Four players will enter Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame in 2015, the first time since 1955 that four players have been selected in one year, but the annual voting process for the prestigious honor remains controversial.
Three of the four players elected for 2015 by the Baseball Writers Association of America are pitchers: lefthander Randy Johnson and righthanders Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz. The other selection was Craig Biggio, who played his entire 20-year MLB career with the Houston Astros, primarily as a second baseman. He missed by two votes last year.
The voters, of which there were 549 this time, can vote for no more than 10 players who played at least 10 seasons and have been retired for at least five years. A player must appear on 75 percent of the ballots to gain entry to the Hall in Cooperstown, New York.
There are other specific rules that many observers and voters oppose, but the primary one changed for this year is that a player can be considered for only 10 years. The previous time limit was 15 years.
There are no automatic entries based on playing statistics or achievements. Plus, a player drops off the annual ballot if he does not receive at least 5 percent of the vote. Surprisingly, there has never been a unanimous selection, and no broadcasters, officials, or past or present players have ever been permitted to vote.
Johnson, who won 303 games and was a five-time Cy Young Award winner as his league's best pitcher, was named on 534 of the 549 ballots. That 97.3 percentage was the eighth best ever. He played for six teams, but mostly with the Seattle Mariners in the American League and the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League.
Martinez, from the Dominican Republic, was a three-time Cy Young Award winner and played for five teams. He was best known for his time with the Boston Red Sox, whom he helped win the World Series in 2004. He appeared on 91.1 percent of the ballots.
Smoltz, an Atlanta Braves starting pitcher for nearly all of his career, received 82.9 percent of the votes. He helped the Braves win the 1995 World Series, and he won the National League Cy Young Award in 1996.
Mike Piazza, considered one of the best catchers of all time, fell about 5 percent short of gaining entry, with 69.9 percent of the vote.
Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz and Biggio will be formally inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at a special ceremony on July 26 in Cooperstown.