Randy Johnson is my lone pick for the Hall




Update: Johnson was elected to the Hall along with Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio.

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor | Commentary

“There can be only one.”

Those were my thoughts on the Baseball Hall of Fame voting as we headed into the announcement of this year’s inductees this afternoon at 2 p.m. Eastern. In my mind, the only lock for the Hall via the Baseball Writers’ Association of America is Randy Johnson, the hard-throwing lefty who won 303 games, won five Cy Young Awards and won a World Series title in 22 seasons.

Oh, and he also ranks second on the all-time strikeouts list behind Nolan Ryan.

Could there be more than one? Sure, but I am not counting on it with all the variables and morals debates that go into the voting. For the record, I’m a “no” on Pete Rose (who is not on the ballot), Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens — and Mark McGwire doesn’t have the numbers, besides homers, anyway. Disagree with me? Comment below.

The irony here for collectors Johnson is the only one of those mentioned who perhaps didn’t captivate the masses with single-season or other historic performances that sold cardboard en masse at some point. Ryan? Strikeout king. Rose? Hit king. Bonds and McGwire? Single-season home run kings. Clemens? King of age-defying dominating comebacks. Sure, Johnson rattled off four Cy Youngs in a row in Arizona, but I’m not sure he was much of a hobby darling despite his ultimate final status as an undeniable all-time great.

Why is that? One, it’s harder for a pitcher to consistently sell cardboard unless that last name is Ryan. It’s just true. Sure, there are big names but they don’t often stay that way long. What goes up must come down isn’t just for card values it’s for win totals, too. (Looking back, Johnson won 20 games just three times.) Two, Johnson played for so many teams that I think that hurts him — Expos, Mariners, Astros, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Diamondbacks again, Giants. That creates a good bit of variety on cardboard, but splinters a fan base that buys cards. Three, timing. His Rookie Cards arrived in 1989 — a year that’s ultimately pretty forgettable except for the Upper Deck set. Johnson’s Expos cards (and Mariners cards in 1989 update sets) take a definite back seat to another future Hall of Famer, Ken Griffey Jr., among others. He shouldn’t, but he just does.

Johnson’s autograph hasn’t been plentiful through the years — he has only 930 different certified autographs among his 10,838 cards valued at more than $112,000 (excluding rarities) in the Beckett database. Griffey, for example, has 1,684 autos — and still might be more-plentiful per card than Johnson.

To me, Johnson is the only lock on this year’s ballot. (Beckett.com readers agreed.) Sure, others such as John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez and Craig Biggio might come close. The ballot limit of 10 and voters’ hangups about the morals clause might derail the chances of others down the line, too.

What are the instructions for those who have a ballot? Simple, the “voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played” — there are no other parameters. They either are — or they aren’t — and that decision is up to the voters. Their collective notion gets a player into the Hall if they appear on 75 percent of the ballots cast. 

Who will get in? Who will inevitably be “snubbed” or come oh-so-close? We’ll find out in a few hours.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Sports Card Monthly magazines. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.


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  1. J.R. 6 January, 2015 at 11:25

    Chris, I mean this in the nicest way possible, but your take on this is just bad. There can be only one?! What?

    First, in terms of dominance, Pedro was just as dominant, if not more, than Randy over the course of his career. Over his 18 seasons, just 4 of them resulted in a winning percentage UNDER 64%. In the absolute HEIGHT of the Steroid Era, 1997-2003, Pedro put up this stat line: 118W-36L, .766 winning percentage, 2.20 ERA, and an unreal .94 WHIP and 11.3 K/9.

    The voters should be able to vote for whomever they want, however many they want per ballot. It’s a simple question: Is candidate X a HOFer? Yes or no. The voting limit of 10 players per ballot is absurd and arbitrary.

    No one is debating whether Randy is a HOFer. He is a lock, and one of the top 5-6 pitchers in the history of the game. But to say there can be only one? Disagree.

    “The irony here for collectors Johnson is the only one of those mentioned who perhaps didn’t captivate the masses with single-season or other historic performances that sold cardboard en masse at some point.” Um, what?!? His 1995 postseason was unreal. His 2001 World Series performance was Bumgarner-esque, one of the greatest in WS history. He had a 20K game, a PERFECT game, and blew up a bird with a pitched ball, on accident. His 2002 season, coming off a WS win, going 24-5 with a low 2-ERA, and 330+ K’s stands up against any great season ever. He is a cardboard and baseball icon in two cities, Seattle and Arizona, and is perhaps the most feared pitcher since Bob Gibson.

    And yes, he should take a back seat to Ken Griffey Jr. in 1989 sets, because Griffey was a mega-star with some of the best talent in the history of the game, too.

  2. phillies_joe 6 January, 2015 at 11:46

    I totally disagree….Pedro makes it also, so there is 2. I think we can have 4 (Johnson, Pedro, Smoltz, Biggio) with Piazza a maybe.

    Agree with your take on his meandering affecting collectability. He did however have his greatest yeas for 2 clubs with very small overall appeal which affects it more.

  3. David D 6 January, 2015 at 12:06

    Agreed- completely! Johnson is definitely a first ballot candidate and should get in with a large majority vote!

  4. Ben E 6 January, 2015 at 15:35

    Although we already know he got in at this point, I want to reiterate some of the comments here about Pedro. There was a question posted on the forum last year that simply asked who was the greatest pitcher of all time. I will acknowledge that this is up for debate but I am pasting my original response to that question here:

    I believe the objective of pitching is to prevent runs from being scored which would bring in the ERA factor, however, in reality the real objective is to prevent the opportunity to score runs, so I think WHIP is a more important statistic in measuring a true pitchers value. At first I thought Rivera would be my selection, but as I thought about it more, Mo had the advantage of coming in one inning (sometimes more) at a time in which the batters have had 7 or 8 innings of another pitcher’s timing. Believing that timing is everything in hitting, I have to go with a starting pitcher who typically faced a batter 3 times before being removed. With all of that said, I must go with Pedro Martinez who led the league in WHIP 6 times and finished in the top 5 ten times. I’ll take the contemporary guy who walked and gave up hits to the fewest number of guys per inning over anybody else since 1917 excluding Rivera.

    How a guy with those credentials could not be viewed as a first ballot Hall of Famer I cannot comprehend.

  5. chrisolds 6 January, 2015 at 20:07

    Guess some of you guys missed the sentence that said “Could there be more than one? Sure…”

    Also from later in the piece: “Sure, others such as John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez and Craig Biggio might come close …” It noted the precise Hall class.

    They just came closer than I expected. I expected the Hall voters to be stingier than they were — just as I would be.

  6. Wayne Koch 11 January, 2015 at 01:56

    I agree with Chris, the Hall of Fame SHOULD be reserved for those special players who were special over a large part of their career, not those who were very good for a short time, or who had one or two accomplishments. Thus, large numbers inducted into the HOF are not desirable or likely.
    I DO think some adjustments are needed, as there are now 30 teams, and many more players participating than before, but the criteria remains the same. The best of the best only, not the very good. Naturally, this is only my opinion, but I would rather see a few of my choices not make it than see the HOF become crowded with marginal inductees. My ballot would have been short, probably Johnson and Smoltz, MAYBE Pedro or Piazza. What say you?

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