Our baseball experts reveal their Hall of Fame picks

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • In the running for the baseball Hall of Fame class of 2015 are first-time candidates Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz. After that, Craig Biggio got 74.8 percent of the vote last year, so he could make it.áThen, perhaps not likely but getting votes are Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Lee Smith, Don Mattingly, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina and Alan Trammell.

      In the running for the baseball Hall of Fame class of 2015 are first-time candidates Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz. After that, Craig Biggio got 74.8 percent of the vote last year, so he could make it.áThen, perhaps not likely but getting votes are Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Lee Smith, Don Mattingly, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina and Alan Trammell. Photo illustration by Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

 
 

The squeeze play is on.

It's on for Hall of Fame voters. And it's on for players on the ballot.

This year's ballots for the National Baseball Hall of Fame are being collected and processed, and voters no doubt discovered there was too much of a good thing going on.

First-time candidates Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz all look to have Hall-worthy credentials, and they join a crowded ballot. It also features Craig Biggio, who received 74.8 percent of the vote last year, agonizingly short of the 75 percent needed for induction in a class that featured Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas.

Veteran members of the Baseball Writers Association of America make up the electorate for regular Hall of Fame balloting, and they also saw the names of Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Lee Smith, Don Mattingly, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina and Alan Trammell on the ballot.

And, of course, all of those guys were on the ballot again, too: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa.

Problem is, each voter may vote for no more than 10 candidates. The Hall also tightened the eligibility timeline.

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Candidates now will be on the ballot for up to 10 years, instead of 15, provided they garner at least 5 percent of the vote. (Smith, Mattingly and Trammell, who are between 10 and 15 years, will get the full 15, as they were grandfathered in.)

The squeeze play is so tight that during baseball's winter meetings, the BBWAA recommended that voters be able to choose up to 12 former players. The final decision rests with the Hall of Fame.

As always, instructions to electors are wonderfully simple: "Voting shall be based on the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."

The Daily Herald has four Hall of Fame voters: White Sox writer Scot Gregor, Cubs writer Bruce Miles and columnists Mike Imrem and Barry Rozner.

Here is how we voted:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Bruce Miles

I'm going with a full ballot of 10 candidates again, and as it did last year it pains me to leave off deserving candidates. I'd love to be able to vote for at least 12 this year.

As has been the case in the past, I'm still not ready to vote for Bonds, Clemens or Sosa. I've always maintained that "time is on my side," even though that time is running shorter. I still want to hear more.

With the seemingly no-brainer candidacies of Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz, along with Biggio's oh-so-close status, it's possible that former Cub Sosa will fall off the ballot this time around.

Here is how I voted:

Jeff Bagwell

Craig Biggio

Randy Johnson

Pedro Martinez

Mike Piazza

Tim Raines

Curt Schilling

Lee Smith

John Smoltz

Alan Trammell

Scot Gregor

At this time last year, the best thing about Chicago major-league baseball was former White Sox hitting machine Frank Thomas and Cubs ace Greg Maddux being on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Sox and Cubs have made some major roster moves this off-season, so at least the 2015 season holds some promise.

As for the Hall of Fame, Thomas and Maddux made it into Cooperstown their first time on the ballot, and three new names should follow suit this year.

Randy Johnson, one of the top left-handed starters the game has ever seen, right-handed starter Pedro Martinez, who led the majors in ERA five times, and right-hander John Smoltz, the only pitcher in history with 200 wins and 150 saves, should be shoo-ins.

Once again, I'll take a pass on players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa due the overwhelming PED suspicions.

Here is how I voted:

Jeff Bagwell

Craig Biggio

Randy Johnson

Pedro Martinez

Mike Piazza

Tim Raines

Curt Schilling

John Smoltz

Mike Imrem

Lee Smith missed my cut for the first time. Curt Schilling edged Mike Mussina and Jeff Bagwell edged Gary Sheffield.

Until the steroid guys are elected or ineligible, there won't be enough slots on the ballot to include all the worthy candidates.

Here is how I voted:

Jeff Bagwell

Barry Bonds

Roger Clemens

Randy Johnson

Pedro Martinez

Mark McGwire

Mike Piazza

Curt Schilling

John Smoltz

Sammy Sosa

Barry Rozner

Editor's note: Barry wrote a column on his Hall of Fame vote in our Dec. 21 editions. His full commentary is available online at http://tinyurl.com/p8eorhj.

Here is how he voted:

Craig Biggio

Barry Bonds

Randy Johnson

Pedro Martinez

Mike Mussina

Mike Piazza

Tim Raines

Curt Schilling

Lee Smith

John Smoltz

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