out, and Delgado, while a great hitter for a short time, doesn't have the counting stats he needs to be considered Hall-worthy. And I'm not going to get into the PED rumors surrounding Sheffield, but overall, I feel he falls just short, especially given his somewhat surly attitude during his career.
So of the newcomers, if I had a ballot I'd vote for Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez -- both no-brainers, both should easily get in -- and John Smoltz, who was both a dominant starter and a dominant closer for multiple seasons, a unique combination.
In the holdover group, I'd vote for Biggio, Bagwell, Piazza and Raines, all of whom have been close (Biggio missing last year by just two votes) in recent years.
That'd make a seven-man ballot for me; voters can choose up to 10. There might very well be a large class next July in Cooperstown.
Who would you vote for? Leave your thoughts in the comments.