Jamie Garrett, Huge Baseball Fan, Remembers Today’s Hall of Fame Inductees
Once upon a time, baseball was a pitcher's game. The hitter was, more often than not, at a huge disadvantage. Then came steroids. One mistake became a three-run home run. Today's trio of pitchers still blew past the best science could offer.
When I think of Randy Johnson, I'll always remember the intimidation he brought to the mound. He'd already won the battle by the time the batter hit the box. It was only a matter of execution at that point.
Early in his career, The Big Unit was nothing more than a freak show. Stuck in the miserable northwest, where the Supersonics were the only winning team around, Johnson and Ken Griffey, Jr. seemed destined for failure year after year.
Suddenly, Johnson began to transform (some wonder if the transformation was helped by PEDs, but not me). Johnson went from being a flamethrower to being a pitcher. His fastball may have struck fear into the hearts (and exposed body parts) of hitters, but it was his slider that got the job done.
Seattle came close to making it to the World Series, but it was a trade to Houston, followed by free agency in the desert, that turned Randy Johnson into a champion. The Arizona Diamondbacks, taking on the mighty New York Yankees just a month after 9/11, won game 7 in the bottom of the 9th after Johnson had carried the team on his back over the 7-game series.
He may have won it all in Arizona, but when I think of the Big Unit I'll always think back to those ugly uniforms in that canyon of a stadium in which he played. The mullet. The necklaces. The intimidation. That was Randy Johnson.
Pedro Martinez, the man with the jheri curl, was a flamethrower on and off the mound. One of Boston's self-proclaimed "idiots" that won the city's first World Series title in several generations of Boston Chowda' Heads.
There was a five or six year period when Pedro Martinez was the most dominant pitcher in baseball. It was during that time that Pedro's star off the field was as bright as on it. Remember Mini-Pedro?
Pedro pitched at the peak of the steroids controversy, which included teammates and close friends Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, but was never linked personally.
Martinez was a regular at the top of the leader boards for ERA, K's and wins between '97 & '03, but it's that World Series title that separates Pedro from all the other Martinez's that came before. 3 Cy Young Awards in 4 seasons speaks to the dominance we saw during his peak.
John Smoltz, one of baseball's most versatile pitcher of the past 30 years, rounds out our trio of pitchers in this year's Baseball Hall of Fame class.
The 21-year career of John Smoltz should have made him the biggest star south of the Mason Dixon Line, but thanks to playing 3rd fiddle to fellow HOFers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux Smoltz flew under the radar.
Due to a potentially career-ending Tommy John surgery Smoltz was moved to the bullpen following his recovery in 2001. Smoltz went on to save more than 150 games, becoming the only pitcher in MLB history to have both 200 wins and 150 saves in a career.
Smoltz is also the only MLB pitcher in history to record both a 20-win season and a 50-save season. The list of accomplishments are huge, and it's good that Smoltz doesn't have to share the Atlanta radio and TV airwaves with Glavine & Maddux so he can get all the credit he deserves for a career that spanned five presidencies.
It's the presence of Smoltz in the rotation, or the bullpen, that propelled the Braves in the postseason. While his two higher-profile pitching partners may have been known to falter in the postseason, Smoltz compiled a 15-4 career postseason record to go along with an ERA well under 2.00.
Craig Biggio was part of the Killer B's in Houston that saw that highest of highs and the lowest of lows during a Houston career that saw him become the 9th hitter in MLB history to record 3,000+ hits with just one team.
Craig Biggio is the type of baseball player I grew up admiring. Ryne Sandberg was always my favorite player, and Biggio is built in the same mold. Nothing Biggio does gets its proper due on paper, but his presence on the field goes beyond stats and numbers.
Biggio was the typical gritty baseball player that excelled through hard work. Biggio's career average of .281 doesn't scream Hall of Fame, but anyone that watched Biggio play knew exactly what he meant to his team.
Biggio's willingness to put the team before himself shows itself in his record for most times being hit by a pitch in a career, yet he didn't take a trip to the disabled list over the course of the first 1,800 games he played.
It took a while longer to gain the respect of the nation's baseball fans and writers. Playing for the Houston Astros, despite a huge market size, kept Biggio out of the spotlight most of the regular season. Biggio played at a time when it was a lot harder to fight games on TV. It was only when Biggio willed the Astros into the pennant race or postseason that the world began to see him on a regular basis.
Take last year's Hall of Fame vote as an example of Biggio's lack of respect. Biggio fell just two votes shy of making it into the Hall on his first attempt, not because of what he did or didn't do, but because he was just "there" for so long he doesn't have the instant respect among voters.
Biggio's general proximity to steroid users in the Houston clubhouse may have also played a role in the delay in getting him into the Hall, but for his former teammate Jeff Bagwell the wait may be quite a bit longer because of that steroid controversy.