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Baseball Hall of Fame ballots released

The 2015 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballots have been released. There are a few players with Cardinals connections making their first appearance on the ballot along with several prominent holdovers.

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The Baseball Hall of Fame has revealed the ballot for 2015, to be voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America. There are 34 candidates, split evenly between newly eligible players and holdovers from last year's vote. The new candidates include some players bound to get a ton of support.

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.

Of those listed above, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez are two of the greatest pitchers of all-time, and should find the support needed to make it in on the first try. John Smoltz, who ended his fantastic career with the Cardinals, split his time between great starter and shutdown closer and should find considerable support as well, although his election is not as assured given the number of candidates.

Another player with just a short time with the Cardinals, Troy Percival, will also be on the ballot. Percival saved 358 games and put up a 1.80 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 40 innings pitched in 2007 for the Cardinals, but he will be lucky to see his candidacy make it another season. Carlos Delgado had a very good career, and under normal circumstances would see a few years on the ballot, but with all of the worthy candidates is in danger of failing to receive the 5% of the vote necessary to remain on the ballot. Sheffield had a a Hall of Fame-worthy career, but the stain of BALCO will likely keep him down in the voting for a few years.

The reason the ballot is so stuffed is due to holdover candidates who are either on the cusp of election or dangling in the middle due to suspicions of steroid use during their careers.

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%), Tim Raines (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%).

There are probably a dozen or so worthy Hall of Famers returning to the ballot from last year along with the new candidates who have great cases for the Hall. Voters are allowed to vote for only ten candidates and that rule likely cost Biggio a spot last year. He is likely to push through this season, but it is not clear if Piazza, Bagwell, and Raines will get the votes necessary for election this season. The next few votes are particularly important to Raines, as he is in his eighth year on the ballot, and rule changes after last year's vote allow only ten years on the ballot. Mattingly (15th), Smith (13th), and Trammell (14th) have been grandfathered in and will receive the full fifteen votes.

Former Cardinals Lee Smith, Mark McGwire, and Larry Walker all have a very difficult road to travel to election. Smith's support had been fairly steady in the 40-50% range over the last half dozen years, but with so many names on the ballot last year, his support fell to 29%. Smith bridged the gap among reliever eras, pitching in the fireman era of Gossage and Sutter before becoming a one-inning compiler and setting the all-time record for saves, since broken. The early part of his career is often forgotten and he is looked upon as solely a compiler of saves, but he was elite during the 80s. He probably does not deserve to be a Hall of Famer, but Bruce Sutter is in and Smith was better than Trevor Hoffman, a player who will get consideration once he is eligible.

Mark McGwire used steroids during the steroid era and put up Hall of Fame numbers. The suspicions surrounding surrounding his steroid use kept him down on the ballot in his first years of eligibility. Writers demanded an admission and an apology for using steroids so that we could all move on. McGwire admitted to steroid use and the writers moved on. McGwire has just one more year after this one on the ballot, and getting 5% of the vote to stay on the ballot is no guarantee for him this year.

Larry Walker had a great career, spanning the Expos, Rockies, and Cardinals. Coors effect or not, his numbers were incredible. His career might be lacking in the longevity department due to a few injuries, but he produced at incredible levels on both offense and defense. From 1992-2002, an eleven year period, Walker averaged roughly 5 wins above replacement, per fangraphs and baseball-reference. If the logjam can get cleared over the next few years, hopefully people will take a longer look at Walker's career.

Ken Boyer is on the Veteran's committee list of finalists and this site will run a longer feature on his career as we move closer to the election results.