On Tuesday the 2015 Hall of Fame class will be announced on MLB Network, in a special that begins at 11 a.m. PT, and a pair of former Dodgers will figure prominently in the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot results. Pedro Martinez is a shoo-in for induction to Cooperstown in his first year on the ballot, and Mike Piazza might close the gap as well.
It could be a bittersweet Tuesday, as both Martinez and Piazza are classic "what if" cases who when elected won't be sporting a Dodgers cap in Cooperstown. At least with Piazza the Dodgers got five stellar years to remember, but Martinez was dealt away far too early for him to make his mark in Los Angeles.
Both Piazza and Martinez were signed by the club in June 1988, and both made their major league debuts with the Dodgers in September 1992, and enjoyed stellar rookie seasons in 1993.
Martinez, 21, put up a 2.61 ERA in 65 games in 1993, including two starts, with 119 strikeouts in 107 innings, with more electric stuff — and eight fewer strikeouts in 104 fewer innings — than big brother Ramon Martinez, who was working his way to the top of the starting rotation.
It was a different time in reliever usage, and the 99⅔ innings in relief by Martinez in 1993 has been topped by a Dodgers pitcher only one time since — by Guillermo Mota, with 105 innings in 2003.
But with Jody Reed heading into free agency, the Dodgers were in need of a second baseman. The Dodgers offered Reed a three-year contract worth a guaranteed $7.8 million, per Ross Newhan of the Los Angeles Times, but Reed declined. The Dodgers instead acquired All-Star second baseman Delino DeShields from the Expos in exchange for Martinez.
The trade occurred on Nov. 19, 1993, the same day Tupac Shakur was arrested in a forcible sodomy case. But it is the Dodgers who will regret that date Until The End of Time.
Of Martinez's talent there was no question, but the Dodgers never saw him as durable enough to start while Montreal disagreed.
"In order to get a player the caliber and the quality of a DeShields, you have to give up something," Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda . "We had to have this guy because we felt we needed speed in the lineup. As an everyday player, we feel he will be more valuable to us than the relief pitcher."
"Pedro is one of the top young arms in the National League," Expos general manager Dan Duquette told the Associated Press. "His addition will bolster our pitching rotation. Our staff feels he will quickly develop into a front-line starter."
Again, emphasis mine.
Martinez didn't miss a start in the strike-shortened 1994 season, then all he did was average 30 starts and 205 innings over the next 11 years, from 1995-2005, including finishing in the top 10 in his league in innings pitched six times.
Pedro Martinez as a rookie with the Dodgers in 1993 (Photo: Getty Images)
Center fielder Brett Butler knew right away the Dodgers made a mistake, telling The Times, "In a nutshell, I guess I'm blown away that they traded probably one of the best pitchers we had on the staff."
Martinez owns the highest career ERA+ (154) by a starter. Clayton Kershaw, through age 26, is second on that list at 151, and he helps to illustrate Pedro's greatness.
Kershaw won the last two National League Cy Young Awards with sub-2.00 ERAs, with ERA+ of 194 and 197, and Wins Above Replacement of 7.8 and 7.5 (Baseball-Reference version), or 6.6 and 7.2 (FanGraphs version). Martinez topped those marks five different times (four, using B-R WAR) in a seven-year span from 1997-2003, a period that saw Martinez win three Cy Young Awards, finish second twice, and finish third in another season.
The 5'11, 170-pound right-hander proved durable enough to strikeout over 300 batters twice in a season (1997 and 1999), and ended his career with 3,154 strikeouts, 13th all-time.
Martinez went 219-100 in his career, which ended in 2009. He lost both of his World Series starts for the Phillies against the Yankees, but his final moment in the sun came at Dodger Stadium, in Game 2 of the NLCS. Martinez allowed only two hits in seven scoreless innings and left leading 1-0, but the Dodgers rallied for two runs in the eighth inning to win the game and even the series.
This is the first year for Martinez on the ballot, and he is a lock to gain the necessary 75 percent for induction to Cooperstown. Of the 142 ballots so far made public through Sunday evening, Martinez appears on 139 (97.9 percent), per Ryan Thibs. The only question is whether Martinez will receive the highest total, or will that honor go to Randy Johnson, another first-timer who thus far is on 140 of 142 known ballots.
This is the third year on the ballot for Piazza, who received 62.2 percent last year. With 571 ballots cast last year, Piazza fell 74 votes shy. Using Thibs' tracker, Piazza has already gained 17 votes this year through 142 known ballots, but he'll need to continue adding at that rate to come close to the 75-percent threshold.
The good news for Piazza is that, even if it doesn't happen in 2015, history is on his side. All but three other players to receive at least 60 percent on the BBWAA ballot ended up eventually elected to the Hall of Fame. One of those is Craig Biggio, who fell two votes shy in 2014 and is almost certain to receive good news on Tuesday. The other two were Gil Hodges, who first topped 60 percent in 1976, his eighth of 15 years on the ballot; and Jack Morris, who didn't hit 60 percent until his 13th year on the ballot, in 2012.
Players can now be on the ballot for up to 10 - not 15 - years, so Piazza has seven more chances to bridge the gap if he doesn't quite make it in 2015.
Piazza won National League Rookie of the Year honors in 1993 and made five All-Star teams in his first five years with the Dodgers, and finished second in MVP voting twice, in 1996 and 1997. But amid a contract dispute, Piazza was traded in 1998, on the same day Frank Sinatra died.
There is an argument to be made that Piazza's biggest impact came with the Dodgers, as he had a higher OPS+ (160 to 136) and higher WAR (31.9 to 24.5, Baseball-Reference version) in Los Angeles than with the Mets, but that won't matter in the end.
Piazza ended up with the Mets playing more games (972 to 726), amassing more hits (1,028 to 896), home runs (220 to 177), doubles (193 to 115), RBI (655 to 563) and runs scored (532 to 443), and he made his only World Series with the Mets.
Ultimately it is the Hall of Fame's call, but with Piazza's preference to wear a Mets cap in Cooperstown there is almost no way he will enter the Hall with "LA" atop his bronzed head.
Like Martinez, Piazza is a great who got away from the Dodgers far too soon.
Other players on the Hall of Fame ballot this year who spent at least part of their careers with the Dodgers include Jeff Kent, in his second year on the ballot after receiving 15.2 percent last year, and Fred McGriff, in his sixth year on the ballot and got 11.7 percent in 2014. First-timers on the ballot include Gary Sheffield, Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Schmidt.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is in his 15th and final year on the ballot, while first base coach Mark McGwire is in his ninth year.
The Internet Baseball Writers Association of America also conducted its Hall of Fame vote, with ballots due by Dec. 31. Unlike the BBWAA, the IBWAA ballot can include up to 15 names (not 10). With the caveat that the IBWAA has already elected Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio, and the BBWAA-inducted Barry Larkin hasn't yet been elected by the IBWAA, here is my 2015 IBWAA ballot:
Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Jeff Kent, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, John Smoltz, Alan Trammell and Larry Walker.
Reed, after turning down that guaranteed $7.8 million over three years from the Dodgers, signed a one-year deal in 1994 with the Brewers that guaranteed him $350,000. With bonuses, Reed earned a total of $750,000 that year, and per Baseball-Reference made a total of $2.875 million over the final four seasons of his career.
A Hall of Fame blunder.