We’re a few short days away from 2016 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2015. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.
The Hall of Fame has its problems. The voting is messed up and, thanks to a weird soup of subjective standards and some moralizing and/or myopic voters, many of the best players from the past quarter century remain on the outside looking in. For some people the Hall of Fame is broken. For some it’s becoming irrelevant. Last July, however, it inducted a humdinger of a class. Possibly the best since the inaugural class. Its members: Craig Biggio, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez.
It was the first time since 1955 that four players were inducted. That year Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Dazzy Vance and Ted Lyons made it in. Nice, but only DiMaggio had the stature of the 2015 class. Before that, you’d have to go back to 1936, when Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson comprised baseball’s first group of Hall of Fame inductees.
Randy Johnson was a strikeout machine, but he was more than the sum of his Ks. Indeed, he may have been the greatest left-hander of all time. Pedro Martinez was Sandy Koufax, but only if Sandy Koufax pitched against crazy-good hitters in the most insane offensive era of all time. Meaning that, yeah, Pedro was BETTER than Koufax. Smoltz paired Cy Young starting with shut-down closing to give his career the sort of arc we haven’t seen since Dennis Eckersley retired. And, of course, Smoltz was the better starter and playoff pitcher to boot. Biggio combined fantastic on-base ability, great gap power and plus defense despite the fact that second base was not his natural position. Biggio, who came up as a catcher, still managed to play 20 years and collect 3,000 hits despite the fact that second basemen AND catchers have shorter careers than most position players.
Four players being inducted is rare indeed, but it was definitely necessary given the resumes of these four. In 2016 there are at least four who are as equally deserving in Ken Griffey, Jr., Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Tim Raines. Will we get four more? I doubt it — I think Raines will remain on the outside looking in and Bagwell may as well — but it sure would go a long way towards fixing the Hall of Fame’s lamentable oversight of a couple of decades of baseball history.