(Reuters) - The doors to Cooperstown could swing open to another large class of baseball greats as pitchers Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez top a slew of candidates awaiting Hall of Fame voting results to be announced on Tuesday.
Johnson, a five-time Cy Young Award winner as his league’s top pitcher, and three-time recipient Martinez loom as likely inductees with fellow first-ballot pitching candidate John Smoltz also in the running.
Last year, three players -- pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and slugger Frank Thomas -- won election in their first time on the ballot and that large class may be exceeded in this vote by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Besides Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz, versatile Houston Astros hitter Craig Biggio, who finished with 3,060 hits, is poised to reach the required 75 percent of votes cast after finishing an agonizing two votes short last year.
Mike Piazza, one of Major League Baseball’s best hitting catchers, received 62.2 percent of 571 votes cast last year and could take the next step in his second year of eligibility.
Other first-timers up for consideration include former shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, outfielder Gary Sheffield, and first baseman Carlos Delgado.
The annual vote may also foreshadow future prospects of dominant players such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who have been snubbed so far over suspected use of performance enhancers.
Seven-times Most Valuable Player Bonds and seven-time Cy Young winner Clemens both received less than 40 percent of votes in their first two years on the ballot but attitudes could be softening about shutting them out of the Cooperstown shrine.
A rules change by the Hall’s board of directors may affect their controversial candidacies as players now remain on the ballot for up to 10 years, down from the previous 15-year window of eligibility.
Credentials are clear-cut for the intimidating, 6-foot-10 Johnson, who began his 22-year career in 1988 with the Montreal Expos.
Nicknamed the “Big Unit,” Johnson won the 1995 American League Cy Young with the Seattle Mariners and claimed the National League honor four seasons in a row with the Arizona Diamondbacks starting in 1999.
A 303-game winner, the hard-throwing lefthander with a knee-buckling slider, finished second on the all-time strikeouts list with 4,875.
Martinez, 219-100, also won Cy Youngs in both leagues taking two in the AL with the Red Sox and one in the NL with Montreal.
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue