Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio were elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Tuesday. The Hall will welcome four new players in the same year for the first time since 1955.
Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz were voted in on their first try, while Biggio was elected on his third attempt after falling just two votes shy last year.
Let's take a look at each of the four 2015 inductees:
I wasn't alive when Sandy Koufax was pitching, so Johnson is the best left-handed pitcher I've seen in my lifetime. He won 5 Cy Young Awards and finished second on three other occasions. He totaled 303 wins, 4,875 strikeouts and led his league in strikeouts on nine occasions. Johnson had six seasons of at least 300 strikeouts, and averaged 10.61 strikeouts per nine innings over the course of his career. His .646 career winning percentage is pretty darn good, too. Not too many pitchers have been more dominant.
Here's the most remarkable thing about Martinez: He played from 1992 to 2009, an 18-year period that featured some of the most prolific offensive seasons in the history of the sport. Yet, his career ERA was a sparkling 2.93. The league average ERA during that period was 4.49. That goes to show how great Martinez was. He finished with a 219-100 career record, and he had a dominant six years in the middle of his career that saw him win three Cy Youngs and finish second on two other occasions. He went 23-4 in 1999, but I think his best year was actually 2000. He went 18-6 with a 1.74 ERA for the Boston Red Sox. A 1.74 ERA in the American League? During that steroid era? That's one of the better individual seasons I've seen from any player in my lifetime.
Smoltz had an unparalleled career in my book. He won a Cy Young as a starter, went to the bullpen and led his league in saves, then returned to the starting rotation because that's what his team needed at that time. There aren't a lot of guys who have been great both as a starter and as a closer. Dennis Eckersley comes to mind, but even that isn't a parallel because once Eckersley went to the bullpen he stayed there for the rest of his career. Smoltz eventually returned to starting and continued to pitch effectively. But here's what makes Smoltz a first-ballot Hall of Famer: He went 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA in postseason play. I know the stat people don't like to talk about clutch, but you can't ignore that kind of performance on the game's biggest stages. You're not getting fat on 95-loss teams pitching in October. You're going against the best teams with the best lineups. Smoltz was a guy who was at his best when he went against the best.
Isn't it interesting that it took three years for Biggio and his 3,060 career hits to get elected to the Hall? It used to be that 3,000 hits was one of those magic numbers that made you a first-ballot lock. Not anymore. A couple other notable numbers about Biggio: He had 668 doubles, more than any other right-handed hitter in the history of the game. He also had 51 doubles and 50 stolen bases during the 1998 season, becoming the only player to have 50 doubles or more and 50 steals or more in the same year. Why did it take so long for him to get in? Well, I don't know. Some people think Jeff Bagwell, Biggio's longtime teammate in Houston, is a steroids guy, so perhaps Biggio is guilty by association in the minds of some.
This four-man class comes on the heels of last year's three-man class that included Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.
All seven men who have been elected the last two years are worthy choices, but here's my takeaway: I find it interesting that five of the seven most recent inductees are pitchers. There are several notable hitters on the ballot, including Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Edgar Martinez, who have strong cases and are still on the outside looking in.
The steroids era didn't seem to change voter behavior in terms of pitchers. The great ones, for the most part, are still promptly getting elected to the Hall. Hitters? Not so much. Guys who would have been slam dunks in the past are having to wait now. Biggio is a prime example of that. He's not thought of as a steroids guy, but he still had to wait a couple years because the magical offensive numbers -- 3,000 hits, 500 home runs -- aren't as meaningful as they used to be.
Part of this preference for pitchers, of course, can be explained by the quality of pitchers that have come onto the ballot the past couple years. Maddux, Johnson and Martinez are the short list of the game's all-time greats. Glavine and Smoltz also are easy picks. There won't be an elite starting pitcher coming on the ballot as a first-timer next year.
We'll see if that allows for some of these hitters who are waiting their turn to finally have their day, or if the cloud of the steroid era still looms large.