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Three new Hall of Famers land in Cooperstown

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From left to right, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez at the July 30, 2017 Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown. From left to right, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez at the July 30, 2017 Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown. (photos courtesy the Associated Press)

Bagwell, Raines, Rodriguez headliners of Class of 2017

One of sport’s most hallowed Halls officially has some new members.

Three more names were added to the rolls at Cooperstown, courtesy of voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez all received more than the requisite 75 percent of the votes necessary to achieve enshrinement.

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 stat totals are truncated due to an injury-shortened career (a significant portion of which he spent in the cavernous Astrodome), he still managed 449 homers while surpassing 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 helped keep him waiting, but after seven years, Bagwell is in.

Tim Raines waited even longer for his enshrinement, finally getting the call in his tenth and final year of eligibility after receiving 86 percent of the vote. 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 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.

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 2017 being the first elected five-man Hall of Fame class since the very first one back in 1936.

Still, three’s pretty darned 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 plaque of their own.

Hoffman and Guerrero were tantalizingly close. Hoffman just missed with 74 percent in his second year on the ballot; while voters are still struggling to reconcile modern closers and the Hall, his massive saves total (601) will get him in soon. 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 first-ballot 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 – again, probably next year.

Speaking of next year – even with the high number of recent inductees, the backlog of qualified players remains significant. Edgar Martinez pulled nearly 60 percent this time, making his once-unlikely induction seem very possible, but he’s only got a couple of years left on the ballot. PED poster children Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have seen a steady climb in their vote totals; 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. Mike Mussina’s past 50 percent as well; with six years to go, he’ll be fine.

Oh, and then there’s the little matter of upcoming ballot newcomers. Chipper Jones is comfortably one of the best third basemen of all time and Jim Thome has 612 homers without a whiff of PED scandal; they’re probably both first-ballot guys. Guys like Scott Rolen and Andruw Jones who also deserve real consideration are coming too.

Bagwell, Raines, Rodriguez – a HOF class that is both large and deserving. Let’s hope that the BBWAA keeps it up, throwing wide the gates for all of the players that warrant inclusion in Cooperstown.

Last modified on Wednesday, 02 August 2017 10:32


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