Baseball Hall of Fame

MLB.com writers reveal ballots

Fourteen MLB.com reporters were among those eligible to cast ballots in the 2017 Hall of Fame vote conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Here's a look at how they voted, with the announcement coming on Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET. More »

Selig, Schuerholz selected to HOF

Sights & Sounds

  • Justice on 2017 HOF ballot

    MLB.com's Richard Justice looks at several players who deserve a vote on the 2017 Hall of Fame ballot

  • Heyman on HOF vote

    Jon Heyman joins Christopher Russo on High Heat to talk about his 2017 Hall of Fame ballot and how voters handle PEDs

  • MLB Now on Mussina's HOF case

    The guys from MLB Now look back on the career of Mike Mussina to debate his case for the Hall of Fame in 2017

  • Vlad, Walker's HOF resumes

    The MLB Now crew breaks out the resumes of Vladimir Guerrero and Larry Walker as the Hall of Fame vote creeps closer

  • MLB Now: Hoffman vs. Wagner

    MLB Now takes a look at the Hall of Fame cases for eligible candidates Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner

  • MLB Now on Bonds, Clemens

    MLB Now has a heated discussion regarding the uptick in support for Hall of Fame candidates Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens

  • MLB Tonight: Hall of Fame

    On MLB Tonight, the crew analyzes the Hall of Fame nominees and their chances of being inducted

  • Claire Smith wins Spink Award

    MLB.com's Alyson Footer is joined by Claire Smith, the first female recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award

  • Schuerholz on player development

    Former Braves and Royals general manager John Schuerholz discusses how properly scouting and developing players will keep a team competitive

  • Discussing Schuerholz's career

    MLB.com's Alyson Footer, Tracy Ringolsby, Phil Rogers and Mark Bowman talk about the Hall of Fame career of John Schuerholz

  • Selig, Schuerholz on joining HOF

    Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig and former Royals and Braves general manager John Schuerholz discuss being voted into the Hall of Fame

  • Selig discusses his career

    Bud Selig talks with MLB.com about his major achievements during his long tenure as the Commissioner

  • Experts discuss Selig's legacy

    MLB.com's Michael Bauman, Paul Hagen and Richard Justice discuss the legacy of Bud Selig as he is elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame

  • Selig on his Hall election

    Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig discusses his election to the Hall of Fame

  • Selig elected to Hall of Fame

    Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Today's Game Era Committee

  • Schuerholz, Selig to Cooperstown

    Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson announces longtime executive John Schuerholz and Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig as new Hall of Famers

  • Schuerholz's Hall of Fame legacy

    On MLB Tonight, Peter Gammons discusses what made the combination of John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox so important to the success of the Braves

  • 2017 HOF candidates

    Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez and Tim Raines headline an impressive group of candidates looking to be elected to the Hall of Fame in '17

  • MLB Now: Hall of Fame ballot

    Brian Kenny, Tom Verducci, Jon Heyman and Jay Jaffey discuss some interesting players on the 2017 Hall Of Fame ballot

  • Vlad up for HOF Class of 2017

    Nine-time All-Star and 2004 AL MVP Vladimir Guerrero is a candidate to enter the Hall of Fame after an outstanding 16-year career

  • Hoffman on HOF ballot for 2017

    Trevor Hoffman, second on the all-time saves list, is a candidate to enter the Hall of Fame after a tremendous 18-year career

  • Raines on 2017 HOF chances

    Tim Raines discusses his hopes to be part of the Hall of Fame Class of 2017

  • Bagwell on 2017 ballot for HOF

    Four-time All-Star and 1994 National League MVP Jeff Bagwell is a candidate to enter the Hall of Fame after an outstanding 15-year career

  • Is 2017 Raines' turn for HOF?

    Seven-time All-Star Tim Raines is a candidate to enter the Hall of Fame after an outstanding 23-year career

  • Ramirez on 2017 ballot for HOF

    12-time All-Star and nine-time Silver Slugger Manny Ramirez is a candidate to enter the Hall of Fame after an outstanding 19-year career

  • Lee Smith on 2017 ballot for HOF

    After a fantastic 17-year career, seven-time All-Star Lee Smith is a candidate to enter the Hall of Fame in 2017

  • Posada on 2017 HOF ballot

    Jorge Posada, a five-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger, is a candidate to enter the Hall of Fame after an excellent 17-year career

  • 2017 HOF candidate: I. Rodriguez

    14-time All-Star and 1999 American League MVP Ivan Rodriguez is a candidate to enter the Hall of Fame after an outstanding 21-year career

  • Martinez on 2017 ballot for HOF

    Seven-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger Edgar Martinez is a candidate to enter the Hall of Fame after an outstanding 18-year career

Headlines

  • Early returns show Hall of Fame hopefuls on the rise

    Just 51 of the 121 men voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America gained entry on their first ballot appearance. The rest had their careers and statistics analyzed, scrutinized and sometimes politicized for anywhere from two to 15 voting periods, and the process by which players' candidacies evolve along with analytics and opinions is a fascinating one.

    The results of the 73rd BBWAA Hall of Fame election will be revealed on Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 5 p.m. ET. But thanks to the work of a fan named Ryan Thibodaux, whose accounting of publicly available ballots at his Hall of Fame Tracker site has become a must-click link for candidates and fans alike, we get a sneak preview of how voting might shake out.

    As of this writing, Thibodaux has compiled 195 public and anonymous ballots, or 44.8 percent of the estimated 435 votes cast. Obviously, with so many ballots unrevealed, the currently available results and the actual results can differ quite a bit (percentages tend to go down in the final tallies), but this polling gives us a reasonable window into what final voting might look like.

    It's a stock watch, of sorts, and these are the eight men who have seen the greatest gains in 2017.

    *Remember that players need to appear on 75 percent of ballots to be inducted and note that, to make this as fair a comparison as possible, the percentages listed below a player's name are from the publicly available ballots. A player's actual vote percentages are cited within the text where appropriate.

    Edgar Martinez (eighth year on ballot)
    2016 percentage on public ballots: 47.1
    2017: 66.3
    Difference: 19.2

    Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez and future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera called Edgar the toughest hitter they faced. Perhaps those endorsements have helped Edgar make a pretty remarkable rise as he nears the end of his eligibility (players are now capped at 10 years total).

    In Martinez's first three years on the ballot, he finished north of 30 percent. Then, in 2014-15, when first-ballot entrants Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Pedro crowded the ballot, Edgar dipped to 25.2. But last year, he made a dramatic leap, and the public ballots seem to indicate another big surge this year. It won't be enough to get Martinez entry yet, but his chances of induction are suddenly looking a lot stronger than they did two years ago.

    Barry Bonds (fifth year)
    2016: 45.5
    2017: 64.6
    Difference: 19.1

    Roger Clemens (fifth year)
    2016: 45.8
    2017: 64.1
    Difference: 18.3

    We're pairing Bonds and Clemens here for obvious reasons. They are inevitably tied together by the stain of steroid suspicion that has sullied their otherwise obvious Hall cases. There has been plenty of public discourse about their increased Hall support, with some voters citing Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig's election via the Today's Era Committee as reason to change their minds. For others, it comes down to an evolution of thought that comes with the kind of context only time can create. Whatever the reason, the jump makes it seem much more likely that Bonds and Clemens get in.

    Interestingly, Clemens has gotten slightly more support than Bonds each of the four years they've been on the ballot, but, in these results, it's the other way around.

    Video: MLB Now on Bonds and Clemens for the Hall of Fame

    Tim Raines (10th and final year)
    2016: 74.2
    2017: 91.3
    Difference: 17.1

    As evidence of the aforementioned discrepancy between the public and final tallies, Raines fell just a tick short of the 75-percent threshold in publicly released ballots last year but was at 69.8 percent in voting. This year, in his last appearance before the BBWAA jury, Raines looks like a lock. He is the classic case of a player forced to do his time, having totals rise and fall according to the depth of a particular field.

    But time has allowed numbers like Wins Above Replacement, which didn't even exist when Raines was playing, to become more commonplace in the public consciousness, aiding Raines' case, and plenty of online campaigning has supported this surge.

    Jeff Bagwell (seventh year)
    2016: 75.8
    2017: 90.8
    Difference: 15

    Bagwell is this year's other lock, and he got to this point a little quicker than Raines did. But Bagwell's candidacy was hurt in its early years by the cloud of steroid suspicion without a shred of hard evidence. That's the same kind of suspicion that Mike Piazza faced, and Piazza's entry a year ago quite likely tipped the scales in Bagwell's favor. He fell 15 votes shy a year ago, and as we see from the public ballot gains, there's no reason to believe he won't make up that ground.

    Video: Bagwell ready for answer on Hall of Fame

    Mike Mussina (fourth year)
    2016: 48.4
    2017: 60.5
    Difference: 12.1

    Like Martinez, Mussina seems to be benefiting from the cleaning of the books that accompanied the induction of seven players total over the course of 2014-15. His first year on the ballot doubled as the first and only years for Maddux and Glavine, and his career simply didn't have that kind of acclaim attached to it. But context-driven stats like ERA+ help us better understand just how good Mussina, who pitched his entire career in the American League East during a time when offensive numbers exploded, really was. The more those stats have been bandied about, the more love Mussina has received. Last year, he saw a big jump -- from 24.6 percent to 43 percent -- in the final ballot, and it looks like he's rising again in '17, and perhaps he's slowly closing in on enshrinement.

    Larry Walker (seventh year)
    2016: 15.8
    2017: 24.1
    Difference: 8.3

    As you can see, Walker, whose numbers were inflated by Coors Field but was also pretty doggone good on the road, too, has a long way to go and little time left. It doesn't look like the BBWAA process is going to smile upon him.

    But he does have some upward mobility here. Last year, Walker's percentage on the public ballots (15.8) was almost identical to his percentage on the final ballot (15.5), so the 24.1 figure might not be far off.

    Video: Tracy Ringolsby discusses Larry Walker's HOF chances

    Trevor Hoffman (second year)
    2016: 66.5
    2017: 72.8
    Difference: 6.3

    Before you look at the this year's figure and assume Hoffman will fall just short again this year, he actually fared a little bit better in the final tally (67.3) than he did in the real tally (66.5) last year. Some voters are simply hard-liners when it comes to closers (only five players who spent the majority of their careers as relievers are in the Hall), and that could explain why Hoffman's perceived gains in his second year in this process are modest ones, relative to the others on this list.

    But Hoffman finished just 34 votes shy in his first year, and he'll probably inch closer in '17. Even if he doesn't cross the line this year, there's reason to believe Hoffman will, as usual, close it out.

    Video: MLB Tonight: Will Trevor Hoffman make the cut?

    More »
  • Smith represents last of 15-year HOF candidates

    For nearly two decades, opponents knew their time was running short when Lee Smith took the mound.

    But now, after an extended stay on the Hall of Fame ballot, Smith is in danger of seeing his own Hall of Fame chances come to a close.

    Smith, a seven-time All-Star closer, is in his 15th and final year on the Hall of Fame ballot, the results of which are set to be announced Wednesday (6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 5 p.m.). This is Smith's final opportunity to be voted in by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, and in what will make for a fun trivia question, he is the final player who will get a 15th chance. Out of a group that also included Don Mattingly, Jack Morris and Alan Trammell, Smith is the last player who was grandfathered past a Hall of Fame rule change made in 2014 that cut a player's maximum tenure on the BBWAA ballot from 15 to 10 years.

    The odds are long for Smith -- who pulled in 34.1 percent of ballots last winter -- to make the most of his final opportunity. As we bid goodbye this year to a Hall of Fame voting era, here are some things you should know about the players who spent the maximum 15 years on the BBWAA ballot:

    • A total of 39 players, including Smith, have graced the ballot a full 15 times since the Hall of Fame changed the maximum tenure from 25 years to 15 in 1962. Of the 38 men before Smith, only one, Jim Rice, gained election in his 15th and final opportunity.

    • Nine other 15-timers were later voted into the Hall of Fame as either players or managers by the Veterans Committee, with Joe Torre being the most recent (2014). Mattingly, Morris and Trammell could all get their first chance with the Today's Game Era Committee at the 2018 Winter Meetings for induction in 2019.

    • Smith will hope to avoid the heartbreak suffered by Nellie Fox, who came the closest of any 15th-year candidate without gaining election. The former White Sox second baseman garnered 74.7 percent in 1985, missing election by only two votes, but he was eventually elected 12 years later by the Veterans Committee. Pitcher Jim Bunning went through similar heartbreak and redemption, missing election by four votes in 1988 (his 12th year on the ballot); he was also elected later by the Veterans Committee.

    • Even if Smith isn't elected on Wednesday, he may hope to follow the examples of others by gaining momentum in his swan song with the BBWAA. Of the 38 previously mentioned players, 11 have earned their highest vote totals in year No. 15. That includes Rice, who garnered 76.4 percent in his final chance, and five other players (Orlando Cepeda, Bill Mazeroski, Red Ruffing, Ron Santo and Torre) who eventually reached Cooperstown via a runoff election or through the Veterans Committee.

    • Richie Ashburn, Mazeroski and Santo -- three who spent a full 15 years on the ballot -- are of particular inspiration for Smith. Ashburn debuted at just 2.1 percent, Mazeroski at just 6.1 percent and Santo at just 3.9 percent -- and now they are all Hall of Famers. Smith, meanwhile, debuted at a comparatively robust 42.3 percent of the vote in 2003.

    • If Smith doesn't get elected this year, he can take small consolation in that he faced a higher degree of difficulty than some of his peers in terms of just staying on the ballot. Eleven of the maximum-stay players before Smith garnered less than 5 percent at least once, before the Hall rigidly enforced the cutoff rule. If Smith had received less than 5 percent in any year of his ballot tenure, we wouldn't be discussing his candidacy today.

    More »
  • Signature career moments of 11 HOF candidates

    This year's Hall of Fame ballot features 34 candidates vying for a spot in Cooperstown. The group comprises a collection of elite talent and decorated resumes built upon sustained success at the pinnacle of their sport.

    Between them, these candidates boast 174 All-Star appearances, 31 World Series rings and eight Most Valuable Player Awards, along with a wide range of individual and team accomplishments that encompass their baseball legacies.

    But for many of these players, it's not simply the cumulative body of work that resonates most profoundly with their fans: It's a singular moment that they're most remembered for. A clutch home run, a dominant pitching performance or a pivotal postseason play -- a moment that defined their careers.

    As the Hall of Fame announcement nears, it's time to revisit some of the most signature moments from the players who could be headed to Cooperstown in 2017. The results of the 73rd BBWAA Hall of Fame election will be revealed Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 5 p.m.

    Ivan Rodriguez
    Considered among the best defensive catchers of all time, Rodriguez's prowess was on full display at the conclusion of the Marlins' 2003 National League Division Series against the Giants. Rodriguez withstood a major collision at the plate with the Giants' J.T. Snow, and still managed to hang onto the ball for the final out of the series as Florida advanced to the NL Championship Series en route to the franchise's second title.

    "In a series where every out counted, that was the last one and it was very emotional," Rodriguez told ESPN.com in 2012. "I've always thought that if that out didn't happen, maybe we wouldn't have made it to the World Series."

    Curt Schilling
    The end to the 86-year title drought of the Red Sox in 2004 featured a number of magical moments, many of which included players on this year's Hall of Fame ballot. But among the most iconic was none other than Schilling pitching on a hastily repaired ankle tendon, with an infamously bloody sock, in Game 6 of the American League Championhip Series against the rival Yankees. Despite his gimpy ankle, Schilling pitched seven innings, limiting the Yankees to just one run on four hits, and helping the Red Sox force a Game 7, which Boston won en route to the franchise's sixth World Series title.

    Video: 2004 ALCS Gm6: Schilling's epic performance

    Trevor Hoffman
    Hoffman converted 601 saves throughout his career, but it's Nos. 96, 97 and 98 during the final weekend of the 1996 season that likely had the most lasting impact for Padres fans. That year, the NL West race went down to the wire between the Padres and the reigning division-champion Dodgers. Hoffman recorded three straight saves -- two in extra innings -- as San Diego overcame a two-game deficit to claim its second NL West crown and first since 1984.

    "Those three [saves] on consecutive days were great to help us win the division," Hoffman said. "It was cool that there was something on the line and we put up a divisional flag rather than a Wild Card flag."

    Video: Hoffman saves three consecutive games to win NL West

    Manny Ramirez
    Among baseball's most prolific postseason hitters, Ramirez ranks first all time with 29 career homers in the playoffs. His 21st, a three-run, walk-off homer that sailed over the Green Monster in Game 2 of the 2007 ALDS, is perhaps the most memorable. Not only did that home run come in a clutch situation in a pivotal playoff game, but it was also against Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez, who was in his prime and among the game's elite relievers.

    "One of the best feelings ever," Ramirez said after the game. "In that situation, [Rodriguez] got me out so many times. But baseball's like that. Sometimes you get me, sometimes I get you. And I got him at the right time."

    Video: 2007 ALDS Gm2: Ramirez's homer wins it for Boston

    Mike Mussina
    Mussina's first-ever relief appearance in 2003 was one of the most memorable outings of his career. Mussina's Yankees were trailing, 4-0, in Game 7 of the ALCS vs. Boston to determine which club would represent the AL in the World Series. Just three days after throwing 95 pitches in a Game 4 loss, Mussina entered the game in the fourth with runners at the corners, and promptly struck out Jason Varitek before inducing an inning-ending double play. Mussina tossed two more scoreless frames, containing a potent Red Sox offense long enough for his club to make an improbable comeback.

    Video: 2003 ALCS Gm7: Mussina hurls three scoreless innings

    Edgar Martinez
    Martinez excelled in the 1995 ALDS against the Yankees, batting .571 (12-for-21) with three doubles, two home runs, 10 RBIs and six walks in the series. In Game 4, he propelled his club to a series-tying victory with a grand slam and a three-run homer for a postseason-record seven RBIs. What followed in Game 5 was a signature moment for not only Martinez, but for the entire Mariners franchise. With his team down by one run in the bottom of the 11th inning, Martinez smacked a walk-off, two-run double, advancing the Mariners to their first-ever ALCS appearance and solidifying his place in Seattle sports history.

    Video: '95 ALDS, Gm 5 NYY@SEA: Edgar hits walk-off double

    Tim Raines
    After missing Spring Training and the first month of the season while a free agent in 1987, Raines immediately made his presence known upon his return to the Expos, hitting the very first pitch he saw off the wall for a triple, then later swatting a game-winning grand slam in the 10th inning. He finished with two singles, a triple, a home run, three runs scored, a walk and a stolen base in six plate appearances. He led the Expos in runs (123), stolen bases (50) and walks (90) that year, despite not beginning his season until May 2.

    Video: MON@NYM: Raines makes his triumphant season debut

    Roger Clemens
    On April 29, 1986, Clemens became the first Major Leaguer to total 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game with one of baseball's most historic pitching performances. Then just 23 years old and coming off shoulder surgery, Clemens stifled the Mariners' bats, with his lone blemish being a solo home run he surrendered in the seventh inning. He threw 138 pitches, 97 of them for strikes.

    That 20-strikeout game was a breakout performance for Clemens, who went on to win the AL MVP and the first of his seven Cy Young Awards that year. The feat has since been replicated four times -- once by Clemens himself a decade later, on Sept. 18, 1996.

    Video: SEA@BOS: Clemens sets MLB record with 20 strikeouts

    Barry Bonds
    Bonds homered his way into the record books at AT&T Park on Aug. 7, 2007, when he hit the 756th blast of his career, moving him past Hank Aaron as MLB's all-time home run leader -- a record that stood for more than three decades after Aaron retired. While some may doubt the legitimacy of Bonds' accomplishment -- his image had been tarnished by alleged steroid use -- it was perhaps the crowning moment of a playing career that included 14 All-Star appearances, seven MVPs, eight Gold Gloves, 12 Silver Sluggers, two batting titles and several big league records.

    Video: WSH@SF: Bonds breaks Aaron's record with No. 756

    Vladimir Guerrero
    Guerrero was among the most dangerous hitters in baseball throughout his 16-year career, but he also thrilled fans with his remarkable arm, which was on full display when he threw out Todd Hundley at the plate on June 3, 1997. For a moment, Carlos Baerga had what appeared to be a likely two-run double -- until Guerrero unleashed a rocket from right field. The ball arrived with plenty of time to spare to get Hundley out at home, keeping a run off the board for the Expos.

    "Just pure, freakish talent, the most incredible hand-eye coordination you've ever seen," former Major Leaguer Darin Erstad said last month of Guerrero, his former Angels teammate. "It was like every day at the park you'd see something you'd never seen before."

    Jeff Bagwell
    While Bagwell sustained a level of excellence throughout his 15-year career that distinguishes him among other candidates likely to reach Cooperstown in 2017, it's difficult to pinpoint a signature moment that defined his time in the big leagues. The first baseman will likely be remembered for his stellar season in 1994, when he was named the NL MVP Award winner. His season didn't lack for impressive highlights, though one in particular stands out in a late June matchup against the Dodgers at the Astrodome, when Bagwell recorded his first-career three-homer game.

    Bagwell was at his best in '94, batting .368/.451/.750 with 39 home runs and leading the NL in runs (104), RBIs (116), slugging, OPS (1.201) and total bases (300). And on June 24, he helped spark a 16-run outburst for the Astros' offense with three long balls, including two in the sixth inning.

    Video: LAD@HOU: Bagwell hits three homers in the game

    More »
  • Edgar, Mussina could be next HOF 'comeback kids'

    We're less than a week away from knowing who's in the Hall of Fame's Class of 2017, and baseball fans tracking the early returns have had no shortage of storylines to discuss before the Hall's official announcement on Wednesday (6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 5 p.m.).

    One of those storylines is the mounting head of steam behind Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina, who are both hovering above 60 percent of BBWAA ballots that have been made public. When the 2014 election results were announced, Martinez -- who debuted at 36.2 percent in 2010 -- saw his percentage slip to 25.2. Mussina, in his first year on the ballot, debuted at just 20.3 percent.

    If the early returns hold true, 2017 would mark a significant step forward for the two candidates -- even if they're not elected. Even better news for these two: A handful of Hall of Famers have already shown that these kinds of comebacks are possible.

    Video: MLB Now discusses if Mussina should be elected to HOF

    To prove it, MLB.com has compiled a list of the top five ballot comebacks in the modern era of Hall of Fame voting, in order from most to least of the vote percentage they received in their first year on the BBWAA ballot. These players can be inspirations for today's Hall of Fame candidates, showing one can go from voting afterthought to baseball immortal before his ballot eligibility expires.

    (Note: By "modern era," this list only considers players who debuted on the ballot after 1954, when the Hall of Fame imposed a five-year waiting period for candidates after they retired from baseball. We're also eliminating two players from that pool -- Lou Boudreau and Ralph Kiner -- who received a handful of write-in votes from the writers before their waiting period had expired.)

    5. Bruce Sutter

    Percentage received in ballot debut: 23.9 in 1994

    Years on ballot before BBWAA election: 13

    Sutter sat third on the all-time saves list with 300 when he retired in 1988. Still, the closer didn't even clear 30 percent until his fifth year on the ballot -- only to fall back to 24.3 percent the next year. When he was finally elected in 2006, Sutter's 13-year stay on the ballot was the longest by any BBWAA electee since Ralph Kiner (also elected in Year 13) in 1975.

    Video: 1982 WS Gm7: Cardinals win the 1982 World Series

    4. Don Drysdale

    Percentage received in ballot debut: 21.0 in 1975

    Years on ballot before BBWAA election: 10

    Drysdale certainly had the "fame" requirement locked down. He teamed up with Sandy Koufax on the Dodgers' World Series teams of the 1960s, won a Cy Young Award, set a new record for consecutive scoreless innings and became a national broadcaster soon after he stepped off the diamond. The imposing righty sat above 50 percent for seven straight years before he was finally elected in 1984.

    3. Bert Blyleven

    Percentage received in ballot debut: 17.5 in 1998

    Years on ballot before BBWAA election: 14

    Blyleven might have been the first Hall candidate who benefited from a groundswell of Internet support. The right-hander sat third on baseball's all-time strikeout list when he retired in 1992, but his 287 career wins -- 13 shy of the mythical 300 total -- helped keep him out of Cooperstown for more than a decade. Blyleven fell just five votes shy of election in 2010 before finally getting the call the next winter, his second-to-last year of eligibility.

    Video: ANA@BAL: Blyleven gets his 3,500th career strikeout

    2. Duke Snider

    Percentage received in ballot debut: 17.0 in 1970

    Years on ballot before BBWAA election: 11

    It's strange now to think that Snider -- one of the famous trio of center fielders in 1950s New York baseball alongside Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays -- received only 51 votes to finish 20th on the ballot in 1970. Stranger still is the fact that Snider's longtime Dodgers teammate, Gil Hodges, finished third on that year's ballot with 48.3 percent, and yet has not been elected to the Hall to this day. Snider didn't clear 50 percent until 1977, then had to wait three more years for his election.

    Video: NYM@CIN: Duke Snider's 400th career home run

    1. Bob Lemon

    Percentage received in ballot debut: 11.9 in 1964

    Years on ballot before BBWAA election: 12

    Only 24 writers deemed Lemon as Hall of Fame-worthy when his name debuted on their ballot in 1964. Lemon was an unconventional candidate: He didn't become a full-time starting pitcher until his third Major League season (he began as a middling outfielder). After he did, however, he led the American League in complete games five times, innings pitched four times, wins three times, and strikeouts once.

    Lemon's percentage actually dipped down to seven percent in his second year on the ballot, and he didn't gain the approval of even half the electorate until year No. 10. As tough as the climb has been for Martinez and Mussina, we might never see another comeback like Lemon's again in the modern era of Hall of Fame voting.

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  • 'Awards Score' a big point for Mussina, Vlad

    Over the past few weeks, each of the 34 candidates on the 2017 Hall of Fame ballot has seen his career broken down in any number of ways, and the big reveal of the 73rd Baseball Writers' Association of America Hall of Fame election will be revealed Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 5 p.m.

    Still, one can never be too thorough when evaluating the most closely analyzed election in sports. As a different way to frame the HOF debates, MLB.com has devised a ranking system for the Class of 2017 based on how they fared historically in MVP Award and Cy Young Award votes. Here is how the "Awards Score" works: Candidates receive 10 points for each time they won either the MVP Award or Cy Young Award, nine points for each time they finished second in voting for either award, eight points for third-place finishes and so on, all the way down to one point for each 10th-place finish.

    (For example, Curt Schilling received 34 points from all the times he finished within the top 10 in Cy Young Award voting -- which included three second-place finishes and one fourth-place finish -- along with two additional points for his two 10th-place finishes in the MVP vote. That gives him a final Awards Score tally of 36.)

    Complete Hall of Fame coverage

    The votes have been counted and the rankings are in. Here are the top 10 2017 Hall of Fame candidates ranked by their Awards Score:

    1. Roger Clemens: 131
    2. Barry Bonds: 110
    3. Mike Mussina: 56
    4. Manny Ramirez: 49
    5. Vlad Guerrero: 40
    6. Jeff Bagwell: 37
    7. Curt Schilling: 36
    8. Gary Sheffield: 35
    9. Trevor Hoffman: 34
    10. Sammy Sosa: 31

    A few takeaways from our Awards Score system:

    • This is a big point in favor of Mussina, who never took home a Cy Young Award, but in a 10-year stretch from 1992-2001, collected one second-place finish, two fourth-place finishes, three fifth-place finishes and two sixth-place showings. Pair Mussina's consistent awards history with the fact that he posted a league- and park-adjusted 123 ERA+ -- all while pitching nearly two decades in the American League East -- and you have a pitcher who may have been overlooked thus far by Hall of Fame voters.

    • This list also speaks well for Guerrero, who doesn't fare was well in WAR-based HOF rankings, but had a big peak and unique playing style that made him an icon.

    Video: Guerrero's Hall of Fame chances on first ballot

    • Unsurprisingly, Clemens and Bonds soar above the rest of the pack on this year's ballot. That makes sense, given Clemens owns the record for most Cy Young Awards, and Bonds for most MVPs. In the end, Clemens enjoyed a slight advantage thanks to finishing in the top 10 in the MVP vote six times in his career, though he was the only pitcher on this year's ballot to benefit significantly from MVP finishes.

    • Mussina was routinely recognized by the BBWAA while he played, and for some reason hasn't generated that same enthusiasm on the ballot. This list tells the opposite story for Tim Raines, who finished 15th on this list with 15 points. Though Raines routinely put up high WAR seasons during his 1980s prime, he only finished in the top 10 in MVP voting three times, never placing higher than fifth. Now, in Raines' 10th and final year on the ballot, BBWAA voters might finally be making up for lost time, as the speedy left fielder is polling well above the required 75-percent mark on ballots that have been publicly released.

    Video: 'Rock' seeks Hall of Fame entry

    • Awards Score may be a decent predictor for future inductees. Seven of the 10 players atop this list -- Clemens, Bonds, Mussina, Guerrero, Bagwell, Schilling and Hoffman were named on at least 50 percent of the BBWAA ballots that were voluntarily released to the public through Jan. 11. While we certainly won't see all seven of those players get in this year, they all still have a decent shot to be voted in before their 10 years of eligibility expires.

    With the benefit of hindsight and the greater understanding of park effects and advanced metrics that has developed, there are occasions where awards voting probably didn't properly reflect a player's impact. And if they won an award they might not have deserved, a voter essentially doubles down on that "mistake" by using it as a basis for your Hall of Fame vote. However, there is no question that MVP and Cy Young votes are a strong proxy for the perception of the player while they were playing, which certainly means something.

    Counting up awards is a long way from telling the complete story of a Hall of Fame career, of course. While our list is a fun rankings exercise, the true test for these 34 men will come next week when the next group of baseball immortals are revealed. MVPs and Cy Young trophies are remembered mostly in the moment, but Hall of Fame plaques hang in Cooperstown for eternity.

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  • Raines making a final push for HOF entry

    As writers begin releasing their Hall of Fame ballots, things are looking up for Tim Raines in his 10th and final year of eligibility.

    Raines has seen his vote total steadily rise over the years, and his name appeared on 69.8 percent of the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballots last year, a big jump from 55 percent the year before.

    Compete Hall of Fame coverage

    But a lot could change before final results are revealed on Jan. 18 (live at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 5 p.m.), which could make for a nerve-wracking week for Raines and his supporters.

    In advance of the Hall of Fame class of 2017's announcement, MLB.com looks at the case for Raines and the other players on the election bubble.

    Tim Raines, LF, 1979-2002
    Career stats: .294/.385/.425, 2,605 H, 170 HR, 980 RBI, 1,571 R, 808 SB, 123 OPS+, 69.1 WAR

    HOF case, traditional stats:
    • Raines was one of the best, most efficient basestealers ever. His 808 steals rank fifth in Major League history, trailing only Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock, Billy Hamilton and Ty Cobb. But Raines' 84.7 percent stolen-base success rate isn't just the best of the bunch, it's the best of all time by any player with 400-plus attempts. And he had 954.

    • Raines' .385 career on-base percentage would rank 56th among Hall of Famers, just ahead of Willie Mays, above the .376 Hall of Fame average and better than outfielders like Duke Snider, Carl Yastrzemski, Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr. and Roberto Clemente. Raines reached base safely 3,977 times in his career -- more than contemporary Tony Gwynn, who cruised into the Hall of Fame with 97.6 percent of the vote on his first ballot.

    • Raines' 2,605 hits would tie for 58th among Hall of Famers -- more than the Cooperstown average of 2,402, and players like Ozzie Smith, Barry Larkin, Willie Stargell and Willie McCovey. His 1,330 walks would rank 24th, just ahead of Griffey.

    • Raines' .294 career batting average would tie him with Frank Robinson and Jimmy Collins for 101st among Hall of Famers -- slightly below the Hall of Fame average of .302, but ahead of players like Craig Biggio, Henderson and Joe Morgan.

    Video: 'Rock' seeks Hall of Fame entry

    HOF case, advanced stats:
    • Raines' 69.1 WAR would place him 54th among Hall of Fame position players, a hair above the average of 69 and one spot ahead of Gwynn. His WAR is also better than that of such outfielders as Andre Dawson, Dave Winfield, Rice and Brock.

    • By Jay Jaffe's WAR score, which combines career and peak WAR to compare a player to Hall of Famers at his position, Raines rates better than the average Hall of Fame left fielder, 55.6 to 53.3. In fact, both his career and peak WAR are above average.

    • Raines' 123 OPS+ would rank 96th out of those in Cooperstown, ahead of players like Ernie Banks, Paul Molitor, Ryne Sandberg and Cal Ripken Jr. (Raines' unadjusted OPS of .810 ranks 99th, ahead of Dawson, Biggio, Sandberg, Ripken, Brock and others.)

    Most similar player in the HOF: Brock. By Baseball Reference's similarity scores, which use traditional stats, Brock had the most comparable career to Raines. Another speedy left fielder and leadoff man, Brock was a .293 hitter with 776 extra-base hits, 1,571 runs and 938 steals; Raines hit .294 with 713 extra-base hits, 1,571 runs and 808 steals (but was much more efficient). The advanced stats give Raines a clear edge, thanks to his getting on base at a much higher clip: Raines' 69.1 WAR is well above Brock's 45.2, and his 123 OPS+ beats Brock's 109.

    Most similar player not in the HOF: Kenny Lofton. The center fielder was arguably more similar to Raines than Brock. Lofton's career arc paralleled Raines' -- his peak years came earlier on, when he led the league in steals five times (Raines did it four) and made six straight All-Star teams (Raines made seven). Lofton had 68.2 career WAR, a 107 OPS+, a .299/.372/.423 slash line, 2,428 hits, 1,528 runs and 622 steals. Raines had 69.1 WAR, a 123 OPS+, a .294/.385/.425 slash line, 2,605 hits, 1,571 runs and 808 steals. But Lofton was snubbed in the Hall of Fame voting, knocked off the ballot after his first year of eligibility.

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  • Edgar's stellar offense powers case for HOF

    Edgar Martinez is in his eighth year of eligibility on the Hall of Fame ballot, so his window for election is getting narrower -- but his number of votes is steadily rising, and 2017 looks like it could be his best shot at Cooperstown yet.

    After jumping to 43.4 percent of the Baseball Writers' Association of America vote in 2016, the Mariners great is polling even higher this year, as ballots are initially made public by the writers.

    Complete Hall of Fame coverage

    Martinez is squarely on the bubble, so MLB.com is examining his candidacy in advance of the official voting results being announced. The results of the 73rd BBWAA Hall of Fame election will be revealed Wednesday, Jan. 18, at 6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 5 p.m.

    Players remain on the HOF ballot for 10 years after becoming eligible five years after retirement.

    Edgar Martinez, DH/3B, 1987-2004
    Career stats: .312/.418/.515, 2,247 H, 514 2B, 309 HR, 1,261 RBI, 1,219 R, .933 OPS, 147 OPS+, 147 wRC+, 68.3 WAR (according to Baseball-Reference.com)

    Video: Edgar gained the love, respect of Emerald City fans

    HOF case, traditional stats:
    • Martinez, arguably the greatest designated hitter ever, did his job perfectly: He hit. Martinez's .933 OPS would rank 18th among Hall of Famers, and it's tied with Albert Belle for 31st all-time among players with at least 10 seasons in the Majors.

    • Martinez was an on-base machine. His .418 on-base percentage ranks 19th all-time among Major Leaguers to play 10-plus seasons, and would rank 13th among Hall of Famers, between Frank Thomas and Stan Musial.

    • Martinez's .312 career batting average is 10 points higher than the Hall of Fame average, and would tie him with Johnny Mize and four others for 54th among position players in Cooperstown. Only 44 other hitters in baseball's modern era have retired with a .300-plus average over as many plate appearances as Martinez's 8,674; 35 are in the Hall of Fame, five are on this year's ballot or will appear on future ballots (Derek Jeter, Todd Helton, Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez), and another is Pete Rose.

    Video: Martinez a candidate for Hall of Fame Class of 2017

    HOF case, advanced stats:
    • Even though Martinez spent most of his career at DH, which negatively affects his WAR, he was good enough at the plate to put him well within Hall of Fame range. Martinez's 68.3 WAR ranks at just about Hall of Fame average (69), tying him with Eddie Murray and Carlton Fisk and placing him just in front of Ryne Sandberg and Ernie Banks.

    • Martinez's 147 career wRC+ -- signifying offensive production 47 percent better than average -- is tied for 28th all-time among players with at least 5,000 plate appearances, the same wRC+ as Honus Wagner and Mike Schmidt.

    • Martinez also has a 147 OPS+, which would tie him for 25th among Hall of Famers, and is tied for 39th all-time (minimum 10 seasons), alongside Schmidt, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell and Jim Thome.

    Most similar player in the HOF: Mike Piazza. Piazza didn't have a stellar defensive reputation (although he might have deserved better); he's in the Hall of Fame because he was one of the most dominant offensive catchers ever. Martinez, also depending on his bat to get into Cooperstown, slightly outproduced Piazza at the plate. His 68.3 WAR edges Piazza's 59.4; his 147 wRC+ and 147 OPS+ beat Piazza's 140 and 142. Piazza had more power (427 homers to 309), but Martinez had more extra-base hits (838 to 779), and his 500-plus walk advantage gives him a better OPS (.933 to .922).

    Most similar player not in the HOF: Will Clark. Clark was another offensive force whose career overlapped with Martinez's, although Clark went one-and-done in balloting, and this year was not elected by the Today's Game Era Committee. Martinez was the better player, reflected in his 68.3 to 56.2 advantage in WAR. Still, like Martinez, Clark was a .300 hitter in 8,000-plus plate appearances who drew his share of walks. He had a career .303/.384/.497 slash line, 2,176 hits, 284 homers and 1,205 RBIs -- all similar to, and a clear notch below, Martinez's numbers. So are his advanced stats: Clark had a 136 wRC+ and 137 OPS+ to Martinez's 147 mark in both categories.

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  • Bubble trouble? 5 legends in HOF ballot danger

    While many are waiting to see whether there might be a record-tying five Baseball Writers' Association of America electees in this year's Hall of Fame class, the number five represents another entirely different kind of drama to some candidates. It is the voting percentage required to remain on the ballot for 2018, and Yankees legend Jorge Posada is among a handful of big names on the brink.

    The results of the 73rd BBWAA Hall of Fame election will be revealed at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday live on MLB Network and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 5 p.m. A player can remain on the ballot for up to 10 consecutive years as long as he meets that minimum percentage, and here is a look at some of those just hoping to be holdovers:

    Jorge Posada
    The only catchers who had a higher OPS+ than Posada's 121 were Hall of Famers Mike Piazza, Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey, Johnny Bench, Ernie Lombardi, Gabby Hartnett and Yogi Berra. That seemed to matter a lot five years ago, when Peter Gammons wrote this on MLB.com:

    "Years from now, depending on the whims of the voters each December, Posada will go into the Hall of Fame in that uniform, like Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey. The voters will marvel at those five rings and seven pennants, and think about all the great pitchers he caught."

    It is not even clear now if there will be whims to be had, though. Perhaps surprising to some, the catcher who spent his whole 17-year career with the Yankees and a leading force behind four rings -- and ranking 10th in WAR among catchers over the last half-century -- is in a battle just to remain on the ballot as a first-year eligible. Posada was at 4.2 percent with 43.9 percent of the ballots in on Ryan Thibodaux' BBHOF Tracker, gaining only eight votes so far.

    Given an estimated 435 total ballots cast, that would mean Posada must find 14 more votes to finish at 5 percent, so this will be election-day drama. Thibodaux said "an awful lot of New York-area votes are not yet accounted for" and noted that in 2015, another Yankees-Red Sox rivalry cog, Nomar Garciaparra, had eight public votes (2.4 percent) yet wound up with 30 (5.5 percent) to earn a temporary ballot reprieve.

    Sammy Sosa
    He averaged 58.4 homers over a five-year span from 1998-2002, becoming the only player to top 60 at least three times, entertaining Cubs fans by sprinting out to his position in right field, and finishing with 609 homers. Alas, it is all but concluded that it won't matter to BBWAA voters, given past PED speculation, and Sosa has become an annual 5-percent suspense figure.

    Sosa debuted at 12.5 percent in 2013 when he became eligible at the same time as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Piazza, and his percentages since then are 7.2, 6.6 and 7.0. As of Wednesday, he was at 9.9 and needed three more votes to achieve a 5-percent threshold based on the 435-ballot estimation. That makes Sosa the only candidate other than Posada (or those with less than 1 percent) who is still working on reaching 5 percent.

    Billy Wagner
    When he debuted on the ballot last year, Wagner said he should be "highly considered" and cited several "big" numbers that mattered to him more than saves. For example, ERA: His was 2.31 ERA over 903 innings, second lowest (to Mariano Rivera) in the modern era for pitchers with at least 903 innings. Also strikeouts: 1,196 of them, plus an 11.92 strikeouts per nine innings ratio, the best rate of any pitcher with at least 900 innings since 1900. And WHIP (1.00) or opponents' average (.187).

    Wagner felt that those showed what the pitcher can control and speak more than saves, which have much to do with a pitcher's team creating those situations. Indeed, that probably fits with the current devaluation of saves in the industry. Nevertheless, he also converted 422 saves if you want to think that way, fifth-most all time and second to John Franco among lefty relievers.

    With Lee Smith headed off the ballot and with Trevor Hoffman possibly about to be enshrined, Wagner could be the best closer on the ballot next year. Indeed, some already think he is the best one on it, better than Hoffman when you dig into his performance metrics. Whether Wagner gets the chance remains to be seen, though. He was at just 11.5 percent following a 10.5 debut.

    Jeff Kent
    No second baseman ever had more homers (351), RBIs (1,389), doubles (508) or a higher slugging percentage (.509), and those statistics were just from games where he played at second. Look at the past 70 years, and Kent's wRC+ of 123 trails only Jackie Robinson, Rod Carew and Bobby Grich among former second basemen.

    Kent's overall minus-0.6 dWAR, however, compares to 12.8 for Ryne Sandberg or 3.3 for Joe Morgan -- second basemen who also hit for power. Maybe it's a perception of defensive mediocrity, maybe it was his uneasy rapport with writers, maybe it was association with his former Giants teammate (and sometimes alter ego) Bonds. Whatever the reason, this is Kent's fourth year on the ballot, and his percentages have gone from 15.2 in 2014 to 14.0 in '15 to 16.6 in '16 and 13.1 as of Wednesday.

    "I've tried to eliminate a lot of drama from my life," Kent said. "I don't know why [the vote total isn't higher]. I don't get it. They come up with these WAR numbers, which I don't understand and they never had before. … It gets me to scratching my head. I don't know. I'm out having fun. I'm coaching kids. I'm building a sports facility for kids out here in Texas."

    Fred McGriff
    In 1995, the Crime Dog was the Braves' first baseman and his solo homer in the second inning of Game 1 led Atlanta toward its first (and only) World Series championship in that city. No matter what, McGriff will always have that. But will he ever get a bump in Hall balloting?

    Among all first basemen, Hall of Famer Tony Perez ranks 27th with a 53.9 WAR, and McGriff ranks right behind him at 52.4. McGriff ranks 31st and just ahead of Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda among first basemen with a 44.1 JAWS score (Jay Jaffe's metric that averages a player's career and peak WAR to compare him to those already in the Hall of Fame). The five-time All-Star homered at least 30 times in 10 seasons and finished with 493 homers in an era when the 500 Home Run Club became common. The Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor gives McGriff a 100 ("a good possibility") and, unlike some peers, there were no suspicions or indications that his power came unnaturally.

    Still, the needle isn't moving. McGriff debuted at 21.5 percent in 2010, his high-water mark was 23.9 in '12 and he got as low as 11.7 in the '13 bottleneck. Last year's rally back above 20 percent doesn't appear sustained, as he was tracking at 16.2 percent this year.

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  • A bigger vote? Hall class size may drop jaws

    PHOENIX -- It is a week before the National Baseball Hall of Fame announces the remainder of its Class of 2017, and the way the ballots are tracking, it's possible that five players could get in. That would match the inaugural 1936 class for the most ever voted in by the Baseball Writers' Association of America in one year.

    According to early tracking done by Ryan Thibodaux, Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez are all well above the requisite 75 percent threshold. Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman are also close to the threshold, with 193 public ballots counted.

    Thibodaux's ballot tracker
    Complete Hall of Fame coverage

    In recent years, the early public ballots have tended to feature more players and have a more sabermetric bent. In other words, a player's final percentage usually ends up being a bit lower than on the publicly collected tracker.

    Last year, 440 ballots were filed by eligible members of the BBWAA. Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were elected.

    This year's results will be revealed next Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 5 p.m. ET. A news conference introducing any of the new inductees will be staged the next day at the St. Regis Hotel in New York at 3 p.m. ET.

    The induction is scheduled for July 30 behind the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y. Any new electees will join former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz, who were elected last month by the 16-member Today's Game Committee.

    The new class could be massive. Six were inducted in 2014, including 300-game winners Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, and slugger Frank Thomas, who were voted in by the BBWAA, plus managers Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa. A year later, the inductees included pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz, plus Craig Biggio, the multi-positioned former Astro who amassed 3,060 hits. The largest class overall was in 2006, when reliever Bruce Sutter was voted in by the BBWAA and 17 Negro League greats were also inducted.

    The more inductees, the merrier, Smoltz said during a conference call on Wednesday.

    "Oh, there's no doubt. All you have to do is ask Barry Larkin," Smoltz said, referring to the Reds shortstop who was the sole inductee in the Class of 2012. "There's no doubt you're connected to the guys you go in with. Forever I'll be linked with Maddux and Glavine for my playing years with the Braves, but I'll also be linked to Pedro and Biggio and Randy for that induction year. And that will always be something special."

    The pre-announcement tracking of the ballot has also revealed some interesting patterns. Big gains have been made already in the early public voting for Hoffman, Raines and Bagwell. Bagwell, who fell just 15 votes shy of the 330 needed last year, has already made up a net 16 votes this year. Raines, who fell 23 votes short last year, has already gathered 25 new votes. Hoffman, who needed 34 more votes his first time on the ballot, has already made up 17 of those votes this time around.

    Guerrero and Rodriquez are making their debut on the ballot. Raines is in his 10th and final year and all indications right now are that at 91.8 percent he will be elected.

    "I've always been a big Tim Raines fan," Kevin Millar, a former player and currently an analyst for MLB Network, said on the conference call. "It's always been intriguing to me that you sit around and in time all of sudden you become a Hall of Famer. I thought he was a Hall of Famer from the get-go, and I sure hope he gets in. If I had a vote, he'd be on my ballot, 100 percent."

    Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two no-doubt Hall of Famers if not for their suspected use of performance enhancing drugs, have leapt to 64.4 percent and 63.9 percent, respectively. Two years ago, Clemens, a 354-game winner, was floundering at 37.5 percent. Bonds, the all-time leader with 762 homers, was at 36.8 percent.

    Thibodaux expects their percentages to drop slightly in the final results. They won't get in this year, but with five years of eligibility remaining for each, it's possible to project that they eventually will be elected.

    Smoltz said he'd have no problem welcoming both players into the Hall.

    "Oh, I'd welcome anybody in," he said. "I'm a rookie. I just got off my rookie year. Barry Bonds -- I've said this every time and I'll say this every time for the rest of my life -- is the greatest player I've ever played against.

    "People ask me [who was] the greatest hitter I ever faced. Tony Gwynn. The greatest player I've ever faced? Barry Bonds."

    Designated hitter Edgar Martinez and right-hander Mike Mussina are also continuing to track upward. Martinez, behind a big push on social media from Mariners fans, is at 66.5 percent, a net increase of 30 votes. He had 43.4 percent last year and 27 percent in 2015. Mussina, who had 270 wins and a 3.30 ERA while spending his entire career in the tough American League East, is at 60.8 percent. Two years ago, he was at 24.6 percent.

    Conversely, Curt Schilling, the right-hander who has been beset by bad publicity during the last year because of some of his political statements and tweets, has suffered a net loss of 10 votes, placing him at 52.1 percent, virtually his same percentage as last year.

    "Look, I played with Curt [Schilling]," said Millar, who was a teammate on the 2004 Red Sox's team that won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. "He was the best pitcher I've ever been around in a big-game situation. In his time, he was one of the toughest around."

    And finally, Yankees catcher Jorge Posada is in danger of falling off the ballot after his first year on it. Despite his status as one of the top offensive catchers of his era, a member of the Core Four and four Yankees' World Series winners, Posada's candidacy has earned little traction and only nine votes. His name needs to appear on five percent of the ballots for him to carry over to next year.

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  • Vlad's career built solid case for Cooperstown

    In Vladimir Guerrero's first year on the Hall of Fame ballot, Cooperstown looks like it might be within reach.

    A nine-time All-Star for the Expos, Angels and Rangers (he also played for the Orioles) and a man who could hit anything, Guerrero appears a likely candidate to get into the Hall of Fame eventually. But whether he'll join the Hall of Fame class of 2017 isn't yet clear.

    MLB.com takes a look at Vlad's case for Cooperstown by the numbers ahead of the results of the 73rd BBWAA Hall of Fame election being revealed Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 5 p.m.

    Video: MLB Now discusses Vladimir Guerrero's case for HOF

    Vladimir Guerrero, OF/DH, 1996-2011
    Career stats: .318/.379/.553, 2,590 H, 449 HR, 1,496 RBIs, 1,328 R, 250 IBB, .931 OPS, 140 OPS+, 136 wRC+, 59.3 WAR

    HOF case, traditional stats
    • Vlad was always extremely dangerous at the plate. His .553 career slugging percentage ranks 21st all-time among retired players, and it would rank 14th among Hall of Famers, ahead of contemporaries like Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr., both of whom were inducted last year.

    • In baseball's modern era, only 18 players with as many plate appearances as Guerrero (9,059) retired with a higher batting average than his .318 mark. All of them are in the Hall of Fame.

    • Guerrero's reputation preceded him. One of the most feared hitters in baseball, the eight-time Silver Slugger Award winner's 250 intentional walks rank fifth all-time. He led his league in intentional walks five times, including the Major Leagues in 2000.

    • Guerrero's 449 career home runs would rank 23rd among Hall of Famers, between Carl Yastrzemski and Andre Dawson. His 2,590 hits would rank 60th, just ahead of Reggie Jackson. His 1,496 RBIs would rank 39th, just after Mickey Mantle.

    HOF case, advanced stats
    • Vlad retired with a 140 OPS+, the same career OPS+ as Alex Rodriguez, and better than that of Hall of Famers like Griffey and Tony Gwynn. (Guerrero's unadjusted .931 OPS would also rank 18th among those in Cooperstown, behind Hack Wilson.)

    • Of players with at least 9,000 plate appearances in the modern era, Guerrero's 136 wRC+ ranks 34th, again ahead of Griffey and Gwynn, plus other Hall of Fame outfielders like Yastrzemski and Roberto Clemente.

    • Any time Guerrero stepped to the plate, he was a threat to put a ball into the gap or over the fence. His .235 career isolated power -- the number of extra bases a player hits for per at-bat -- ranks 25th among those players with at least 9,000 plate appearances.

    Most similar player in the HOF 
    Willie Stargell. Both MVP Award winners, the two are similar in several advanced stats. Guerrero had a 59.3 WAR, 140 OPS+, 136 wRC+, .390 wOBA and .235 ISO; Stargell had a 57.5 WAR, 147 OPS+, 145 wRC+, .387 wOBA and .247 ISO. Their counting stats are also close: Guerrero had 2,590 hits, 449 homers, 1,496 RBIs and 250 intentional walks, while Stargell had 2,232 hits, 475 homers, 1,540 RBIs and 227 intentional walks. But Guerrero's slash line was much better than Stargell's -- he hit .318 to Stargell's .282 and slugged .553 to Stargell's .529, helping produce a .931 OPS versus Stargell's .889. And despite his notorious free swinging, Guerrero struck out at half the rate Stargell did.

    Most similar player not in the HOF 
    Fred McGriff. The Crime Dog, also a feared hitter (171 intentional walks), logged about 1,000 more career plate appearances than Guerrero, so some of his counting stats are slightly better (494 homers, 1,550 RBIs). But Vlad had the better slash line and an edge in some advanced stats. McGriff's .284 batting average, .509 slugging percentage and .886 OPS are all well below Guerrero's marks, and McGriff's 52.4 WAR, 134 OPS+ and wRC+, .383 wOBA and .225 ISO fall shy of Guerrero's as well.

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  • On right track: Fan keeps tabs on HOF ballots

    Ryan Thibodaux has gradually become an influential figure in the modern National Baseball Hall of Fame election process, and one of the least likely. He is a mild-mannered, married, 35-year-old baseball fan in Oakland who took his infant son to his first A's game this past season, works in the healthcare field and generally shies away from personal publicity.

    If it weren't for Jeff Bagwell, his "boyhood baseball hero," you probably never would have heard of him or his BBHOF Tracker. That ever-changing, color-coded spreadsheet is projected to tabulate and calculate more than half -- for the first time -- of all publicly known ballots in advance of a much-anticipated Hall of Fame announcement.

    The results of the 73rd BBWAA Hall of Fame election will be revealed at 6 p.m. ET on Jan. 18 live on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 5 p.m.

    "I do my ballot tracking 'work' merely as a hobby in my spare time, though of course it's taking up more of my spare time than I ever anticipated, and it's only gotten more difficult to manage this year with the arrival of my first kid," Thibodaux wrote in emails to MLB.com. "But it's still as fun for me as ever. I started five years ago, simply as a way of passing the time in the offseason. I'm basically a one-sport guy, so it's baseball or nothing for me."

    Baseball Hall of Fame

    Members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America who have served at least 10 consecutive years, and who are approved in the Hall's new annual registration process, are eligible to vote. Ballots were issued in November, and the deadline to return them was Dec. 31. It is increasingly common for voters to publicize ballots in an age of social media and transparency, and Thibodaux's BBHOF Tracker was one of the reasons.

    With about 40 percent of ballots known as of Thursday -- based on Thibodaux's estimated total of 435 overall ballots cast -- holdovers Bagwell and Tim Raines each continued to appear on more than 90 percent of them. Ivan Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero, both new to the ballot, were tracking at or above the 75-percent threshold required for election. Trevor Hoffman, Barry Bonds, Edgar Martinez and Roger Clemens were all close.

    "As far as this year's returns, Bagwell and Raines seem to be in excellent shape," Thibodaux said. "It would take something of a catastrophe for them to fall below 75 percent again this year.

    "Three other candidates are going to be fascinating to watch: Guerrero, Hoffman and Rodriguez. … The thing Hoffman has going for him is that he's one of the few players who actually does better among the voters who don't make their ballots public than those who do. His final percentage might be a bit better than what my tracker shows going into the announcement."

    Video: High Heat discusses revamping Hall of Fame voting

    Thibodaux's passion for baseball was nurtured in the Astrodome, where he rooted for the Astros before moving to Oakland in 1995. Bagwell's National League Most Valuable Player Award season (8.2 WAR) had been the year before that, and Thibodaux always expected to see him -- and 2015 Hall inductee Craig Biggio -- enshrined one day.

    "It's fair to say that a primary reason I became so interested in the Hall balloting process was due to Bagwell's candidacy, along with Biggio's," Thibodaux said. "I do my best to remain neutral about all candidates on Twitter and elsewhere these days, but most of my close followers know that Bagwell is my guy, and I'm so thrilled that he seems to be set up very nicely for induction, finally, this year.

    "I wish he hadn't had to wait so long, but if he had gotten in on the first or second ballot, as he should have, I probably wouldn't have ever started the ballot tracker."

    On Wednesday night, Bagwell thanked the "people who are keeping track for me," with Thibodaux leading the way. Thibodaux said no players have directly asked him about their chances, but he includes current HOF candidates Curt Schilling and Billy Wagner among those who follow his Twitter account.

    "I get the sense that a lot of players don't want to follow the day-to-day happenings," Thibodaux said. "I can imagine it might drive them a little crazy, especially someone who might be on the brink of 75 percent but not a sure thing."

    And what about that @NotMrTibbs handle? For the curious, Thibodaux explained: "There's no good story to it. ... It means nothing, contains no inside joke and offers no philosophical belief system."

    Some people ask Thibodaux if he is removing some of the suspense on such a big day. He said that question is "something I worry about quite a bit," but he thinks the opposite is true. Thibodaux said his tracker makes more people engaged and adds to the anticipation.

    "We baseball and Hall fans get to vigorously debate players, ballots and the meaning of Hall of Fame induction for two full months every year the way things are now," Thibodaux said. "I think that's fantastic, and fun, and exciting."

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  • Q&A: Former scout Johnson on discovering Pudge

    Sandy Johnson signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates out of high school in 1958, and he is quick to point out on that the following year, while playing for Class D San Angelo/Roswell, he tied for fifth on the team in home runs with Willie Stargell. They each hit seven home runs.

    "He developed more power along the way," Johnson said, laughing.

    That's OK. Johnson developed his own identity -- as a scout. And during his days as a scouting director with the Padres and the Rangers, Johnson made an impact, particularly with his success in signing and developing players out of Latin America.

    Among those players was Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, who the Rangers signed at the age of 17, and who was catching in the Majors on a daily basis at 19.

    Rodriguez is in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, and there is a chance he could be among the players inducted into Cooperstown next summer.

    The results of the 73rd BBWAA Hall of Fame election will be revealed Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 5 p.m.

    Johnson talked with MLB.com recently about finding and signing Rodriguez, which is featured in this week's Q&A:

    MLB.com: How did you come across Rodriguez?

    Johnson: We were going down to the Latin countries. Melvin Nieves was the hot prospect in Puerto Rico, so we were going to work him out and then to go the Virgin Islands to see Midre Cummings, who was another hot item. Our Latin scout, Luis Rosa, had 11 or 13 guys at the workout in Puerto Rico. After awhile, I'm in the dugout, talking with Nieves, and [scout] Doug Gassaway comes running in from the outfield, yelling, 'That little guy just threw 93 miles an hour to second base.' He's talking about Pudge. Why he was out there clocking catchers throwing to second base, I got no idea, but he was. That was Gasser. He was ahead of the game. I'm sure everybody is doing that now. They time everything. So we had Pudge hit and run the bases.

    MLB.com: So what happens next?

    Johnson: I tell Luis we like him. Luis has these four other catchers he liked, and they all signed and got big money, but I told him I didn't care about those guys. We wanted Pudge. I told him Pudge's dad was in the stands, and go up and see what it was going to take. About 3 o'clock, I said, "Lou, you got him [signed]?" He said, "Not yet." I told him to get it [done] or he would be looking for work. Those other catchers were legit, but they weren't Pudge. He was only 150, 160 pounds, at the most, but he had a loose, live arm, great hands and he could swing the bat. I'd like to say how smart I was to find a Hall of Famer, but we backed into that one.

    MLB.com: But you had success over the years in the Latin countries.

    Johnson: Well, I originally signed with the Pirates, and every team I was on, the best players were Latins. Plus, I grew up in Los Angeles, and there was a strong Latin influence there. Then I had Luis in San Diego and Texas. In San Diego, we signed Benito Santiago, Ozzie Guillen, Sandy Alomar, Candy Sierra. Then in Texas, we were busy in the Latin countries: Pudge, Juan Gonzalez, Sammy Sosa, Wilson Alvarez. We can go on.

    MLB.com: Did the tight budgets in Texas make you more inclined to go into the Latin market?

    Johnson: I will say one thing: [President] Mike Stone and [general manager] Tom Grieve, never turned me down. When we signed Wilson Alvarez, Mike said, "We don't have that much money." It was too late -- I'd already signed him. They said OK, get the job done. We didn't have the money other organizations had, but they believed in what we were doing.

    MLB.com: Pudge's first year, he's 17, and you sent him to Class A Gastonia instead of rookie ball.

    Johnson: And he held his own. He was named one of the best prospects in the league. The next year, he was at [Class A Advanced] Port Charlotte, and he starts the next year at Double-A Tulsa and we have him in the big leagues by the end of June. He's 19, and [in] his big league debut, he throws out Joey Cora and Warren Newson of the White Sox trying to steal second base. We called him up, and he had to postpone his wedding. He was going to get married, but the season went longer in the big leagues than at Double-A, so he had to adjust.

    MLB.com: But that wasn't unusual, was it, for you to send young players to full-season teams?

    Johnson: I pushed the good players. I wanted them to be challenged. I wanted them to get at-bats. I wanted to see how they responded. We had [eight] players off that Gastonia team get to the big leagues, and four of them were teenagers, including Pudge and Robbie Nen. Two years earlier, 1987, we had 10 players from Gastonia get to the Major Leagues, including Juan Gonzalez, Dean Palmer, Rey Sanchez, Sammy Sosa, Wilson Alvarez and Roger Pavlik, who were teenagers, too.

    MLB.com: It was experience, not stats, that were your concern?

    Johnson: Exactly. I wanted position players getting at-bats, and I wanted them hitting up in the order, not seventh, eighth or ninth. If they struggled, that was OK as long as they were hitting in the upper-five spots. And the pitchers, I wanted them throwing innings, facing hitters.

    MLB.com: And you didn't have guys stuck at one position.

    Johnson: No. You wanted to make sure they had options when they got to the big leagues. You never know where the need is going to be. That's the way I learned in Pittsburgh. We had Gene Michaels, Gene Alley and myself on the same team in the Minors. We'd move around from second to third to short. Gene even pitched at one time.

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  • Bagwell hopes HOF vote delights Astros fans

    HOUSTON -- It's been nearly a dozen years since Jeff Bagwell last put on an Astros uniform as a player, and it appears he certainly hasn't lost his popularity among Astros fans.

    Bagwell, who will find out in two weeks if he will gain election into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, welcomed a throng of eager fans to Pluckers Wing Bar on Wednesday night to participate in the team's weekly radio show, Astroline.

    The former Astros slugger has kept a relatively low profile since his playing days ended following the 2005 season, but he's back in the spotlight with the results of the Hall of Fame balloting approaching. The 2017 Hall of Fame class will be unveiled Jan. 18.

    "I guess I'm anxious," Bagwell said. "I just want to get it over with. This is the first year I've kind of been keeping track of it and just looking. I'm excited about it."

    Bagwell, in his seventh year on the ballot, has appeared on 92.2 percent of the 160 ballots that have been made public and compiled by Ryan Thibodaux through the Twitter account, @NotMrTibbs. That's roughly 38 percent of the ballots that will be submitted by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Players need 75 percent to gain induction.

    "I have a lot of people that are keeping track for me, sending me texts and stuff like that," Bagwell said. "That's a small percentage of votes. They really don't know who gets in until that day. All the ballots are cast, and you wait and see things."

    Bagwell, who played with the Astros from 1991-2005, visited Cooperstown, N.Y., as a kid to tour the Hall of Fame, and was there again in 2015 when longtime teammate Craig Biggio was inducted. Bagwell said joining Biggio would be something special.

    "It would be wonderful," he said. "I'm so proud of him when he did it. If I can get in, too, and have two of us there, especially two guys that played together 15 years, it would be very special."

    Video: Bagwell discusses relationship with teammate Biggio

    Bagwell said he was taken aback by the number of Astros fans who descended upon Cooperstown two years ago to see Biggio become the first player inducted with a Houston cap on his plaque. He soaked up the moment while looking in awe at the number of Hall of Famers who were there for the induction.

    "I've been very fortunate in my career that I had to play with a lot of those guys and actually had relationship with them," he said. "Just to see the magnitude -- and I've told guys this before -- and to watch Craig get in and leaving there and walking down the street and just seeing all the Astros gear and all that, that was pretty cool. Seeing everybody here in town around the country come out and support Craig and the other guys that were up there, it's a pretty amazing deal."

    And now Bagwell waits for his turn. He appears to have the support from the BBWAA and the resume, hitting .297 with 2,314 hits, 449 homers, 1,529 RBIs, 1,517 runs scored and a .408 on-base percentage. And he certainly still holds a special place in the hearts of Astros fans, which makes the idea of giving them another Hall of Famer to call their own so special.

    "I wore an Astros jersey my entire career," he said. "The only thing I can control is what I did on the field. This other stuff is great. I had unbelievable teammates, a great organization, great fans. It's just the way I am. I really would be excited about it."

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  • Brett, Ryan, Yount formed historic '99 Hall class

    It's been just under two decades since George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame as part of a historic class.

    Thursday marks the 18th anniversary of the election of the Hall of Fame Class of 1999, which included an unprecedented three first-ballot inductees in Brett, Ryan and Yount. The class also featured four selections by the Veterans Committee: Orlando Cepeda, Nestor Chylak, Frank Selee and Joe Williams.

    The Class of 2017 will be announced by Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson on Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network and MLB.com.

    At the time, the Hall of Fame had not seen a class with more than two first-ballot inductees since the inaugural Class of 1936, which started with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.

    There have since been two more instances of a trio of first-ballot inductees. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas accomplished the rare feat in the Class of 2014, which was followed by Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz in the Class of 2015.

    Candidates for the Class of 1999 needed 373 of 497 votes for election. Ryan led the way with 491 votes, followed by Brett with 488 and Yount with 385.

    Video: Brett is inducted into the Hall of Fame

    Brett, a third baseman, spent his entire 21-year with the Kansas City Royals. As one of the greatest hitters in the game, Brett's lifetime numbers include a .305 average, 317 home runs, 1,595 RBIs and 3,154 hits. A 13-time All-Star, Brett was the first player to win batting titles in three decades (1976, '80, '90), and he had 11 seasons with a .300 batting average, including a career-high .390 in 1980, when he was the MVP of the American League. He led the Royals to their first World Series title in '85.

    "I dreamt the same way Nolan did and I dreamt the same way Robin did, and this is a dream come true," Brett said during an emotional induction speech. "It is such an honor to stand here and be inducted with such good friends. Of all the guys that I did play against for all that length of time, Robin, you are the one I enjoyed playing against the most. So congratulations to all you people in Milwaukee -- you saw one of the best ballplayers I ever saw."

    Video: Robin Yount delivers Hall of Fame induction speech

    Yount, who spent his entire 20-year career with the Milwaukee Brewers, won AL MVP awards as a shortstop and a center fielder. Yount debuted in 1974 at age 18 and later broke Mel Ott's record for most MLB games played as a teenager with 243. He had more hits than anyone in the 1980s (1,731) and finished his career with 3,142 hits.

    Yount shared a few anecdotes during his speech and said he "couldn't have handpicked a better class to go to Cooperstown with."

    "When I was 18 years old, I spent the day in a rowboat fishing with Nolan Ryan," Yount recalled. "There wasn't a lot of conversation that day. On the field, he let his pitching do the talking. I never faced a pitcher with better stuff than Nolan Ryan.

    "George was the guy I used to watch and say, 'Man, I wish I could play like that guy.' With a fun-loving attitude and a burning desire to win, nobody played the game any harder than George. He is what baseball is all about."

    Video: Nolan Ryan delivers Hall of Fame induction speech

    Ryan, a 300-game winner and the all-time Major League leader with 5,714 strikeouts and seven no-hitters, went into the Hall of Fame as a Texas Ranger. He also pitched for the Astros, Angels and Mets during a decorated 27-year career that spanned four decades. An intimidating figure on the mound, Ryan led his league in strikeouts 11 times and struck out 300 batters in a season six times.

    "I'd like to say thank you to the guys that I faced over my career, which some of them are here and sitting on this stage today, and I can honestly say I'm enjoying seeing them now more than I ever have and I really didn't particularly care for them when they had their uniforms on," Ryan said at the beginning of his speech. "I appreciate it, I enjoyed the competition and it was indeed an honor to face you."

    The excitement surrounding the Class of 1999 was so great, 41 Hall of Famers returned to Cooperstown that summer for the enshrinement.

    Some of the Hall of Famers in attendance at the 1999 induction included: Hank Aaron, Yogi Berra, Lou Brock, Steve Carlton, Larry Doby, Bobby Doerr, Bob Feller, Rollie Fingers, Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Reggie Jackson, Ferguson Jenkins, Al Kaline, George Kell, Harmon Killebrew, Ralph Kiner, Tom Lasorda, Lee MacPhail, Juan Marichal, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Phil Niekro, Jim Palmer, Gaylord Perry, Robin Roberts, Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt, Tom Seaver, Enos Slaughter, Warren Spahn, Willie Stargell, Don Sutton, Billy Williams and Ted Williams.

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  • Hall of Fame-worthy players still overlooked

    The early projections for this year's induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame are promising.

    There could be as many as five players enshrined by the vote of eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, which would make the biggest group of BBWAA selections since five inductees were honored in the first Hall of Fame ceremony in 1936.

    The idea that first-time eligible Ivan Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero along with holdovers Tim Raines, Trevor Hoffman and Jeff Bagwell could be honored July 30 in Cooperstown would emphasis that the voting members are beginning to back down from a hard-line approach that saw no players inducted in 2012, setting up a log jam of candidates.

    It, however, would still leave a lengthy list of worthy candidates who have come up short of the necessary 75 percent support from the voters to be enshrined, although a strong increase in the vote total for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, victims of a boycott because of suspicions about performance-enhancing drug use, provides reason to believe in the next year or so the best hitter and pitcher of their generation will finally be honored.

    With the possibility of five inductees this summer, the 10 most worthy but so far overlooked Hall of Famers include:

    Current BBWAA ballot

    • Bonds. The game's all-time home run leader had a career WAR of 162.4, second-highest in history to Babe Ruth according to Baseball Reference's formula. He was a seven-time NL MVP, 14-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glove winner and 12-time Silver Slugger honoree.

    Video: MLB Now on Bonds and Clemens for the Hall of Fame

    • Clemens. He ranks eighth all-time in WAR, second to Bonds among eligible players not enshrined. He was an 11-time All-Star, won the AL MVP in 1986 and was a seven-time Cy Young Award winner. The top 10 pitchers on the Bill James Similarity Score system have been enshrined.

    • Mike Mussina. His all-time WAR is third among eligible players not enshrined, 58th overall. A five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner, Mussina ranked among the top 10 in pitcher WAR in six seasons. He ranks 33rd all-time with 270 victories, fifth among non-Hall of Fame pitchers.

    • Larry Walker. He ranks 86th in all-time WAR, trailing only Bonds, Clemens, Mussina, Curt Schilling and Bagwell among eligible non-Hall of Famers. Critics question his spending 10 years of his career calling Coors Field home, but on the road, only 35 Hall of Famers exceeded his 168 home runs, 63 had more than his 564 RBIs, 32 had more than his 109 stolen bases, 32 a higher OPS than his .865 and 56 had more than his 203 doubles. His .278 road average is higher than 31 Hall of Famers.

    • Edgar Martinez. He is 10th among eligible players in terms of WAR, but he was primarily a DH, rarely appearing in the field, in his final 10 years. He did, however, perform at such a high level that MLB has named the annual award for the best DH the Edgar Martinez Award.

    Off the ballot

    • Jim Kaat. He pitched parts of 25 seasons in the big leagues, the final five as primarily a left-handed bullpen specialist, which seems to have overshadowed the fact that in 22 full seasons he had a losing record only three times. His 283 wins rank behind only Clemens and Tommy John among Hall of Fame-eligible pitchers in MLB history.

    • John. Best known as the first recipient of the pioneering elbow surgery bearing his name, he did win 288 games in his career, and the only players among the 10 with a most similar career to him not in the Hall of Fame are Kaat and Tony Mullane, who pitched in the 1800s.

    • Jack Morris. The knock is a 3.90 ERA, which would be the highest ever for a Hall of Famer. He, however, also faced 16,120 batters in his career, all in the AL, and would be the first pitcher elected to the Hall of Fame to have never pitched to a pitcher in the regular season. He is the only pitcher in history with at least 2,000 strikeouts and none against a pitcher. A member of four World Series championship teams, he started a record 14 consecutive Opening Days.

    • Alan Trammell. He ranks 11th all-time among shortstops in WAR and was the foundation of those Tigers teams in the 1980s. Overshadowed by playing at the same time as Cal Ripken and Ozzie Smith, he still managed six All-Star selections, three Silver Slugger Awards and four Gold Gloves. He ranks seventh in WAR among eligible players who have not been enshrined.

    Video: Alan Trammell falls short in final year on HOF ballot

    • Ted Simmons. One of the most cerebral players, he ran a pitching staff. An eight-time All-Star, he ranks 10th all-time in WAR among catchers. Catchers with the most similar Bill James ranking are Joe Torre, Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter and Yogi Berra. From ages 22 through 31, he was most similar to Rodriguez.

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  • It's not easy filling out a HOF ballot

    Some within the Baseball Writers' Association of America have grown disenchanted with the Hall of Fame voting process. They are anguished by ballots including players with documented (or rumored) performance-enhancing drug use. They feel embittered by the Hall's restrictions, including a maximum of 10 votes per ballot and 10 years of consideration per player.

    I am not one of those people.

    I love voting for the Hall of Fame. I relish the rigor of it, along with the inevitable criticism that follows. If anything, the ethical dilemmas make the experience more worthwhile. As judgments become more nuanced and complex, I'm honored to be part of an organization that wields profound influence on the way baseball history is remembered in Cooperstown.

    Video: MLB Now debates if Hall of Fame ballot should expand

    With that, here's the second ballot of my tenure as a Hall of Fame voter:

    Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez, Curt Schilling.

    Some context on my decisions:

    • First, I'll state my position on performance-enhancing drugs: I draw a sharp line at the 2005 season, when Major League Baseball began suspending players for PED use. To me, Rafael Palmeiro (no longer on the ballot), Manny Ramirez (eligible for the first time), Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun have disqualified themselves from consideration.

    There is substantial evidence that Bonds and Clemens used PEDs. Steroid suspicion has followed Bagwell and Rodriguez. But rather than surmise who used -- because an educated guess is all we have in some cases -- it's most reasonable to vote for the players who truly excelled in a flawed era. Bonds, Clemens, Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez did that.

    Sammy Sosa, by contrast, ranked ninth among position players on this year's ballot with an OPS+ of 128, just ahead of J.D. Drew and Magglio Ordoñez. Yes, Sosa hit 609 home runs. But he did so during a PED-tainted era, in which the skill of hitting home runs became less historically significant.

    Rodriguez won 13 Gold Glove Awards at catcher. Bagwell won one. Sosa? Zero. And Bagwell's OPS+ (149) was much higher than Sosa's.

    • In considering Hall of Fame candidates, I ask myself if each player deserves classification as one of the greatest ever at a given position or area of performance. And that is why I made the difficult decision to drop Larry Walker from last year's ballot in favor of Hoffman.

    To be clear, I continue to believe Walker is a Hall of Famer based on his five-tool prominence, even if he compiled many of his offensive numbers at altitude. But is he truly one of the greatest outfielders ever? I'm less certain of that. Hoffman and Martinez, meanwhile, are so ingrained in the game's history that their names grace year-end awards for closers and designated hitters, respectively.

    I understand many will take issue with dropping a seven-time Gold Glove Award winner who posted a career OPS of .965 in favor of a pitcher who mostly threw one inning per game. But if there ever was an appropriate time to recognize the importance of a relief pitcher, it is following the 2016 postseason. Hoffman was the first pitcher to surpass the 600-save milestone, and he did it while living with one kidney since infancy.

    Raines is one of the greatest in a different way: He's the only player in Major League history with 800-plus stolen bases, 1,300-plus walks and 100-plus triples.

    Guerrero? He's one of five Major Leaguers to have hit 400 or more home runs and struck out fewer than 1,000 times while maintaining an OPS+ of at least 140. The others are Ted Williams, Mel Ott, Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial. That's a Hall of Famer.

    • Mussina and Schilling are clear Hall of Famers on this year's ballot, just as they were in the 2015-16 cycle. Mussina and Schilling both stood out among their peers while pitching in the Steroid Era. Among 74 Hall of Fame pitchers, as listed by Baseball-Reference.com, only 13 struck out more batters than Schilling's 3,116. Mussina's 270 victories and lifetime 3.68 ERA -- all while pitching for American League East teams -- represent a convincing argument for his enshrinement in Cooperstown.

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  • Seeking HOF push, Kent played game 'right way'

    NEW YORK -- After Jeff Kent retired from baseball in 2008, Dusty Baker -- his manager for six years when both were with the Giants -- approached him and said, "I expect you to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame."

    One could understand why Baker thinks highly of Kent. A five-time All-Star, Kent hit 377 career home runs, and is the only second baseman to have six consecutive seasons with 100 or more RBIs. (He reached the mark eight separate times). His .290 career batting average is higher than Hall of Famers such as Ryne Sandberg and Joe Morgan.

    And who can forget Kent's best season, which occurred in 2000? He won the National League MVP after hitting .334/.424/.596 with 33 home runs and 125 RBIs. He also posted a 7.2 WAR, per Baseball-Reference.com, that year.

    Hall of Fame coverage

    Kent played for six teams during his 17-year career, and most of his success came with the Giants. During his six years in San Francisco, Kent and Barry Bonds were a powerful 1-2 punch in the middle of the Giants' lineup.

    "It's what you see is what you get when you talk about Jeff Kent," said Baker, who now manages the Nationals. "There is nothing phony about him. I enjoyed having him on the team. He played hard for me. Jeff Kent, he is the man."

    Kent may be "the man" in Baker's eyes, but the Baseball Writers' Association of America sees him differently. Since becoming eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2014, Kent hasn't come close to the 75 percent of votes needed for induction. In his first year of eligibility, Kent received 15.2 percent of the vote. In 2015, he fell to 14 percent of the vote, before rising to 16.6 percent in 2016. The 2017 Hall of Fame class will be announced Jan. 18.

    Video: MLB.com offers reasons Jeff Kent missed Hall of Fame

    "I've tried to eliminate a lot of drama from my life," Kent said. "I don't know why [the vote total isn't higher]. I don't get it. They come up with these WAR numbers, which I don't understand and they never had before. … It gets me to scratching my head. I don't know. I'm out having fun. I'm coaching kids. I'm building a sports facility for kids out here in Texas."

    There are two possibilities as to why Kent has not received enough votes. One is that he didn't have the best relationship with the media.

    "It should have nothing to do with whether he deserves it or not," Baker said. "Members of the media are human beings. Sometimes, like or dislike goes with the equation."

    Kent acknowledged that he wasn't the most outgoing person toward the media. He cared more about his teammates and winning ballgames.

    "Yes, I was a [smart alec] now and then, but if you looked at a lot of media that talked to me, there are plenty of people who said if you wanted a good honest source, you go to Jeff Kent. If you wanted a [dishonest] answer, go to somebody else," Kent said. "But you better watch out for Jeff Kent though. If he is having a bad day, he may not want to talk to you, and that was right because I took the game seriously.

    "I really love the game. I cared about the game. I kept the game close to me, and a lot of the media wanted to get close to me. I kind of pushed them away. I really didn't want to talk to the media sometimes. So did that build up to a frictional relationship? Probably."

    Kent also never won a Gold Glove. According to FanGraphs, he was a below-average defender with a 1.2 career defensive WAR. However, former teammate F.P. Santangelo said Kent always made the plays he needed to, but was never flashy while doing the job at second base.

    "He was a lot better second baseman than people ever gave him credit for," said Santangelo, who is now a broadcaster for the Nationals. "He really worked hard on his defense. People always talk about his offensive numbers as a second baseman. People say he was all right at second. I thought he was better than all right.

    "He really worked hard to go from a below-average shortstop, when he was first called up by the Blue Jays, to make himself an average-to-slightly-above-average second baseman. He really hung in there on the double play. He had great range going up the middle, throwing across his body because he had the shortstop arm strength. He made all the plays. He was really consistent."

    Asked to describe his 17-year career in the big leagues, Kent said, "I loved the game. I played the game the way it was supposed to be played. I played it with honor, respect and I played it the right way."

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  • How many Hall of Famers will you see play in 2017?

    How many Hall of Famers did you watch play in 2016? How many will you see live and in person in '17? In the same way older generations were able to say that they saw Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron play at the height of their powers, we are with certainty seeing some of baseball's all-time greats play right now.

    The trick, obviously, is that you can't say for sure which ones. There's a few slam dunks, but for most players in the conversation, so much could still happen on and off the field that might affect their paths to Cooperstown, and even the best of the best need to finish off their careers and wait five years before they get onto the ballot anyway. To look at today's players and say we know who ends up with a plaque in upstate New York is just pure speculation.

    So let's do exactly that: speculate. Last winter, we looked ahead to wonder how many Hall of Famers we thought we'd maybe see in 2016, and let's update that to do exactly the same for 2017.

    As we showed last year, we've historically seen an average of roughly 31 future Hall of Famers per season, and that held true even if we did "percentage of Hall of Famers per active player," although, of course, that number is much less over the last two decades. Part of that is the obvious fact that many of the most recent stars, like Derek Jeter, simply aren't eligible yet, but there's also evidence that voting gridlock has caused stars of the 1980s and '90s to be underrepresented -- only 18 players have been inducted in the last 10 elections, an average of fewer than two per year.

    Tweet from @mike_petriello: How many future HOF will we see in 2016? I made a list, but it gets harder every year: https://t.co/wF7xinjqLs pic.twitter.com/dz0xPe6ty6

    Still, let's stick with that 31 per year average, and have some fun. If there are 31 players likely to see time in the Major Leagues in 2017 who could end up in Cooperstown someday, who are they? And how likely are they to make it?

    For simplicity's sake, we'll do this in tiers and order the players by their career Wins Above Replacement (from FanGraphs) totals; even though voters don't (and shouldn't) choose based on WAR alone, it's a solid enough estimate of a player's career worth. Don't worry too much about how a player is ordered within a tier, because it doesn't really matter. For reference, the "average" Hall of Famer compiled between 50 WAR and 70 WAR, and all-time greats like Ruth and Barry Bonds topped 160 WAR.

    With the retired Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz off our list from last year, let's find 31 Hall of Famers you're likely to see on the field in 2017.

    No questions asked, no doubt about it

    Video: Cabrera named 2016 AL Silver Slugger Award winner

    1. Albert Pujols (91 WAR)
    2. Adrian Beltre (81 WAR)
    3. Miguel Cabrera (68 WAR)
    4. Ichiro Suzuki (58 WAR)

    Pujols and Cabrera need no explanation, because they could have retired years ago and still have been slam dunks -- and while Pujols has slowed down, Cabrera keeps on hitting. Ichiro's case on both sides of the Pacific has been secure for some time, but especially so now that he has 3,000 hits in the Majors.

    It's the inclusion of Beltre on the "slam dunk" list that might surprise some, but it shouldn't. Even at 37 in 2016, he had one of his strongest seasons (.300/.358/.521, 32 homers), and he'll likely end up one of the five best third basemen ever. He'll probably get to 3,000 hits in the first half of 2017, and having signed a two-year extension, it's not out of the question that he gets the 55 home runs he needs to make it to 500. (Of course, he's long been one of the best defensive third basemen around.) In addition, having talked to several Hall of Fame voters who say they can't wait to vote for him, we can comfortably say his future in Cooperstown is secure.

    Over-30 players with good cases

    Video: Verlander finishes second in AL Cy Young Award voting

    5. Carlos Beltran (68 WAR)
    6. CC Sabathia (63 WAR)
    7. Justin Verlander (52 WAR)
    8. Felix Hernandez (51 WAR)
    9. Robinson Cano (49 WAR)
    10. Zack Greinke (48 WAR)
    11. Evan Longoria (47 WAR)
    12. Joey Votto (47 WAR)
    13. Dustin Pedroia (46 WAR)
    14. Cole Hamels (44 WAR)
    15. Jon Lester (39 WAR)
    16. Max Scherzer (38 WAR)
    17. David Price (36 WAR)
    18. Yadier Molina (33 WAR)

    It's amazing how different this list looks than it did a year ago, as Beltre and Ortiz have moved off of it and several stars have aged onto it. While Greinke had a rough first year in Arizona, Verlander had a stellar rebound year with Detroit, and Scherzer's second Cy Young win puts him in an elite class of pitchers. Longoria had himself a fantastic year as well with a career-high 36 homers, while Cano and especially Votto (.326/.434/.550) just keep on hitting. Not all of these guys will get in -- remember how likely it seemed that David Wright, Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Braun would a few years ago -- but a fair share will.

    You could also argue for Josh Donaldson here, but since he didn't have his first good season until 27, he has a lot of ground to make up. Chase Utley is another name who might fit, but we'll skip him for now since he hasn't signed with a team for 2017, and at 38, isn't guaranteed to find a spot.

    The most interesting new name on this list is Hernandez, who turns 31 in April. It's easy to argue that his twenties were among the best of any pitcher ever, but a drop in velocity and a rare trip to the disabled list in 2016 limited his effectiveness. It's far too soon to draw parallels to another Seattle superstar (Ken Griffey Jr.) who dominated in his twenties and offered little after that, but how exactly Hernandez handles his decline years could have some say in his Hall of Fame future.

    The Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout Experience

    Video: Esurance Best Major Leaguer Winner: Mike Trout

    19. Clayton Kershaw (54 WAR)
    20. Mike Trout (48 WAR)

    There is a rule that states that all Hall of Famers must have played 10 years in the big leagues before they become eligible. Neither Kershaw nor Trout have reached that threshold, and yet it does not matter. The first five years of Trout's career have been unlike anything we've ever seen before, with two Most Valuable Player Awards and a solid case for five in a row. Trout's comparables aren't Harper, Bryant and Machado; they're Mays, Mantle and Musial. He's building a case not just to be the best player you've ever seen, but to be the best player anyone has ever seen.

    Kershaw won three Cy Young Awards in five years, also had a decent (if lesser) case for five wins in a row from 2011-15, and he won the 2014 Most Valuable Player Award, too. Only 29 in March, his career already looks a lot like that of another legendary Dodgers lefty, Sandy Koufax. As soon as he makes his first appearance of 2017, he'll have satisfied the "10 year" rule, and maybe we ought to just go ahead and enshrine him right away. Despite the awards, it's possible that neither one of these two get the credit they really deserve. 

    30-and-under players on the right track

    Video: Defensive Player of the Year: Buster Posey, C

    21. Andrew McCutchen (41 WAR)
    22. Buster Posey (33 WAR)
    23. Madison Bumgarner (28 WAR)
    24. Giancarlo Stanton (27 WAR)
    25. Paul Goldschmidt (26 WAR)
    26. Bryce Harper (23 WAR)
    27. Manny Machado (23 WAR)
    28. Chris Sale (28 WAR)
    29. Aroldis Chapman (14 WAR)
    30. Kenley Jansen (14 WAR)
    31. Craig Kimbrel (14 WAR)

    There shouldn't be too much disagreement with the top of this list. For all the talk about McCutchen's down season and disappointing defense, he's still only 30 and hit an above-average .256/.336/.430 with 24 homers, though he'll need to do better than that as he ages to collect votes. As we gain understanding of how Posey's defense is just as valuable as his bat is, he's on track to be one of the best catchers ever, and Harper -- despite a disappointing 2016 of his own -- and Machado are two of the game's true young superstars.

    The interesting part of the list comes at the back end, where three elite closers with similar career totals land. WAR doesn't work as well for relievers, which is why the numbers seem low, but it will be difficult for voters to ignore the truly dominant relievers of this era. The question is whether they can keep it up over a sustained length of time. These three have so far, which is why they're included here while others with shorter track records like Andrew Miller, Wade Davis and Zach Britton are not.

    For now, this list no longer includes Jason Heyward, though at 27, he still has plenty of time to turn things around after a disappointing 2016. And, with one more great season, we'll probably be talking about adding Anthony Rizzo (20 WAR), Jose Altuve (19 WAR), and Nolan Arenado (15 WAR) here next year, especially since McCutchen and Posey will age out of this group.

    The young field

    Video: Bryant continues magical year with NL MVP Award

    Mookie Betts / Kris Bryant / Trea Turner / Noah Syndergaard / Corey Seager / Carlos Correa / Francisco Lindor / Kyle Schwarber / Gary Sanchez / Joc Pederson / Byron Buxton / Xander Bogaerts / Julio Urias / Alex Bregman / Andrew Benintendi / Dansby Swanson / Lucas Giolito / Alex Reyes / Michael Fulmer / Yoan Moncada / etc.

    Just look at this list. Stare at it. Bask in it. Bryant won the NL Most Valuable Player Award, while Betts finished second only to Trout in the AL and picked up nine first-place votes anyway. Seager unanimously won the NL Rookie of the Year and finished third in the MVP race, while the exploits of every other name on this list hardly need to be explained. We're certainly not going to drop Cooperstown predictions on a bunch of guys who haven't yet put together more than two quality big league seasons, but the influx of young talent into the game right now is nearly unprecedented. Some of these players will quietly flame out; some will be remembered as immortals. That means they're in the mix for "Hall of Famers who played in 2017."

    Don't forget, also, that those are just players who actually made it to the big leagues in 2016. (Yes, Moncada appeared briefly for Boston in September.) That doesn't include the potential debuts of top prospects like J.P. Crawford, Austin Meadows, Brendan Rodgers, Clint Frazier and others who could see some time in 2017. You never know which ones will click and which won't, but you will know you're seeing the start of some legendary careers. 

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  • Made in the trade: Deals sparked HOF cases

    Chances are, you don't remember Larry Andersen, a right-hander who pitched for six teams from 1975-94. But Andersen was part of one of the most lopsided trades in Major League history, a deal that landed the Astros a potential Hall of Fame first baseman.

    Jeff Bagwell could be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame next July. But had it not been for Houston's move to acquire him from the Red Sox in 1990, Bagwell's career may have been spent hitting moonshots over the Green Monster, not into the far reaches of the Astrodome or Minute Maid Park.

    Predicting Cooperstown's Class of 2017

    Here's a look at some notable trades involving players on the 2017 Hall of Fame ballot, beginning with the Bagwell-for-Andersen swap and going in chronological order.

    Aug. 30, 1990: Red Sox trade Bagwell to Astros for Andersen

    Andersen was 37 years old when Houston sent him to Boston in exchange for Bagwell, a 22-year-old prospect stuck behind first baseman Mo Vaughn and third baseman Wade Boggs on the Red Sox's organizational depth chart.

    Andersen appeared in 15 games for Boston over the final month of the 1990 season before becoming a free agent and signing with the Padres.

    Bagwell, meanwhile, was the 1991 National League Rookie of the Year, the 1994 NL Most Valuable Player and a four-time All-Star. He slashed .297/.408/.540 with 449 home runs over 15 seasons for the Astros, averaging a 6.0 rWAR per 162 games in his career.

    Video: A look at some of Sosa's top long balls with Cubs

    March 30, 1992: White Sox trade Sammy Sosa and Ken Patterson to Cubs for George Bell

    Sosa and Bell were born in the same city -- San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic -- nine years apart. And they were playing Major League Baseball in the same city when they were traded for each other in March 1992.

    Sosa went from a wiry and speedy outfielder to a bona fide slugger after joining the Cubs. He hit 33 homers in 1993, was an All-Star for the first time in '95, and in '98 hit 66 home runs, second to Mark McGwire's 70.

    In all, Sosa hit 545 home runs with a .284/.358/.569 slash line in 13 seasons with the Cubs.

    Bell played two seasons for the White Sox, hitting .240/.274/.396. He was released and then retired after the 1993 season.

    This was actually the second time Sosa was traded, with the Rangers first dealing him to the South Side in 1989 in a trade package that sent Harold Baines to Texas.

    Video: Sheffield's unique swing made him a power threat

    June 24, 1993: Padres trade Gary Sheffield and Rich Rodriguez to the Marlins for Trevor Hoffman, Andres Berumen and Jose Martinez

    In a trade that worked out well for both sides, two players on the Hall of Fame ballot -- Sheffield and Hoffman -- were part of the same transaction in June 1993.

    San Diego was aiming to cut payroll, and the Marlins needed to strengthen the middle of their lineup.

    Hoffman helped San Diego reach the World Series with an MLB-best 53 saves in 1998, and finished his career with 601 saves, second to Mariano Rivera all-time.

    Video: Hoffman, Padres were equally great in 1998

    Sheffield hit .288/.426/.543 with 122 home runs for the Marlins from 1993 to '98, when he was traded to the Dodgers in a package that sent Mike Piazza and Todd Zeile to Florida. Piazza was traded to the Mets eight days later, for Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnall and Geoff Goetz. Zeile was traded to the Rangers for two Minor Leaguers after 66 games.

    Video: McGriff strings together 10 seasons of 30-plus homers

    July 18, 1993: Padres trade Fred McGriff to the Braves for Vince Moore, Donnie Elliott and Melvin Nieves

    McGriff was actually acquired by the Padres in a trade that is arguably more famous, as it saw him and Tony Fernandez sent to San Diego from Toronto in exchange for Joe Carter and Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar on Dec. 5, 1990. But McGriff made his biggest mark with the Braves, which is why we're discussing it here.

    When the Padres traded him, McGriff was coming off a year in which he led the National League in home runs, but San Diego was rebuilding. The Braves needed offense, and after acquiring McGriff they won 38 of their next 50 games to surpass the Giants in the NL West, eventually winning the division by one game.

    McGriff hit .293/.369/.516 with 130 home runs in five seasons with Atlanta, helping the club to the postseason in all but one (the 1994 strike-shortened campaign) and winning a World Series championship in 1995.

    Moore, an outfielder, never reached the Majors. Elliott, a right-handed reliever, appeared in 31 games for San Diego between 1994 and '95, posting a 3.09 ERA. But he struggled in the Minors in 1996 and '98 before retiring.

    Nieves hit .207/.278/.407 over three seasons with the Padres before being traded to the Tigers.

    Video: Kent one of the game's most productive clutch hitters

    Nov. 13 1996: Indians trade Jeff Kent, Julian Tavarez, Jose Vizcaino and Joe Roa to the Giants for Matt Williams and Trent Hubbard.

    Kent had already been traded twice in his career at this point, acquired by the Mets in a deal for David Cone and then sent to Cleveland in a trade highlighted by Carlos Baerga going to New York. But Kent became a star in San Francisco, which is why this deal carries the most significance in his career.

    Williams was the centerpiece of the return for Kent, and he was on a run of four straight seasons with an OPS of .877 or better when the Giants traded him to the Indians. He hit 32 home runs and drove in 105 runs for the AL champions in 1997. But by '98, he had been traded to the D-backs for Travis Fryman and Tom Martin.

    In San Francisco, Kent drove in 100 runs or more in six straight seasons, winning the 2000 NL MVP Award. In six seasons with the Giants, he posted a 31.4 rWAR.

    Nov. 28, 2003: D-backs trade Curt Schilling to Red Sox for Mike Goss, Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon and Jorge De La Rosa

    Schilling was traded five times in his career in a variety of deals that featured the likes of Brady Anderson, Mike Boddicker, Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch, Glenn Davis, Travis Lee and Vicente Padilla, among others. However, his fifth trade is the most noteworthy.

    The D-backs sought to cut payroll following a third-place finish in the NL West in 2003, and among the contracts they wanted to unload was Schilling's, the dominant right-hander who had helped them win a World Series two years earlier.

    Of course, Schilling had a no-trade clause, and it wasn't until Red Sox GM Theo Epstein made a sales pitch over Thanksgiving dinner at Schilling's house that the righty agreed to waive it.

    Just as had happened with the D-backs, who traded for Schilling in 2000, the Red Sox won the World Series the season after acquiring Schilling. It was Boston's first World Series title in 86 years, capping a postseason run that included a miraculous comeback from a 3-0 deficit in the AL Championship Series against the Yankees.

    Schilling gave up one run over seven innings in Game 6 of the ALCS, with a torn ankle tendon sutured to the skin. Blood seeped through his sock and was visible as he pitched. The sock now resides in the Hall of Fame.

    Video: 2004 ALCS Gm6: Schilling's epic performance

    Schilling spent four seasons with Boston before retiring after the Red Sox won another World Series in 2007.

    Goss, an outfielder, never reached the Majors. Fossum pitched one season for Arizona, posting a 6.65 ERA in 27 starts. Lyon pitched four seasons for the D-backs, posting a 4.03 ERA in 234 relief appearances.

    De La Rosa was traded to the Brewers as part of a package that brought Richie Sexson to the D-backs. But Sexson played 23 games in an injury-shortened 2004 season before leaving as a free agent for the Mariners.

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  • 5 pitchers who dropped off Hall ballot too soon

    MLB.com has already taken a look at some of the more surprising position players to go one-and-done in Hall of Fame balloting. Next up are the pitchers.

    Players eligible for election to the Hall of Fame need 75 percent of votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America to be enshrined in Cooperstown; they only need 5 percent to reserve a spot on the ballot for the following year. But not all candidates hit that mark, and many have dropped off the ballot after only one year. Many more will do so again in the future.

    Here are some of the pitchers who, since the rule's institution in 1979, surprisingly didn't get the 5 percent they needed for a second year on the ballot. Although, maybe they should have, because they compare favorably to some of their compatriots in the Hall of Fame.

    Kevin Brown, RHP, 1986-2005
    Career stats: 211-144, 3.28 ERA, 3,256 1/3 IP, 2,397 K, 17 SHO, 68.5 WAR (Baseball-Reference)
    HOF voting: 2.1 percent of ballots in 2011

    At his peak, Brown was one of the most dominant pitchers in the game. In a five-year run from 1996-2000, he had a 2.51 ERA, averaged 242 innings and 212 strikeouts a season and threw 10 shutouts. He led the league in ERA and WHIP twice -- including a Major League-best 1.89 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 1996 -- finished in the top six of Cy Young voting four times, threw a no-hitter and helped the Marlins win their first World Series in 1997.

    Video: Brown discusses his two years with Marlins

    Of all starting pitchers, Brown's 2.51 ERA and 36.9 WAR across those five seasons were second only to Pedro Martinez. He didn't hit the 300-win or 3,000-strikeout milestones, but Brown's traditional stats are more than respectable, as is his career WAR of nearly 70.

    Compares favorably to: John Smoltz. Smoltz had the saves (154) and the strikeouts (3,084), but Brown's WAR just beats Smoltz's, 68.5 to 66.5, and his best seasons stack up well. Brown had two eight-WAR seasons; Smoltz had none. Brown had a six-plus WAR five times; Smoltz did only once. In Brown's five best years, he totaled 36.9 WAR; Smoltz totaled 28.3.

    David Cone, RHP, 1986-2003
    Career stats: 194-126, 3.46 ERA, 2,898 2/3 IP, 2,668 K, 22 SHO, 61.7 WAR
    HOF voting: 3.9 percent in 2009

    Cone, like Brown, didn't collect the wins and strikeouts of some other Hall of Famers. But in his best years, he too was matched by few pitchers in the game. Between 1988 and '99, Cone was an All-Star five times, won 20 games twice, led the Majors in strikeouts twice and, most importantly, won the AL Cy Young award in 1994.

    Only Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux had a higher WAR than Cone's 59.9 in that 12-year span, and only Randy Johnson and Clemens had more strikeouts than Cone's 2,331. Cone also threw a perfect game on July 18, 1999, and won five World Series, with a 2.12 ERA in six appearances in the Fall Classic.

    Video: Blurb Lay's Looks Back - David Cone's Perfect Game

    Compares favorably to: Whitey Ford. Ford and Cone were each part of Yankee dynasties, and Ford won six championships with New York to Cone's four (Cone won once with the Blue Jays). But Cone's advanced stats give him a leg up. Cone's 61.7 WAR beats Ford's 53.9, and his best years were better as well. Cone had two seven-WAR seasons, a mark Ford never reached. And Cone's five-year peak WAR of 33.4 is well more than Ford's 25.7.

    Bret Saberhagen, RHP, 1984-2001
    Career stats: 167-117, 3.34 ERA, 2,562 2/3 IP, 1,715 K, 16 SHO, 59.1 WAR
    HOF voting: 1.3 percent in 2007

    Saberhagen burst onto the scene as a 21-year-old with the Royals in 1985, winning the AL Cy Young in his first full season as a starter and leading Kansas City to a world championship. In the World Series, Saberhagen threw two complete-game gems, including a shutout in Game 7. Four years later, he won the Cy Young again. He's one of only 18 pitchers to win multiple Cy Youngs.

    That second Cy Young season, his best statistically, Saberhagen led the Majors in wins (going 23-6), ERA (2.16), WHIP (0.96), innings (262 1/3), complete games (12) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.49). He was also a three-time All-Star, and a Gold Glove winner, and he finished in the top 10 of MVP voting in both of his Cy Young seasons.

    Video: CWS@KC: Bret Saberhagen completes no-hitter

    Compares favorably to: Catfish Hunter. Hunter, who also started his career in Kansas City (with the then-Kansas City A's), had an excellent peak run from 1972-75, winning a Cy Young and finishing in the top four of voting all four years. But Saberhagen had some great seasons of his own, collecting 35.6 WAR over his best five years compared to Hunter's 28 WAR in his top five. Saberhagen also has a 20-plus career WAR advantage over Hunter's 36.6.

    Dwight Gooden, RHP, 1984-2000
    Career stats: 194-112, 3.51 ERA, 2,800 2/3 IP, 2,293 K, 24 SHO, 48.2 WAR
    HOF voting: 3.3 percent in 2006

    If Gooden's off-the-field issues hadn't derailed his career, he might have been a surefire Hall of Famer. He won National League Rookie of the Year in 1984, the Cy Young in '85 and the World Series in '86 -- all before he turned 22 years old. The electric right-hander was at the heart of the '86 Mets team that took New York City by storm, but it was Doc's Cy Young season that was one of the best in Major League history.

    Video: MLB Network Remembers: Gooden breaks rookie record

    Gooden's 12.2 WAR in 1985 is the third-highest by any player in baseball's modern era -- behind only Walter Johnson's 1912 and '13. Gooden went 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA, 16 complete games, eight shutouts and 268 strikeouts. He led the Majors in wins, ERA and strikeouts -- pitching's Triple Crown -- as well as complete games and innings pitched. Gooden was a four-time All-Star, and he pitched a no-hitter in 1996.

    Compares favorably to: Dizzy Dean. Dean, like Gooden, is known for his best year. In 1934, he won the MVP after going 30-7, becoming the only NL pitcher to ever win 30 games in the live-ball era. But as good as Dean was that season, Gooden was better in '85. By WAR, it is the best pitching season of the live-ball era, 3.6 WAR better than Dean's MVP campaign. And Gooden should have been MVP -- he was five WAR better than the winner, Willie McGee. Gooden also edges Dean in career WAR, 48.2 to 42.7.

    Frank Tanana, LHP, 1973-93
    Career stats: 240-236, 3.66 ERA, 4,188 1/3 IP, 2,773 K, 34 SHO, 57.5 WAR
    HOF voting: Zero percent in 1999

    Tanana is a testament to how a player can reinvent himself. In his early days with the Angels, Tanana dominated with a 100-mph fastball. George Brett, in a 2015 interview with the Albany Times Union, said that of the pitchers he faced earlier in his career, "The best guy with the best stuff was Frank Tanana." From 1975-77, starting at age 21, Tanana went 50-28 with a 2.53 ERA and averaged 262 innings and 245 strikeouts a season, twice finishing in the top five of Cy Young voting.

    He led the AL with 269 strikeouts in '75, and had an AL-best 2.54 ERA and Major League-best seven shutouts in '77. But soon after, arm injuries sapped his fastball velocity and forced Tanana to develop an off-speed-heavy repertoire. Even so, topping out in the 80s, the left-hander went on to pitch 21 big league seasons, accumulating 240 wins and 2,773 strikeouts -- fifth-most of any non-Hall of Famer -- with a 3.66 career ERA. But when Tanana's name went onto the Hall of Fame ballot in 1999, the three-time All-Star didn't receive a single vote.

    Compares favorably to: Early Wynn. Wynn and Tanana both pitched long careers, each throwing more than 4,000 innings over two-plus decades. Wynn ended up with exactly 300 wins, a number that likely got him into the Hall of Fame, but Tanana's career 57.5 WAR edges Wynn's 51.6, and each of Tanana's three best seasons (8.3, 7.5, 7.4 WAR) was better respectively than each of Wynn's (7.8, 6.1, 5.4).

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  • 6 surprising Hall ballot one-and-done hitters

    This is Tim Raines' 10th and final year of eligibility on the Hall of Fame ballot, and the campaigning for Rock has been strong. But there will also be, inevitably, those among the candidates who never get that full run of chances.

    Since 1979, in one form or another, the 5-percent rule has applied for potential Cooperstown inductees: receive at least five percent of the Baseball Writers Association of America's votes, stay on the ballot for another year; fall short of that mark, fall off future ballots. (The number of votes needed for election to the Hall is 75 percent.)

    There are 19 players who are appearing for the first time on the 2017 ballot. Many will likely not receive the votes needed for a second go-round. They'll join a host of one-and-dones through the decades of Hall of Fame voting, some more surprising than others. MLB.com takes a look at some of the players who missed the 5-percent cutoff -- despite comparing favorably to certain Hall of Famers -- and never got a second shot at election, beginning with position players.

    Jim Edmonds, CF, 1993-2010
    Career stats: .284/.376/.527, 1,949 H, 393 HR, 1,199 RBIs, 1,251 R, 60.3 WAR (Baseball-Reference.com)
    Hall of Fame voting: 2.5 percent of ballots in 2016

    Edmonds could have been a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. Instead, the Angels' and Cardinals' longtime star center fielder found himself off the ballot after his first year. Edmonds' counting stats might come up a little short compared to some Hall of Famers, but he accumulated more than a 60 career WAR and played elite defense at a premium position. In his career, Edmonds made four All-Star teams, won eight Gold Glove Awards (including six straight), one Silver Slugger Award and placed in the MVP voting six times. At his peak, a five-season stretch from 2000-04 book-ended by top-five MVP finishes, Edmonds averaged more than a 6.0 WAR per year and helped lead the Cardinals to four playoff appearances.

    Video: LAA@KC: Edmonds makes a spectacular catch

    Compares favorably to: Jim Rice. Edmonds has a higher career WAR than many Hall of Fame outfielders, with Rice the most recently elected example. Edmonds played fewer career games than Rice, but his 60.3 WAR is well more than Rice's 47.4. Rice's best season, his MVP year in 1978, slightly edges Edmonds' best in 2004 (7.5 WAR to 7.2), but Edmonds' peak five years (32 WAR) beat Rice's best five (30.3). Edmonds also had more career home runs and an OPS almost 50 points higher than Rice.

    Carlos Delgado, 1B, 1993-2009
    Career stats: .280/.383/.546, 2,038 H, 473 HR, 1,512 RBIs, 1,241 R, 44.3 WAR
    HOF voting: 3.8 percent in 2015

    Delgado was one of the premier power hitters in baseball for the duration of his career, but he was overshadowed playing in the heart of the steroid era -- Delgado has not been linked to performance-enhancing drugs -- and overlooked spending his prime years in Toronto playing for Blue Jays teams that never made the playoffs. Still, Delgado was one of the best players in Blue Jays history, mashing nearly 500 homers and driving in more than 1,500 runs. Delgado won three Silver Slugger Awards and placed in the MVP voting seven times, including four top-10 finishes and a runner-up in 2003. His best season came in 2000, when he hit .344/.470/.664 with 41 home runs, 137 RBIs and an American League-best 57 doubles.

    Video: NYM@SF: Delgado's solo shot lands in McCovey Cove

    Compares favorably to: Tony Perez. Perez beats Delgado in total WAR (53.9 to 44.3) but played six more seasons and 700 more games -- Delgado's per-season and per-game WAR are actually better. Perez had a slightly higher peak WAR, largely due to better defensive metrics, but Delgado was the better hitter. In his career, he had nearly 100 more homers and a much better OPS (.929 vs. .804), and his 135 wRC+ is well better than Perez's 121.

    Kenny Lofton, CF, 1991-2007
    Career stats: .299/.372/.423, 2,428 H, 130 HR, 781 RBIs, 1,528 R, 622 SB, 68.2 WAR
    HOF voting: 3.2 percent in 2013

    By the numbers, Lofton has a Hall of Fame case, but he might have been hurt by being a contact hitter and speedster in a power-hitting age. The 622 bags he swiped rank 15th all time, and he led the American League in steals five straight seasons from 1992-96, leading the Majors three of those years. Lofton made six straight All-Star teams from '94-99 and placed in the MVP voting four times, finishing as high as fourth. He was an excellent defender, winning four straight Gold Glove Awards in center field from 1993-96. Lofton's 68.2 career WAR ranks eighth all time among center fielders. Lofton is one of only nine players with 600 career steals and 600 extra-base hits; he and Raines are the only two not in the Hall of Fame.

    Video: BAL@CLE: Kenny Lofton robs homer with amazing catch

    Compares favorably to: Lou Brock. Lofton produced much more value over his career than his fellow speedy outfielder -- Lofton's 68.2 WAR dwarfs Brock's 45.2. Lofton's best season (7.6 WAR in 1993) is nearly two wins better than Brock's (5.9 in '64), and his peak run was better as well (32.9 WAR in his best five seasons compared to Brock's 25.1).

    Ted Simmons, C, 1968-88 and Bill Freehan, C, 1961-76
    Simmons' career stats: .285/.348/.437, 2,472 H, 248 HR, 1,389 RBIs, 1,074 R, 50.1 WAR
    Freehan's career stats: .262/.340/.412, 1,591 H, 200 HR, 758 RBIs, 706 R, 44.7 WAR
    HOF voting: Simmons -- 3.7 percent in 1994; Freehan -- 0.5 percent in 1982

    Simmons and Freehan were two of the better catchers of their eras. Simmons, an eight-time All-Star with three top-10 National League MVP finishes, has the 11th-highest career WAR of any catcher. Freehan made 11 All-Star teams (10 straight from 1964-73), won five straight Gold Glove Awards from '65-69 and finished in the top three of AL MVP voting in '67 and '68 -- when he won his only World Series in 1968 and hit an RBI double off Bob Gibson in Game 7. But when Simmons and Freehan got onto the Hall of Fame ballot, neither received enough votes to stay there for a second year.

    Compare favorably to: Ernie Lombardi. Simmons had better total production than Lombardi, who caught for the Reds and Giants in the 1930s and '40s, while Freehan had a better peak. Simmons' 50.1 WAR beats Lombardi's 45.9, while Freehan's best six seasons were each better than each of Lombardi's best six.

    Al Oliver, OF/1B, 1968-85
    Career stats: .303/.344/.451, 2,743 H, 219 HR, 1,326 RBIs, 1,189 R, 43.3 WAR
    HOF voting: 4.3 percent in 1991

    Oliver wasn't a dominant power hitter or speed threat, and his advanced stats don't compare favorably to those of other Hall of Fame outfielders, but through his consistent hitting over 18 Major League seasons, he ended his career with some numbers that are nothing to sneeze at. Oliver maintained a .300 lifetime batting average even after amassing nearly 10,000 plate appearances. Only 27 players in Major League history have retired with a .300 batting average over as many plate appearances as Oliver (9,778); 25 of them are in the Hall of Fame. Pete Rose, banned from baseball, is the 26th. Oliver is the 27th. Oliver's 2,743 hits rank 52nd in MLB history, but it wasn't enough for him to generate the 5 percent of votes necessary to stay on the Hall of Fame ballot past his first year of eligibility.

    Compares favorably to: Bill Mazeroski. Mazeroski played a different position than Oliver, but even with Maz's Gold Glove defense at second base and his legendary walk-off homer in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, Oliver's career numbers are better, thanks to his hitting. Oliver has the edge in advanced stats (43.3 WAR to 36.2, 5.2 to 4.9 in their best individual season) and counting stats (.303 batting average to .260, 2,743 hits to 2,016, 219 homers to 138).

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  • Bagwell's '94 MVP season part of HOF-worthy career

    It was perhaps the best two-thirds of a baseball season we've ever seen, and for Jeff Bagwell, it was just a preview of what was to come.

    The Baseball Writers' Association of America will reveal its election results for the Hall of Fame Class of 2017 on Jan. 18, the night when Bagwell -- now in his seventh year of eligibility -- may receive the biggest phone call of his life. Over the last 50 years, 16 of the last 17 players who gained at least 70 percent of the BBWAA vote (as Bagwell did with 71.6 percent last winter) have been elected in their next year of eligibility, with Jim Bunning -- who was later elected by the Veterans' Committee -- being the lone exception.

    "This year if I don't get in, I'll probably be a little disappointed," Bagwell said of his Hall of Fame chances in a recent interview with MLB.com, "but before that, more than anything else, I want to hear 'Yes' or 'No.' That's the bottom line. Get it over with."

    With Bagwell on the doorstep of baseball immortality, it seems poignant to look back on one of his most impressive efforts: A 1994 season that ranks among the single-greatest offensive campaigns in Astros franchise history.

    "It was just something special," Bagwell said of that season. "I really didn't have any slumps. It was crazy."

    Video: LAD@HOU: Bagwell belts three homers

    If you took Bagwell's final numbers in 1994 and prorated them over a full 162-game slate, he would have finished with an incredible 216 hits, 153 runs scored, 57 home runs and 171 RBIs. Over the history of baseball, not a single player has reached all of those totals in a single season.

    But Bagwell never got the chance to reach those totals. On Aug. 10, a pitch from the Padres' Andy Benes fractured his left hand for the second consecutive year. Two days later, the season was over, due to the players' strike.

    Though Bagwell's season was finished at 110 games, it still made history. How so? Let us count the ways:

    • Bagwell finished with a park-adjusted OPS+ of 213 (where 100 is equal to league average at the time), which paired him with the great Rogers Hornsby as the only National League players in history to have posted an OPS+ that high (Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire would later join the club).

    • Bagwell became only the fourth player in history to post a slugging percentage of at least .750. The other three -- Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Hornsby -- had all done it roughly seven decades earlier (Bonds and McGwire would later join those ranks, too).

    • When Bagwell scored his second of three runs on Aug. 5, he became the fastest player in the Expansion Era (1961-present) to tally 100 runs and 100 RBIs in a season. He needed only 461 plate appearances to reach the benchmarks.

    • That same day, Bagwell knocked his 38th homer and reached 112 RBIs to set franchise records. It was only his 107th game of the year.

    • The Astros finished with 602 total runs in 1994 -- second among NL clubs -- and Bagwell either scored or drove in 37 percent of them.

    All of these incredible figures helped Bagwell become only the fourth unanimous MVP Award winner in NL history, and the first Astros player to win the award. Though he claims to have not made any major adjustments heading into 1994, Bagwell did point to the advice he received from an all-time legend that helped him gain his consistency.

    "As bad as my stance was, it was working back then," he said. "I have a bat signed to me from Tony Gwynn that says, 'Bags, keep the same stance.' He used to see that it was changed all the time, so I got consistent with that."

    Gwynn's advice on hitting was spot on. Bagwell was in the crowd on a sunny afternoon in Cooperstown two years ago as his former teammate and good friend, Craig Biggio, became the first Astros player to be inducted to the Hall of Fame. Now that he's knocking on the door himself, Bagwell says he still can't imagine what it would feel like to stand on stage alongside the greatest to ever play the game.

    "Everybody is hoping for this year, and this is probably my best opportunity," Bagwell said. "I'm excited for it."

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  • Close Hall? 10 active players on Fame's fence

    With the 2017 National Baseball Hall of Fame class to be announced on Jan. 18, we're this close to knowing who is in the next group of baseball immortals.

    But what about the current players? Who has the best chances of joining the Class of 2017 sometime in the future? As Mike Petriello noted recently, there are, on average, 31 players each season who end up in Cooperstown. Ichiro Suzuki, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera -- these are the easy ones. Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout are safe bets. The tough part is predicting the rest. There are many variables over the course of a career that make forecasting future Hall of Fame classes something of a fool's errand.

    Here are the still-borderline candidates -- stars who could be on their way to the Hall, but still have some work to do. (Note: The similarity scores below were devised by Bill James and in this case are the retired player who plays the same position and is the most statistically similar through their current age.)

    Madison Bumgarner, LHP, age 27
    100-67, 2.99 ERA, 1,381 K, 25 WAR

    Everything needs to break right, but Bumgarner and Kershaw both could get to 300 wins -- a formerly magical milestone that has been written out of possibility for modern pitchers. But while Kershaw is a near-sure Hall of Famer already, Bumgarner probably needs to duplicate the outstanding six-year stretch that has started his career. Bumgarner's legendary postseason success adds to his campaign, which includes four straight sub-3.00 ERA seasons. Now he just needs volume.
    Historical comp: Frank Tanana

    Video: Bumgarner's epic 2014 WC performance vs. Pirates

    Robinson Cano, 2B, age 34
    .307/.355/.498, 278 HR, 1,086 RBI, 62 WAR

    A seven-time All-Star, Cano ranks in the top 10 among second basemen in doubles (479), home runs (278), hitting (.307) and slugging (.498), and he is already in the same tier in terms of career WAR as Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Roberto Alomar and Craig Biggio.

    Given Cano is under contract for seven more seasons, he'll likely retire with all-time positional bests in several categories. At this rate, Cano needs just 113 hits per season to reach the 3,000 mark by the end of his contract. His wait for Cooperstown feels like a formality.
    Historical comp: Ryne Sandberg

    Aroldis Chapman, LHP, age 28
    383 G, 2.08 ERA, 182 SV, 13 WAR

    Relievers seem to need some shtick to impress Hall voters, and that'll be especially true of this era, with effective relievers both more plentiful and pitching in more limited roles. But Chapman could be remembered as a revolutionary -- the hardest thrower ever -- and retire the all-time leader in strikeouts per nine. He's also saved more games, by percentage, than Mariano Rivera through seven seasons.
    Historical comp: N/A

    Video: BAL@NYY: Chapman hits 105.1 mph for fastest Statcast™

    Zack Greinke, RHP, age 33
    155-100, 3.42 ERA, 2,021 K, 51 WAR

    Greinke is a tricky case as a consistently good pitcher with scattered peaks of complete dominance. He owns two of the best seasons (2009, '15) by a right-handed pitcher since 1990, and he ranks second in winning percentage (.664), third in ERA (3.15) and ninth in walk rate (2.20) across baseball over the last 10 years.

    He'll need to finish his career with more seasons akin to his 2011-15 stretch than his lackluster first season in Arizona if he wants to bolster his dark horse candidacy for Cooperstown.
    Historical comparison: Bret Saberhagen

    Felix Hernandez, RHP, age 30
    154-109, 3.16 ERA, 2,264 K, 51 WAR

    Hernandez has an American League Cy Young Award, two other top-two AL Cy Young Award finishes, an AL wins title, two AL ERA titles, six All-Star selections, eight seasons of 200-plus innings and the third-best ERA (3.17) among active starters over the last 10 years. He also tossed a perfect game in 2012, the first in Mariners history.

    After a down 2016 season, there is concern over how Hernandez's arm will respond after nearly 2,500 innings. No matter how the second half of Hernandez's career goes, his resume rivals anyone's from his era not named Kershaw.
    Historical comp: Don Sutton

    Video: TB@SEA: Felix freezes Rodriguez to seal perfect game

    Dustin Pedroia, 2B, age 33
    .301/.366/.445, 1,683 H, 133 HR, 51 WAR

    Pedroia's case will likely hinge on two factors: his ability to hit traditional counting stat milestones and how heavily voters weigh his early career accomplishments. Pedroia was the third player to win a Rookie of the Year Award and an MVP Award in consecutive seasons, and he has two World Series rings with Boston, which will count for a lot.

    But without much power, Pedroia's best chance at Cooperstown is probably reaching the 3,000-hit mark, a la Biggio. Pedroia needs nine more seasons at his 153-hits-per-year average to reach 3,000. Tough, but it's not impossible.
    Historical comp: Biggio

    Buster Posey, C, age 29
    .307/.373/.476, 116 HR, 34 WAR

    Posey has a National League Rookie of the Year Award, an NL MVP Award, three World Series titles, a batting crown, the second-highest OPS+ by a catcher in Major League history and a reputation as one of the game's best defensive players. He also has only 1,005 hits and 116 home runs, and he just went through one of the worst power slumps of his career.

    Another decade there and Posey could be a top three catcher of all time. But does he have another decade behind the plate? And what would moving to another position full-time do to his Cooperstown case, which on the surface seems solid but historically still needs more?
    Historical comp: Gabby Hartnett

    Giancarlo Stanton, RF, age 27
    .266/.357/.539, 208 HR, 28 WAR

    Stanton has 208 home runs over seven seasons, most of them shortened by injury. If he doesn't opt out of the largest contract in sports history in 2020, Stanton will be signed for 11 more years. He needs to average just 26.5 homers per season over that span to reach 500, 35.6 per season to reach 600, and 44 per season to reach 700. You've seen the way he puts baseballs into orbit. It could happen.
    Historical comp: Darryl Strawberry

    Video: WSH@MIA: Statcast™ measures Stanton's 448-foot homer

    Justin Verlander, RHP, age 33
    173-106, 3.47 ERA, 2,197 K, 51 WAR

    Verlander is one of just 10 right-handed starters to win an MVP Award, and one of just two since 1969. He ranks top five among active pitchers in wins, starts, innings, strikeouts and complete games. He has an AL Cy Young Award, two other top-two AL Cy Young Award finishes, two wins titles, an ERA crown and four strikeout titles. His career 3.47 ERA would be the sixth highest of any player enshrined in Cooperstown.
    Historical comp: John Smoltz

    Joey Votto, 1B, age 33
    .313/.425/.536, 221 HR, 47 WAR

    Votto will be a fascinating case when his time comes: He has an NL MVP Award, four All-Star selections and five OBP titles so far. He's the 10th best in Major League history at getting on base, but few hitters have won more at-bats while being less traditionally productive.

    Nobody has reached base at a better rate than Votto in baseball since he debuted in 2007, but he has just 221 home runs and 730 RBIs in 10 seasons. How will he compare to, say, Hall of Fame first baseman Frank Thomas, who reached base at a similar clip but also hit 521 home runs with 1,704 RBIs?

    Votto won't approach the power numbers of others enshrined at the position. His strongest case rests in where his elite slash line ends up. Right now it is most similar to Edgar Martinez, who's had a tough time garnering Cooperstown support -- but he also has his career DH stigma to shake.
    Historical comp: Jason Giambi

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  • Time has come to put Raines in Hall of Fame

    OK, it's time to make Tim Raines more than just a tease every December regarding Cooperstown. The only person who gets overlooked as much by my fellow Baseball Hall of Fame voters as Rock is Crime Dog. Since Fred McGriff has two more years of eligibility, I'll save that rant for later.

    As for Raines, Rock or whatever you wish to call him, I'm hoping we all can refer to the former pride of the Montreal Expos as "Hall of Famer" on Wednesday, Jan. 18, when the official word comes. There are at least 808 reasons (you know, his number of career stolen bases) for Raines to join the Hall of Fame with Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock and Ty Cobb, the only players with more career steals than Raines. Simply put, Raines is the only player in baseball history not in Cooperstown with that many stolen bases.

    Are you listening, fellow Hall of Fame voters? We have no time to waste, because this is Raines' final season on the writers' ballot. I've done the same thing for the last nine years, including earlier this month: I've opened my envelope from the Baseball Writers' Association of America, I've placed a check mark on the box next to Raines' name, and I've sighed over the thought that Rock hasn't been bronzed after all of these years.

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    Raines is trending in the right direction, though. You need 75 percent of the ballots cast for entry into the Hall of Fame, and he went from 55 percent two years ago to 69.89 last year. That was 23 votes shy of Coopertown's village limits, so we can do this. We HAVE to do this for so many reasons.

    Video: Tim Raines chances to make 2017 HOF class

    Let's start with fairness, which means Hall of Fame voters should stop their habit of comparing and contrasting Raines with Henderson -- just because they both were leadoff hitters, they both played left field, they both thrived on speed, they both were in the same era, and they both lasted forever (25 years for Henderson, 23 for Raines) in the Major Leagues.

    There was just one Rickey, the greatest leadoff hitter ever, and nobody ever will surpass the Man of Steal who holds a slew of all-time Major League records, ranging from career stolen bases to leadoff homers. Henderson led the American League in steals 12 times. He made 10 trips to the All-Star Game. He collected three Silver Slugger Awards, and he won a Gold Glove Award in left field in 1982. Not only that, but Henderson was the AL's Most Valuable Player in 1990, and he managed more than 3,000 hits, complemented his speed with power (297 homers) and he played on two World Series championship teams.

    Actually, Raines is within a few legged-out bunts to first base of Henderson in several of those categories. He played in just three fewer All-Star Games than Henderson at seven, and he grabbed one Silver Slugger Award to the other guy's three. Even though Raines never won a Gold Glove like Henderson, he still was considered a solid left fielder who once led the NL in assists.

    Video: Tim Raines talks Hall of Fame and more with Mad Dog

    Now prepare to gasp, because I'll add everything above to this: In some ways, Raines surpassed Henderson. He played on one more World Series championship team than the Man of Steal, and while he never matched Henderson by taking league MVP Award honors for a season, he did get votes for that award after seven different years. He also was named MVP of an All-Star Game, which never happened to Henderson. Then, there is Henderson's .279 lifetime batting average to Raines' .294.

    Along these lines, I'll save a couple of things for last. After Raines made his Major League debut by playing a few games with the Expos in 1979 and several more in 1980 before his first full season in 1981, he stole 27 consecutive bases without getting caught. Whether or not that's a Major League record for stolen bases to start a career, the Elias folks can't verify for sure. Even so, they did confirm Henderson had his first steal when he joined the A's in 1979, but they said he was thrown out a few days later in Attempt No. 2.

    Another edge to Raines. The same goes for something else regarding two players mostly noted for their ability to use their swift legs to make life miserable for opposing pitchers and catchers. Henderson was successful 80.76 percent of the time during his steal attempts.

    Raines was at 84.7 percent.

    Consider, too, that among those with at least 300 steal attempts, only current Astros slugger Carlos Beltran's success rate of 88.1 is higher than that of Raines.

    That's all good enough for me to place Raines in the Hall of Fame, like right now, but if you're still not convinced, how about this? From the early through the mid-1980s, Raines joined Expos teammates Gary Carter and Andre Dawson, along with Eddie Murray, Robin Yount, Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken Jr., as the most consistently potent everyday players in the Major Leagues.

    Only one player in that group isn't in Cooperstown.

    Uh huh.

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  • Late A's voice King honored with Frick Award

    NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Legendary broadcaster Bill King, whose voice was so familiar to the sports fans in the San Francisco Bay Area, was elected the winner of the 2017 Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in baseball broadcasting, the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced on Wednesday.

    During the 1980s, the late King was ubiquitous, serving as the radio voice of the A's, Raiders and Warriors, including handling all three jobs from '81-83. He was most known for his basketball broadcasting, calling the Warriors' first NBA championship in '75, plus several Super Bowl-winning Raiders teams. But King always said his first love was baseball, and nobody prepared to call that game harder than King.

    Video: King calls Henderson's record-setting stolen base

    The silver-goateed and handle-bar mustachioed broadcaster was a renaissance man who lived on a houseboat off the shores of Sausalito, Calif., a beatific town across the bay from San Francisco's famous Fisherman's Wharf. He was known for broadcasting games wearing sandals, shorts and a T-shirt, often sunning himself in the empty stands before Spring Training games at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. King was also as comfortable with the arts as he was in sports.

    "Bill was eccentric. He loved the arts and he was beloved in the community," recalled Mike Krukow, the former Giants pitcher and a member of their broadcasting team since 1990, also among the eight names on this year's ballot. "My son was part of the ballet, and it was something Bill was very interested in. He loved ballet and he made such a difference in it because of his support."

    And King was a mentor to many, including current A's broadcaster Ken Korach, who wrote a book about King's incredible career and life. The book is called "Holy Toledo: Lessons from Bill King," and was released in the fall of 2013. "Holy Toledo" was King's offbeat signature call when something significant happened in a game.

    Video: King calls Stewart's no-hitter against the Jays

    Korach broadcast his first 10 years as King's sidekick.

    "This is particularly meaningful for me and anybody who worked with him at the A's," Korach said. "I don't think there's anybody working in the game today that had more of an impact on the game than Bill had. It's incredibly meaningful from that standpoint. He would have been so proud today and so thrilled."

    King passed away only a week after doing his last broadcast of the 2005 A's season. He had hip and knee problems all that season, and at 78, was restricted to calling only the home games at what was then simply known as the Oakland Coliseum. He went in for knee surgery and suffered from an embolism, a blood clot that caused his death. This was King's sixth time on the Frick ballot.

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    "I'm happy for King's family and this was long overdue," Krukow said. "The voting committee did a wonderful job in their selection of him. He's been deserving for a long time. The only regret that I have is that he's not alive to appreciate the honor."

    King's sudden passing shocked the local sports community, and the tributes were numerous. He was a play-by-play fill-in on Giants broadcasts for now fellow Frick winners Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons after that club moved from New York to San Francisco in 1958, and he began his career in earnest in 1962 with the Warriors.

    King joined the Raiders in '66, broadcasting both teams continuously until giving up basketball in '83. By that time, the Raiders had moved to Los Angeles and King was commuting between Oakland and L.A. to do basketball and football games.

    In 1981, after Charlie Finley sold the A's to Walter Haas and his family, King was reunited with Simmons and continued to call the A's until his death.

    Video: 2003ALDS Gm1: Hernandez's bunt walks off A's in 12th

    "He was a fine broadcaster, kind of a mentor to me," said Bruce Magowan, a longtime Bay Area broadcaster who broke into the business when King was in his heyday. "The reason for that is that he always made himself available to younger broadcasters such as myself, and he'd encourage them. He'd never, ever tell you he was too busy."

    Aside from King and Krukow, this Frick ballot also included Gary Cohen, Jacques Doucet, Ken Harrelson, Pat Hughes, Ned Martin and Dewayne Staats.

    King will be honored posthumously along with J.G. Spink Award winner Claire Smith during Hall of Fame induction weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 29 at Doubleday Field. Smith was named on Tuesday as the first female winner of the award granted annually by the Baseball Writers' Association of America to a sportswriter "for meritorious contributions to baseball writing."

    Video: Claire Smith reflects on baseball writing career

    The actual induction is slated for July 30 behind the Clark Sports Center. Former Commissioner Bud Selig and Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz were elected by the Today's Game Era Committee on Sunday, and they will receive their plaques along with any players selected from the ballot sent to eligible BBWAA members last month.

    The results of that ballot will be announced on Jan. 18 on MLB Network and MLB.com.

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  • Smith first woman to win Spink Award

    NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- When Claire Smith became the first female recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday, she received a standing ovation by the group of writers that had just elected her.

    An emotional Smith, whose career in newspapers and electronic media dates back to the 1970s, was asked if she wanted to say a few words to the writers who elected her with 272 votes on the 449 ballots cast.

    Complete Hall of Fame coverage

    With that, she asked the female scribes attending the annual BBWAA gathering at the Winter Meetings to join her at the front of the room. That group of six included MLB.com's Carrie Muskat, Alyson Footer and Jenifer Langosch.

    Video: Claire Smith becomes first woman to win Spink Award

    "She was thanking us for helping her," Footer said about Smith, who is now a researcher and writer for ESPN. "But I told her, 'You did all the work, blazing the trail.' She's a tremendous reporter. This was a well-deserved honor because of her accomplishments, her career. It also comes along with she's the first woman, she's African-American; those are two big exclusionary issues. We take for granted a little bit of how it is for us now."

    "Claire is one of the nicest people and one of the most professional people that I've had the pleasure of working with," Muskat added. "I could not be happier."

    Smith also thanked her male colleagues, from whom she said she always felt support.

    "I want you all to do something for me and look at this room at our brothers in arms," Smith said to the women behind her. "Over the four decades that I covered, I'd name all of you who touched my life. But these are the guys who stood up ... and said we are your peers."

    Smith will be honored during Hall of Fame induction weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y., and she is slated to give her acceptance speech on July 29 at Doubleday Field along with the winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in baseball broadcasting, which will be announced on Wednesday.

    The eight finalists this year for that award are Gary Cohen, Jacques Doucet, Ken Harrelson, Pat Hughes, Bill King, Mike Krukow, Ned Martin and Dewayne Staats.

    The induction is slated for July 30 behind the Clark Sports Center. Former Commissioner Bud Selig and Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz were elected by the Today's Game Era Committee on Sunday, and they will receive their plaques along with any players selected from the ballot sent to eligible BBWAA members last month.

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  • Hall of Fame ballots will be made public starting in 2018

    NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- For the first time in 2018, all eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America who file ballots for the annual election of players to the National Baseball Hall of Fame will have their votes made public.

    The membership voted, 80-9, in favor of that transparency after a short discussion at the annual BBWAA gathering during the Winter Meetings on Tuesday morning.

    • Selig, Schuerholz elected to Hall of Fame

    In the past, all votes were anonymous, and they were not released by either the BBWAA or the Hall of Fame. However, any writer could voluntarily release his or her vote publicly.

    Under the new rules, all votes will be released seven days after the election announcement, and there will be no limitation on any writer who opts to publish their ballot beforehand.

    In the most recent election, 307 of the 440 voters released their own ballots -- either personally or through the BBWAA. Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were both elected, and the pair was inducted this past July 24. In that election, Griffey received a record 99.3 percent of the vote, with three voters keeping Griffey, who hit 630 career homers, off their ballots.

    There was a social media storm this past January after the election results were made public, but the names of those three writers never surfaced. Under the new rules, such anonymity would be impossible.

    The new rule will not affect the current vote, which is already in progress. Ballots were sent out last month and are due on Dec. 31. The announcement that will fill out the Class of 2017 is scheduled for Jan. 18 on MLB Network and MLB.com.

    Writers with at least 10 consecutive years of membership are eligible to vote each year for the Hall of Fame. Under new guidelines instituted for the Class of 2016 by the Hall, every eligible writer must fill out an online form each year to qualify. The Hall is intent on eliminating voters who no longer regularly cover Major League Baseball.

    The 440 writers that submitted ballots in the most recent election was down from 549 the previous year.

    Every writer with at least 10 years of consecutive involvement in the BBWAA retains status as a lifetime member, even when no longer active. Those writers are allowed to continue voting on the Hall of Fame for 10 years after they become inactive.

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  • Selig, Schuerholz reflect on Hall of Fame election

    NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- A day after former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and longtime executive John Schuerholz were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, it was time for reflection on Monday.

    Both men were introduced and honored at the first media conference of the Winter Meetings. And as is the custom, both were presented with Hall of Fame jerseys by chairman Jane Forbes Clark, who told them that "this is the best uniform you're ever going to wear."

    There were no arguments. The jersey has the block red-lettered insignia of the Hall of Fame across the chest.

    Complete Hall of Fame coverage

    Major League Baseball's ninth Commissioner and the current vice chairman of the Atlanta Braves were among 10 baseball greats -- five players, two managers and three executives -- under consideration by the 16-person Today's Game Era Committee, the latest iteration of the Veterans' Committee format.

    The pair will be inducted in the Class of 2017 on July 30, along with anyone elected from the annual ballot sent last month to voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The announcement of the rest of the class will occur on Jan. 18, and it will be broadcast live on MLB Network and MLB.com at 6 p.m. ET.

    Selig, from his first season as interim Commissioner in 1992 to his last in 2014, was the man who read the inscription on the plaque and presented it each Hall of Fame inductee. Next year, he will be on the receiving end from his successor, Rob Manfred.

    The next induction, coincidentally, falls on a very special day anyway.

    "That's going to be an amazing moment in my life," Selig said afterward. "And by the way, the induction ceremony next year is on my birthday, my 83rd birthday. No sense in hiding that anymore."

    As in any Hall process, it took 75 percent for election by the Today's Game Era Committee. In this case, that's at least 12 votes from the 16 ballots cast. After two years of no one being elected by several Veterans' Committees, Schuerholz was a unanimous choice and Selig received votes on 15 of the 16 ballots. It was the first time either of the men had been considered.

    Video: Schuerholz, Selig elected to Hall of Fame

    "This is certainly the most exciting moment in my life and my whole career," Schuerholz said. "And how fitting is it for me to be inducted along with Commissioner Selig? We have worked together on a number of major projects in Major League Baseball. Thanks for his assistance year after year. We got to know each other real well and developed mutual respect."

    Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser and Mark McGwire, all no longer eligible for the BBWAA ballot, were among the 10 considered by the committee. The two managers on the ballot were Lou Piniella and Davey Johnson. George Steinbrenner, the late Yankees principal owner, fell short in his third time on the ballot of various Veterans' Committees since 2010.

    The Committee format is the only way into the Hall for managers, umpires and executives.

    Selig will be the fifth of MLB's 10 Commissioners to have his plaque hung in the Hall. The others were Bowie Kuhn -- elected in 2009, a year after his death -- Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Happy Chandler and Ford Frick. Selig will become the second Commissioner inducted in the past 25 years.

    Selig, who led a group that moved the Seattle Pilots to Milwaukee in 1970 and renamed the team the Brewers, joins the Hall with several of his former players -- Paul Molitor, Robin Yount and Hank Aaron.

    "I've been thinking a lot about this the last week or so," said Selig, who now has the title of Commissioner Emeritus. "Some of you who know me well know I was a little on the nervous side. But when I think of myself as a kid growing up, and in your wildest dreams, you couldn't imagine the things that would happen to me over the last 30 or 40 years and certainly the last 25.

    "And so, not only is this the greatest honor I've ever received, but to be included in the Hall of Fame in a sport that I love, it's really left me almost speechless."

    Video: Bud Selig has been elected to the Hall of Fame

    Selig presided over the most prosperous era in Major League history, the sport growing from $1.2 billion in gross revenue when he took over in 1992 to close to $10 billion at the time of his retirement on Jan. 24, 2015.

    The growth all came in the wake of the strike that knocked out the end of the 1994 season and postseason, which has been followed by what will total 27 years of labor peace by the time the recently negotiated Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 2021.

    Under his guidance, the Wild Card era and Interleague Play began, not to mention the consolidation of the two leagues under one MLB umbrella. Jackie Robinson's No. 42 was retired throughout baseball in 1997 on the 50th anniversary of him shattering the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

    Selig had enough foresight to oversee the inception of MLB Advanced Media in 2001, and the league began instituting video replay in '08 to make sure calls on the field were correct.

    "Back in 1992, given what I inherited, you couldn't have forecasted that this day would take place," Selig said. "But I had a lot of cooperation from people. We worked hard, and we accomplished a lot together."

    As general manager of the Braves, Schuerholz oversaw one of the greatest eras in baseball history. His club won a record 14 division titles in a row from 1991-2005, including five National League pennants and the '95 World Series.

    Video: MLB Tonight: Schuerholz reacts to Hall of Fame nod

    Schuerholz also won the 1985 World Series as general manager of the Royals. He benefited from a voting rule change made last summer that allows active executives to have eligibility for the Hall of Fame if they are at least 70 years old. Schuerholz is 76.

    Manager Bobby Cox and pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz have been inducted into the Hall from Schuerholz's Braves teams. Chipper Jones, another superstar from that era, will be on the BBWAA ballot for the first time next year.

    Cox, who was in the room on Monday, was inducted along with Glavine and Maddux in a 2014 class for the ages that also included fellow managers Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, as well as slugger Frank Thomas.

    "This is unbelievable, really good," Cox said. "Bud was a great Commissioner. The best ever in my opinion. And John? Right at the top of the greatest GMs ever. Two class guys."

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  • A family matter: Selig celebrates HOF honor

    NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The most overwhelming day in Bud Selig's professional life began as just another Sunday. He navigated Milwaukee's first snowfall of the season to fulfill his longtime lunch routine -- a hot dog and Diet Coke from Gilles Frozen Custard -- before returning to Bayside, Wis., to watch the Green Bay Packers' game in his home office.

    At 4:20 p.m. CT (Selig's wife Sue noted the time), the telephone rang. It was Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, informing Selig he'd been elected to Cooperstown.

    "I ran in there, and you could just see the nervousness pass for him," Sue said.

    Selig, the former Brewers owner and Major League Baseball Commissioner, will be enshrined in a ceremony on July 30, 2017. It comes on his 83rd birthday.

    "This was not just another day, I'll tell you," Sue said of the buildup to Sunday's announcement. "He was uptight about this whole thing. He is very superstitious, so for weeks now, I was told not to talk about this."

    Video: Selig reflects on career and his election to the HOF

    Selig's daughter, former Brewers president Wendy Selig-Prieb, held out as long as she could. She was home in New York and thought the announcement would come in the late morning or early afternoon, so she carried her phone in her hand all day.

    Shortly after kickoff of that Packers game, Selig-Prieb couldn't take it anymore. She phoned her father to check in.

    Hours later, after Forbes-Clark delivered the news, father and daughter connected again.

    "I think there was a great sense of relief and excitement; I don't know what the combination of those two things is," Selig-Prieb said. "Like he said today, 'What do you say? How do you put it into words?'"

    Video: Today's Game Era Committee elects two into HOF

    When Selig did try to put it into words on Monday, he conjured memories of his Milwaukee roots.

    "When I think of myself as a kid growing up, and in your wildest dreams, you couldn't imagine the things that would happen to me for the last 40 or 50 years, and certainly the last 25," Selig said. "And so this is not only the greatest honor that I've ever received, I don't think there's any question about that. But to be included in the Hall of Fame in a sport that I love, it really has left me almost speechless, and I'm not speechless that often."

    Selig's wife, daughters and granddaughters were by his side on Monday as he was announced as a Hall of Famer for the first time during the Winter Meetings. The women in Selig's life have played a significant role in his career, beginning with his mother Marie, who introduced Selig to baseball in the first place.

    After Selig brought Major League Baseball back to Milwaukee County Stadium in 1970, his mother was a regular at Brewers games. She would sit in the owner's box, Sue recalled on Monday, scorecard in hand.

    "There's no question that she is responsible for his love of baseball," Sue said.

    Video: Gammons reflects on career of Bud Selig

    That love was passed on to Selig-Prieb, who took over day-to-day operations of the ballclub after Selig became acting Commissioner in 1992. The family retained ownership of the team until handing the reins to Mark Attanasio in 2005.

    "I think about lessons learned," Selig-Prieb said. "I mean, I'm very lucky. Yes, as a father, but [also] as a mentor and a business leader. … You learn by watching and observing. I would sit around his office after work and see him taking calls for hours upon hours upon hours. It's a unique perspective."

    Added Sue: "There is something very special about this, there's no question. This is what you sort of strive for. It's the ultimate."

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  • Schuerholz's legacy worthy of Cooperstown

    NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Want to know how smart John Schuerholz is? Smart enough to know he's not the smartest guy in the room. Or, at least, he doesn't act like it.

    "It is one thing to be the smartest guy in the room," said Dick Balderson, a longtime associate with Schuerholz from the days they spent in the Royals and Braves organizations. "It is another thing to be the smartest guy and let others think they are.

    "John has that special ability to make everybody he is associated with feel special."

    Complete Hall of Fame coverage

    Right now, it's Schuerholz who is feeling special.

    Fifty years after giving up his job as a school teacher in Baltimore to take an entry-level position with the Orioles, Schuerholz was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, a unanimous selection by the Today's Game Era Committee.

    Video: Schuerholz reflects on his Hall of Fame career

    Schuerholz has become best known for his role as the general manager of an Atlanta Braves franchise that finished first 14 consecutive seasons, a streak unmatched in professional sports, but he also was the scouting director and later general manager for a Royals team that made seven postseason appearances in a 10-year stretch that was capped off with a World Series title in 1985.

    Schuerholz shared the dais during a news conference at MLB's Winter Meetings on Monday with fellow Hall of Fame electee Bud Selig, the man who brought big league baseball back to Milwaukee in 1970 and then put together arguably the most impactful tenure as MLB Commissioner in the history of the game.

    It was Schuerholz, however, who was named on all 16 ballots that were cast by a committee made up of former players, club executives and media members, one more than Selig.

    Schuerholz was humbled by the experience. But he shouldn't be. He deserved it.

    Schuerholz was a critical part of the emergence of the Royals, a team born out of expansion in 1969, as one of the game's most respected franchise during a decade of dominance in which they won American League West titles in 1976, '77, '78 and '84, an '81 postseason invite by winning the second-half AL West title in that strike-shortened season, an AL pennant in '80, and a World Series championship in 1985.

    Schuerholz was an assistant farm director who was promoted to farm director in 1976, and then, following the 1981 season, the general manager of the Royals at the age of 41, the youngest GM in Major League history at the time.

    "Today," he said with a big smile, "I'd be an elder statesman."

    Yes, the game has changed drastically in the 50 years that Schuerholz has been an active participant, but there is one thing that never wavered -- his self-confidence while creating a working atmosphere in the organizations he oversaw in which every employee felt he/she was a critical part of success.

    Video: MLB Tonight: Schuerholz's lasting impact on Braves

    "He doesn't just allow everyone to speak their peace," the late Jim Fregosi once explained of the loyalty he developed toward working for Schuerholz. "He listens to what each person says."

    In the end, however, there was never any doubt. Schuerholz was in charge. And he was going to make the final decision.

    Balderson can attest to that. He has known Schuerholz from the bottom up. A player in the Royals' system when Schuerholz was the assistant farm director, Balderson was retired from the game and selling insurance in Des Moines, Iowa, following the 1975 season when Schuerholz was promoted to the farm director of the Royals and convinced Balderson to become his assistant.

    Schuerholz eventually became the general manager, and Balderson became the farm director/scouting director before going out on his own to become general manager of the Seattle Mariners. Balderson would later work as the scouting director of the Cubs and farm director of the expansion Rockies before being reunited with Schuerholz in Atlanta, where he served initially as the farm director and later as a special assistant to Schuerholz.

    "One thing John did was surround himself with good people," said Balderson. "He also is one of the better listeners I have ever been around. It is a quality not a lot of people have."

    Video: Schuerholz discusses scouting and player development

    Schuerholz was such a strong figure that when he went to the Braves, the man he replaced as the general manager, Bobby Cox, became the manager. The two of them forged a strong relationship that never wavered. Schuerholz was not the slightest bit intimidated.

    "Of course not," said Balderson. "He respected Bobby's knowledge and ability, and wasn't afraid for Bobby to know that, which is why the two of them had such a strong bond for nearly two decades."

    But even with that relationship, there was never any question that Schuerholz was the general manager.

    "He is a decisive leader," said Balderson. "He had no trouble making a decision. And he was usually ahead of the curve with what he could do."

    Schuerholz, after all, has always been one of the smartest guys in the room, even if he never acted that way.

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  • Selig, Schuerholz elected to Hall of Fame

    NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and longtime executive John Schuerholz became the newest members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame after being elected on Sunday to the museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.

    Major League Baseball's ninth Commissioner and the current president of the Atlanta Braves were among 10 baseball greats -- five players, two managers and three executives -- who were on the ballot under consideration by the 16-person Today's Game Era Committee, the latest iteration of the Veterans' Committee format.

    Complete Hall of Fame coverage

    Selig and Schuerzholz will be inducted in the Class of 2017 on July 30 behind the Clark Sports Center, along with anyone elected from the annual ballot sent last month to voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The announcement of the rest of the class will occur on Jan. 18 and be broadcast live on MLB Network and MLB.com at 6 p.m. ET.

    "I've done a lot of thinking in the last week or so. ... When I think of myself as a kid growing up, and in your wildest dreams, you couldn't imagine the things that would happen to me for the last 40 or 50 years, and certainly the last 25," Selig said at a news conference Monday at the Winter Meetings, where both he and Schuerholz were introduced and presented with their Hall of Fame jerseys. "And so this is not only the greatest honor that I've ever received, I don't think there's any question about that. But to be included in the Hall of Fame in a sport that I love, it really has left me almost speechless, and I'm not speechless that often."

    Video: Selig reflects on career and his election to the HOF

    The call to both men came from Hall chairman Jane Forbes Clark. Selig said he took it at his home in Milwaukee. Schuerholz was at the Winter Meetings set to get into full swing on Monday morning.

    "When I got the call from Jane, it was a high honor, to say the least," Selig, now Commissioner Emeritus, said during a conference call shortly after the announcement. "Many of you [on the call] have lived with me throughout this and know how I feel. ... I consider myself to be very fortunate to have had a career in a sport that I love."

    Video: Selig honored to get call to Cooperstown

    Schuerholz said he was also flabbergasted when he received the call, answering his cell phone, although he didn't recognize the area code or the number.

    "I'm not often speechless, but at that time I was," he said. "I told her how proud and honored and how thrilled I was to be part of and welcomed into such an august group, the highest body and pinnacle of success in baseball. And now they've invited me to be a part of that? My heart has been beating at a very different pace than it has been for many, many years."

    As in any Hall process, it took 75 percent for election by the Today's Game Committee. In this case, that's at least 12 votes on each of the 16 ballots cast. After two years of no one being elected by several different committees, Schuerholz was a unanimous choice and Selig, Commissioner from 1992 to 2015, received votes on 15 of the 16 ballots. It was the first time either of the men had been considered.

    Video: MLB Tonight: Schuerholz's lasting impact on Braves

    The players, managers and George Steinbrenner, the late Yankees principal owner, didn't meet the requirements. It was Steinbrenner's third time on the ballot of various Veterans' Committees since '10, and he received fewer than five votes.

    Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser and Mark McGwire were the players, all no longer eligible for the BBWAA ballot. The managers were Lou Piniella and Davey Johnson.

    All of the players garnered fewer than five votes, which was fairly consistent with their performances in short stints on the BBWAA ballot. McGwire, who lasted his full 10 years of eligibility, last year amassed just 12.3 percent. Piniella received seven votes and Johnson couldn't crack five on Sunday's ballot.

    The Committee format is the only way into the Hall for managers, umpires and executives.

    Selig, 82, will be just the fifth of MLB's 10 Commissioners to have his plaque hung in the Hall. The others were Bowie Kuhn -- elected posthumously in '09 a year after his death -- Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Happy Chandler and Ford Frick. Selig is only the second Commissioner inducted in the last 25 years.

    Video: Gammons reflects on career of Bud Selig

    Selig, who was the head of a group that moved the Seattle Pilots to Milwaukee in 1970 and renamed the team the Brewers, joins the Hall with several of his former players -- Paul Molitor, Robin Yount and Hank Aaron.

    "I think back to how this all started," Selig said. "To think that here I am going into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. ... Only all of you who know me well can understand that, certainly my friends and family. Since I took the call, there's been utter chaos over here. There still is."

    Schuerholz, as then general manager of the Braves, oversaw one of the greatest eras in baseball history, his club winning a record 14 division titles in a row from 1991-2005 (sans the '94 strike year), including five National League pennants and the 1995 World Series championship.

    He also won the '85 World Series title in the same capacity with the Royals. Schuerholz took advantage of a voting rule change made last summer that allows active executives to have eligibility for the Hall if they are at least 70 years old. Schuerholz is 76.

    "I'm very honored by this and it's the highlight of my professional career," Schuerholz said on Monday. "I've enjoyed some success in some organizations because of good people and I join the greatest good people in our industry in the Hall of Fame. So I'm very, very proud of that and honored by that, and I hope that I will live up to the standards that the folks in the Hall of Fame have set."

    Manager Bobby Cox and pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz have already been inducted into the Hall from Schuerholz's Braves teams. Chipper Jones, another superstar from that era, will be on the BBWAA ballot for the first time next year.

    "This is remarkable for me," said Schuerholz, who was there in 2014 and '15 for the inductions of Cox and the pitchers. "I have great respect and admiration for our Hall of Famers, especially the recent inductees. That special group that I had a chance to work with and be with made it a thrill for me to be there when they were inducted. And hopefully Chipper will get in at some point. To know that I get to join them and Bobby in Cooperstown is a thrill beyond belief."

    Video: Schuerholz reflects on his Hall of Fame career

    Selig presided over the most prosperous era in Major League history, the sport growing from $1.2 billion in gross revenue when he took over as interim Commissioner in 1992 to close to $10 billion at the time of his retirement on Jan. 24, 2015. And Selig said he was proud of that "economic reformation."

    The growth all came in the wake of the strike that knocked out the end of the 1994 season and postseason, which has been followed by what will total 27 years of labor peace by the time the recently negotiated Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 2021.

    Under his guidance, the Wild Card era and Interleague play began, not to mention the consolidation of the two leagues under one MLB umbrella. Jackie Robinson's No. 42 was retired throughout baseball in 1997 on the 50th anniversary of him shattering the color barrier for good with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

    And a sport-wide problem of players taking performance-enhancing drugs was finally tackled, with punishments for those in the Major and Minor Leagues testing positive.

    Selig said that as Commissioner, he had to take the good with the bad.

    "My job as the Commissioner was to solve that problem," Selig said. "And we did solve it in a way that I think nobody thought was possible. We did what I thought we should do. And I'm very proud of that, frankly."

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  • Vlad, Manny, Pudge debut on Hall of Fame ballot

    NEW YORK -- Prominent names, old and new, highlight the annual ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which was released Monday and mailed to eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

    Outfielders Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramirez and catchers Ivan Rodriguez and Jorge Posada are the prominent newcomers. First baseman Jeff Bagwell, outfielder Tim Raines and closer Trevor Hoffman missed election in the 2016 vote by slim margins. And with the lack of a first-ballot lock, Bagwell, Raines and Hoffman all have good chances again this time around.

    Video: Raines, Bagwell and Hoffman looking for entry to HOF

    The announcement of the Class of 2017 is scheduled for Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. ET, live on MLB Network and MLB.com. The induction ceremony will be held on July 30 behind the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y.

    "I do think about it," Rodriguez said when asked about his first time on the ballot. "Now that the year gets closer, I think about it almost every day."

    Hall of Fame coverage

    The ballot will grow tighter again during the next three years, with first-ballot certainties Chipper Jones (2018), Mariano Rivera ('19), and Derek Jeter ('20) set to enter the mix. Jim Thome, who hit 612 homers in 22 seasons, will also be on the ballot for the first time in '18.

    Players can remain on the ballot for up to 10 years. Those who receive less than five percent of the vote in any given year are taken out of consideration. A player's name must appear on at least 75 percent of the ballots to be elected, and voters can list up to 10 names.

    Video: Raines on the ballot for Hall of Fame Class of 2017

    Bagwell, who played his entire 15-year big league career with the Astros, fell just 15 votes shy of the 330 required for induction in 2016. Bagwell batted .297 with 449 homers and a .948 OPS, the latter of which is ranked 22nd all-time. Raines, in his final year on the ballot, was 23 votes short a year ago. Raines, who is fifth on the all-time list with 808 stolen bases, played for six teams over the course of 23 seasons.

    Video: Bagwell a candidate for Hall of Fame Class of 2017

    Hoffman, the all-time National League leader with 601 saves -- 552 of them for the Padres -- missed by 34 votes in his first year on the ballot. He's not taking anything for granted this time around.

    "It's a totally different process now. They eliminated a lot of voters," said Hoffman, noting that the electorate was trimmed to 440 voters from 549 in 2015. "You just never know how that's going to play into it. I don't know if it's easier or harder to get in."

    Video: Hoffman hopes to have his number called for 2017 HOF

    Of the ballot newcomers, Guerrero might have the best chance of immediate election. In his 16-year career, spent mostly with the Expos and Angels, Guerrero had a slash line of .318/.379/.553 with 449 homers, 1,496 RBIs and an OPS of .931. His WAR of 59.3 is ranked by baseball-reference.com as the 125th-best of all-time among offensive players.

    Guerrero could become the first position player from the Dominican Republic to earn a plaque in the Hall. Pitchers Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez are the only Dominicans already in. Martinez and Guerrero were teammates in Montreal.

    Video: Guerrero in the running for Hall of Fame Class of '17

    "Vlad's one of the greatest guys and best teammates I've ever been around," said Torii Hunter, who played with Guerrero for two seasons on the Angels. "I felt honored to play on the same team with a Hall of Famer."

    Rodriguez's stellar career lasted 21 seasons for six teams, and he played in 2,427 games behind the plate -- the most in Major League history, and 201 more in three fewer seasons than Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk. Rodriguez started in 2,346 of them, batting .296 with a .798 OPS and 311 home runs. His WAR of 68.4 places him 76th on the all-time list and third among catchers behind Johnny Bench (75) and Gary Carter (69.9), who are both in the Hall.

    Video: Ivan Rodriguez hopes to make HOF in 2017

    "I feel very excited about it," Rodriguez said. "It's hard to believe five years went by that quick. It feels like I just retired a couple of years ago. It will be nice. It will be fun. Hopefully I can be in the Hall of Fame. Nobody knows. I'm feeling positive."

    Posada was a significant part of the Yankees' Core Four, along with Rivera, Jeter and Andy Pettitte, and he played on five World Series champions in his 17-year career -- all with New York. For those who might doubt Posada's Hall credentials, compare this stat: Yogi Berra, who played on 10 World Series championship teams and 14 overall with the Yanks and was elected to the Hall in 1972, had an .830 OPS. Posada's was .848.

    Video: Posada is Hall of Fame Class of 2017 candidate

    By any metric, Ramirez is one of the best postseason offensive players of all-time, having played in 111 playoff games for the Indians, Red Sox and Dodgers, generating a .937 OPS. He batted .412 when Boston swept St. Louis in the 2004 World Series, winning the Series Most Valuable Player Award as the Red Sox won their first title in 86 years.

    In his 19-year career, Ramirez had a slash line of .312/.411/.585 with 555 homers, 1,831 RBIs and a .996 OPS. Those impressive numbers might not be enough for some voters, however, as he failed tests for performance-enhancing drugs twice -- with the Dodgers in 2009 and the Rays in '11, his last Major League season.

    Among the quartet of top newcomers, there is certainly no first-ballot lock like Ken Griffey Jr., who was elected a year ago with a record 99.3 percent of the vote. Mike Piazza joined him, amassing 83 percent in his fourth try. Voters, who must have at least 10 years of consecutive membership in the BBWAA, gave Bagwell 71.6 percent, Raines 69.8 percent and Hoffman 67.3 percent.

    Hall of Fame voting history suggests that all three of the top holdovers will ultimately be elected. The matter is certainly most pressing for Raines, whose ballot eligibility was cut from 15 years to 10 following a rule change by the Hall of Fame's board of directors in 2014.

    Video: Tim Raines chances to make 2017 HOF class

    The good news for all of them is that every player who has received at least as high a percentage as Raines has eventually been voted in, via either a BBWAA or a Veterans Committee election.

    The news is not so good for Lee Smith, who is in his final year on the ballot after garnering only 34.1 percent last time. The right-handed reliever, who ranks third on the all-time list with 478 saves, is the last of three players grandfathered in when the Hall's board of directors voted for the rule change, because their time on the ballot was between 11 and 15 years. Don Mattingly and Alan Trammell were the others.

    Video: Lee Smith a candidate for 2017 Hall of Fame class

    Both are no longer on the BBWAA ballot, but are eligible to be considered by the revamped Today's Game Committee election, though neither is on this year's ballot of 10. The result of the committee's vote will be announced on Dec. 5 at the Winter Meetings outside Washington, D.C.

    This year's Today's Game ballot includes players Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser and Mark McGwire, managers Lou Piniella and Davey Johnson, Braves president John Schuerholz, former Commissioner Bud Selig and late Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner.

    Smith will be eligible for consideration when the Today's Game Committee meets again under the new Eras Committees rotation in two years.

    "The only way I think Lee will get in is by the Veterans Committee," former teammate and Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins said. "For eight to 10 years, he was the all-time leader in saves. He was pretty dominant."

    All Eras Committees have 16 members, who can each place a maximum of five names on the ballot.

    McGwire, the first player to hit 70 homers in a single season, fell off the BBWAA ballot after receiving 12.3 percent of the vote in the most recent balloting in his 10th and final year. McGwire, now the Padres' bench coach, admitted to using PEDs, which appears to have had a huge impact on his vote totals.

    The complete ballot:

    Jeff Bagwell
    Casey Blake
    Barry Bonds
    Pat Burrell
    Orlando Cabrera
    Mike Cameron
    Roger Clemens
    J.D. Drew
    Carlos Guillen
    Vladimir Guerrero
    Trevor Hoffman
    Jeff Kent
    Derrek Lee
    Edgar Martinez
    Fred McGriff
    Melvin Mora
    Mike Mussina
    Magglio Ordonez
    Jorge Posada
    Tim Raines
    Manny Ramirez
    Edgar Renteria
    Arthur Rhodes
    Ivan Rodriguez
    Freddy Sanchez
    Curt Schilling
    Gary Sheffield
    Lee Smith
    Sammy Sosa
    Matt Stairs
    Jason Varitek
    Billy Wagner
    Tim Wakefield
    Larry Walker

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  • Former stars get 1st shot on HOF ballot

    Soon, members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America will cast their ballots for the Hall of Fame's Class of 2017.

    Among their choices will be returners who fell just shy of the 75-percent threshold in last year's voting, a group that includes Jeff Bagwell (71.6 percent), Tim Raines (69.8) and Trevor Hoffman (67.3). There also are a few high-profile newcomers. Vladimir Guerrero was a feared hitter with 449 homers and a National League MVP Award, Ivan Rodriguez is third all-time among catchers in wins above replacement (WAR), and Manny Ramirez hit 555 homers but also was suspended twice for his use of performance-enhancing drugs.

    Those bigger names can obscure some of the others who are eligible for the first time -- those players who have been retired for five years following a career of at least 10 Major League seasons. While it's likely that none of them will wind up in Cooperstown -- and many could fall off the ballot after one year by receiving less than five percent of the vote -- they still have accomplishments that are worth celebrating.

    In that spirit, here is a look at the first-year candidates other than Guerrero, Rodriguez and Ramirez:

    Casey Blake
    Career WAR: 24.9
    Blake appeared in just 49 big league games between 1999-2002 before breaking out as a 29-year-old with the Indians in '03. Over the next eight seasons with the Indians and Dodgers, he averaged 20 home runs, 73 RBIs and 108 OPS+ while playing mostly third base but also first base and right field.

    Pat Burrell
    Career WAR: 18.8
    After finishing fourth in NL Rookie of the Year Award voting in 2000, Burrell became one of nine players to smack at least 20 homers in each of the next eight years, with a high of 37 in '02. He also played a key role for two World Series-winning clubs: the '08 Phillies and '10 Giants.

    Orlando Cabrera
    Career WAR: 21.4
    From 2001-09, nobody started more times at shortstop than Cabrera, a two-time Gold Glove Award winner who reached at least 153 games played in eight of those seasons. A contact hitter, Cabrera racked up more than 200 career steals and helped Boston win a long-awaited World Series championship in 2004.

    Video: Former Expos Guerrero and Cabrera return to Montreal

    Mike Cameron
    Career WAR: 46.5
    His .249 career batting average made him perpetually underrated, with just one career All-Star selection. But Cameron is one of just 13 players in history to have at least 10 seasons of 3.0 WAR or more in center field, thanks to his above-average production on both sides of the ball. He also is one of five primary center fielders to rack up at least 275 homers and 275 steals, joining Willie Mays, Carlos Beltran, Eric Davis and Steve Finley. An 18th-round pick in 1991, Cameron put together an 11-season run from 1999-2009 during which he averaged 22 homers, 22 steals and a 111 OPS+ while winning three Gold Glove Awards.

    J.D. Drew
    Career WAR: 44.9
    Although he battled injuries, Drew could be a force when healthy. His 2004 season with the Braves demonstrated that, as the sweet-swinging lefty batted .305/.436/.569 with 31 homers, 93 RBIs, 118 walks and 8.3 WAR. Drew never came close to matching that production, but he still generated a career 125 OPS+, popped 242 homers and won a ring with the 2007 Red Sox.

    Carlos Guillen
    Career WAR: 27.7
    Once a prospect traded to the Mariners in the Astros' deal for Randy Johnson, Guillen eventually blossomed in his own right. Guillen notched a 104 OPS+ or better in each of his final five seasons as a regular shortstop from 2003-07, a run that included three seasons with at least 19 homers and a .500 slugging percentage. By OPS+, his 2004 (143) and '06 (136) campaigns with Detroit are the second- and third-best produced by a switch-hitter at the position.

    Derrek Lee
    Career WAR: 34.3
    At the top of his game, Lee was the best hitter in baseball with the 2005 Cubs, leading MLB in average (.335), slugging (.662), OPS+ (174) and doubles (50), while launching 46 homers. That was the highlight of a decade (2000-09) in which the big first baseman posted a 130 OPS+ and averaged 27 homers, winning a ring with the '03 Marlins. Lee finished his career with more than 300 homers and 1,000 RBIs.

    Melvin Mora
    Career WAR: 28.2
    Mora played every position except pitcher and catcher over 13 seasons, starting at least 130 games apiece at third base, shortstop, left field and center field. He also was a late bloomer, making his big league debut at age 27 in 1999 -- eight years after the Astros signed him out of Venezuela. Mora made up for lost time, however, posting a 116 OPS+ and averaging 20 homers and 3.6 WAR from 2002-08 with Baltimore.

    Magglio Ordonez
    Career WAR: 38.5
    A dangerous right-handed batter for the White Sox and Tigers, Ordonez made six All-Star teams between 1999-2007, batting .315/.376/.534 (133 OPS+) with an average of 25 homers and 102 RBIs over that span. Despite some subpar defensive numbers, Ordonez put together four seasons of at least 5.0 WAR, including 2007, when he led the Majors in batting average (.363) and doubles (54) for Detroit.

    Video: Series-ending walk-off homers in LCS history

    Jorge Posada
    Career WAR: 42.7
    Hall of Famer or not, Posada certainly will go down as a Yankees legend, spending his entire career with the organization and donning the pinstripes in six World Series. A five-time All-Star who won five Silver Slugger Awards, Posada also is one of the best offensive catchers of all time. The switch-hitter's 275 career homers rank eighth at the position, while his 121 OPS+ sits fourth among catchers with at least 5,000 plate appearances since 1940.

    Video: Posada is Hall of Fame Class of 2017 candidate

    Edgar Renteria
    Career WAR: 32.1
    The five-time All-Star shortstop won the 1997 World Series for the Marlins with a walk-off hit, and the 2010 World Series for the Giants with a go-ahead three-run homer in the seventh inning of the decisive Game 5. He was named MVP of the latter Fall Classic. In between, Renteria enjoyed a six-year peak ('02-07) in which he batted .303/.361/.434 (107 OPS+) and averaged 11 homers, 38 doubles, 18 steals and 3.6 WAR for St. Louis, Boston and Atlanta.

    Video: WS2010 Gm5: Renteria named World Series MVP

    Arthur Rhodes
    Career WAR: 15.0
    The left-hander debuted as a 21-year-old starter in 1991, but he spent most of his 20-year career in the bullpen. Rarely used as a closer (33 saves), Rhodes still racked up 900 appearances -- sixth-most all-time for a southpaw. From 1998-2010, he held left-handed batters to a meager .212/.273/.302 line over more than 1,100 plate appearances.

    Freddy Sanchez
    Career WAR: 15.8
    Sanchez played only 41 big league games before turning 27, and injuries ended his career at 33. He made the most of the time in between, making three All-Star teams as an infielder and winning an NL batting title in 2006, when he hit .344 and led the league with 53 doubles. Over his final seven seasons, Sanchez batted .299 with a 100 OPS+ and earned a ring with the 2010 Giants.

    Matt Stairs
    Career WAR: 14.3
    The Canadian slugger hit 265 career home runs in 19 seasons, with his best stretch coming with the A's from 1997-2000, when he averaged 28 homers, 90 RBIs and a 125 OPS+. Stairs became a feared pinch-hitter and the end of his career, and he finished with an MLB-record 23 homers off the bench. Stairs also set a record for position players by suiting up for 13 teams (12 franchises).

    Jason Varitek
    Career WAR: 24.3
    Between 1997-2011, Varitek caught nearly 1,500 games for the Red Sox. During that time, he set a record (since tied by Carlos Ruiz) by guiding four pitchers to no-hitters, and he helped Boston win the World Series in 2004 and '07. A switch-hitting three-time All-Star, Varitek finished just shy of 200 career homers, posting 11 seasons in double digits.

    Tim Wakefield
    Career WAR: 34.5
    One of the game's top knuckleball artists, Wakefield's career took off in 1995, when the Red Sox signed him after his release by the Pirates. In 17 seasons with Boston, Wakefield won 186 games -- taking him to an even 200 -- ate up more than 3,000 innings, and posted an above-average 106 ERA+. By the time his career ended at age 45, he had become the sixth pitcher since 1940 to log more than 450 starts and 150 relief appearances.

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  • After falling short, Bagwell seeks HOF push

    HOUSTON -- When the 2016 Hall of Fame voting results were announced last January, former Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell admitted he had a hard time waiting to see if his name would be called because of the uncertainty of it all.

    Bagwell, who's on the ballot for a seventh time this year, should be a little more at ease when the results of the 2017 Hall of Fame balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America are announced on Jan. 18. He appeared on 71.6 percent of the ballots last year, putting him on the cusp of being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

    Sixteen of the 17 players that cleared 70 percent in one year -- while falling short of the 75 percent needed -- got in the Hall of Fame the next year, setting Bagwell up to join longtime teammate and 2015 inductee Craig Biggio as the only players in Cooperstown to play their whole careers in Houston. Only pitcher Jim Bunning, who received 74.2 percent in 1988, didn't make it on his next try.

    Video: HOU@KC: Bagwell reflects on Biggio's HOF induction

    Last year, Bagwell saw his name appear on 315 of the 440 ballots (71.6 percent). His support in 2016 jumped from 55.7 percent in 2015, which was the fifth straight year he was between 50 and 60 percent after getting 41.7 percent his first year on the ballot in 2011.

    "Nothing is guaranteed, but I'm hopeful that next year will be my time and I'll be prepared for that kind of day," Bagwell said last January.

    As far as numbers go, Bagwell is among the best first basemen ever to play the game. He hit .297 in his 15-year career in Houston (1991-2005) with 2,314 hits, 449 homers, 1,529 RBIs, 1,517 runs scored and a .408 on-base percentage. He was the 1991 National League Rookie the Year, 1994 Most Valuable Player, and his 79.6 WAR ranks seventh among first basemen all time.

    Bagwell, who retired following the 2005 season because of a degenerative shoulder condition, last appeared in an Astros uniform during the 2005 World Series, the crowning achievement in a career in which he helped the Astros reach the postseason six times. The early end to his career kept him from hitting 500 home runs, which almost certainly would have punched his ticket to the Hall.

    Bagwell's case for Hall of Fame consideration goes beyond numbers and awards. He was one of the smartest players in the game and a tremendous baserunner, as well as a good defensive player. He won a Gold Glove Award in '94.

    The Astros acquired Bagwell in 1990 in what will forever be remembered as one of the most lopsided trades in history. Houston received Bagwell, a skinny Minor League third baseman, from the Red Sox in exchange for relief pitcher Larry Andersen.

    Bagwell drove in at least 100 runs in all but one season from 1996-2003. He slipped to 27 homers and 89 RBIs in '04, though Bagwell hit .286 with two homers and eight RBIs in the postseason. Led by Bagwell, Biggio, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, the Astros made it to the World Series for the first time in franchise history in 2005.

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  • Raines seeks HOF spot in final year on ballot

    NEW YORK -- Tim Raines seems to be inching closer to Cooperstown. He is hoping his 10th and final year of eligibility for the Baseball Hall of Fame will lead to election.

    Raines came close last January. He was named on 69.8 percent of the ballots casted by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

    "I was about 20 votes short," Raines said via telephone. "I'm hoping there are 25 or more guys who see it my way. Hopefully, I will get in."

    A player's name must appear on at least 75 percent of the ballots to be elected, and voters can list up to 10 names. The announcement of the Class of 2017 is slated for Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. ET, and it will be simulcast on MLB Network and MLB.com. The induction ceremony will be held on July 30 behind the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y.

    It's Raines' last chance because the Hall of Fame changed the system two years ago. Players will now remain on the ballot for a maximum of 10 years, instead of 15, when their eligibility begins five years after retirement.

    Video: Tim Raines chances to make 2017 HOF class

    Former Expos teammate Andre Dawson predicts Raines will be elected this year. Dawson says he often tells Raines to let the process play itself out.

    Dawson should know about that. It took him nine years for the baseball writers to elect him to Cooperstown.

    "This is his window. He is a Hall of Famer. There is no ifs, ands or buts about it," Dawson said. "I'm pretty sure this is the year if I had to bet on it."

    Raines spent most of his career as a member of the Expos and White Sox. During his prime from 1981-92, he scored 90 or more runs eight times, led the league in stolen bases four times, was an All-Star seven times and hit .290 or better seven times.

    As an everyday player, he had an on-base percentage of .390 or better eight times. He posted a WAR of six or better five times, according to FanGraphs.com.

    Raines, who played for 23 years, ranks fifth all-time in stolen bases (808) and recorded 2,605 hits and 1,571 runs. Even when his days as an everyday player were over, he proved to be a valuable reserve, helping the Yankees win World Series titles in 1996 and '98. In his three years in New York, Raines had a .395 on-base percentage and a .299 batting average.

    Among Raines' many dominant seasons, his 1987 campaign stands out. He became a free agent after winning the National League batting crown the previous season, but he didn't have a true chance to test the market because he was affected by what was deemed by an arbitrator to be collusion by the owners.

    Raines couldn't sign with the Expos until May 1, but he still led the NL in runs and finished seventh in MVP voting. He played his first game of the season on May 2 against the Mets, going 4-for-5 with a 10th-inning grand slam against left-hander Jesse Orosco.

    Raines calls it his most memorable year.

    "I didn't have Spring Training. I had to work out with a high school team for a couple of weeks," Raines said. "The first game was probably the most nerve-wracking game I've ever played. I was so nervous because I couldn't hit a ball out of the cage during batting practice. ...

    "I haven't seen a Major League pitcher since the previous year, and they are throwing me into the wolves. You put that all in the mix and you say, 'Go get them.'"

    If he is elected, Raines wants his plaque to have him wearing an Expos cap. He credits the Montreal fans for making him feel like a member of its family.

    "Montreal means everything to me," Raines said. "The fans took me in as a son. I love Montreal. They appreciated the way I played the game. They let me know it. I feel like it helped me as a young guy. It means a lot that the fans were behind me from Day 1. It means a lot to player. As players, you want to be welcomed, you want people to come out and see you perform. As a player, you love to hear what the fans think about you."

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