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Three more for baseball’s Hall

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Bagwell, Raines, Rodriguez make up Class of 2017

The Baseball Writers Association of America has voted to add three more names to the rolls at Cooperstown. Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez all received more than the requisite 75 percent of the votes necessary to achieve enshrinement.

There were also a pair of near-misses in Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero, both of whom received more than 70 percent of the vote. In truth, we were just 20 total votes – 5 for Hoffman and 15 for Guerrero – from the first elected five-man Hall of Fame class since the very first one back in 1936.

Still, three’s pretty good, continuing the recent trend of inclusivity that will hopefully clear out the backlog of deserving ballot underperformers and fill the hallowed halls of the Hall with the still-waiting great players who very much warrant a plaque of their own.

Jeff Bagwell was the highest vote-getter of the trio, getting in with 86.2 percent in his seventh year on the ballot. While his counting stats are a bit truncated due to an injury-shortened career (a significant portion of which he spent in the cavernous Astrodome), he still managed to hit 449 homers and surpassed 1,500 in both RBI and runs scored; his slash line - .297/.408/.540 – is exceptional. In addition, he was solid in the field and one of the best first basemen ever on the base paths – he’s got a Gold Glove and 202 career steals. Throw in a Rookie of the Year award and an MVP and you’ve got what looks like a rock-solid case. By some measures, he’s one of the best all-around first basemen since WWII. Unsubstantiated PED whispers are the only thing that kept him waiting, but after seven years, Bagwell is in.

Tim Raines (86 percent) waited even longer for his enshrinement, finally getting the call in his tenth and final year of eligibility. The speedster played 23 years in the big leagues, finishing up with over 2,600 hits, nearly 1,600 runs scored and almost 1,000 RBI. His slash line of .294/.385/.425 is excellent considering the era in which he played. And of course there are the stolen bases – 808 of them in fact, stolen at a success rate of just under 85 percent, making Raines the most efficient high-volume baserunner ever. The fact that it took Raines this long to get in is baffling. One could make an argument that he was the second-best leadoff hitter ever; sometimes, it seemed like his biggest crime was not being Rickey Henderson. Still – better late than never.

On the flip side, we have our sole first-year inductee in Ivan Rodriguez, who just crossed the threshold with 76 percent of the vote. Pudge is considered by many to be one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) defensive catchers of all time, not least because of his cannon of an arm; he threw out more than half of all baserunners who attempted to steal on him. He holds the record for catching Gold Gloves with 13 and is the all-time leader in total games caught. He was also a pretty good offensive player; among his 2,844 hits were 311 homers and 572 doubles and he scored and drove in 1,354 and 1,332 runs, respectively. He was also your 1999 AL MVP. It’s a bit of a surprise that Rodriguez got in on the first ballot (only the second catcher ever to do so); he was subject to many of the same whispers as Bagwell, with the added stigma of being called out by Jose Canseco. Regardless, he deserves to be here.

Hoffman and Guerrero were tantalizingly close. Hoffman came tantalizingly close in his second year on the ballot at 74 percent; while voters are still struggling to reconcile modern closers and the Hall, his massive saves total (601) will be enough eventually. Ideally, he gets in next year before Mariano Rivera hits the ballot in 2019. As for Guerrero, 71.7 percent of the vote is a strong initial showing – he’s a bit shy of some of the counting stat milestones, but he managed nearly 450 homers and 1,500 RBI in a relatively short career. He also batted .318, won an MVP award and was generally one of the most fun players to watch in the game. He’ll get his due.

As for the rest – Edgar Martinez continues to make great strides in the voting. He’s got two more years after this one; he pulled nearly 60 percent this time, making his once-unlikely induction seem very possible. PED poster children Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens both landed in the mid-50s; time seems to be eroding the steroidal stain on their records. They’re both just halfway through their stretch on the ballot – all indications are that the evolution of the voting body will bode well for them both. And don’t be surprised if Mike Mussina becomes the latest cause celebre for the sabermetrics crowd; he’s over 50 percent and making big gains each year with six more to go.

Red Sox-related notables include Curt Schilling (45 percent in his fifth year on the ballot) and a trio of first-timers in Manny Ramirez (23.8 percent), Jason Varitek (two votes) and Tim Wakefield (one vote). Schilling’s antagonism and Ramirez’s drug travails will likely hinder them considerably; conversely, it was nice of someone to include Varitek and Wakefield. Alas, former Bangor resident Matt Stairs did not manage any votes.

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