Premier leadoff man Tim Raines, Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell and strong-armed backstop Ivan Rodriguez have been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Class of 2017. More »
2017 Hall of Fame electees Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez discuss their careers and being chosen for induction this July
Hall of Fame electees Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez discuss who they would like to see join them in Cooperstown
Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez discuss the mentors they had early on in their Hall of Fame careers
A behind-the-scenes look as Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez and Tim Raines travel from their Hall of Fame news conference to the MLB Network
Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell looks back on how he came up with his authentic batting stance
Hall of Fame electee Tim Raines says he didn't know the sound of fellow electee Jeff Bagwell's voice until they reached the podium
Hall of Fame electee Tim Raines discusses going into Cooperstown as a member of the Montreal Expos
On High Heat, the Mad Dog and Bruce discuss the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot and debate on who has the best shot to make it
2017 Hall of Fame electee Ivan Rodriguez discusses being the first Puerto Rican-born first ballot Hall of Famer and representing his country
MLB Tonight talk about potential first ballot Hall of Famers and who will eventually make it to Cooperstown
MLB Network discusses the election of Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez to the National Baseball Hall of Fame
Tim Raines discusses being the third Montreal Expo ever to be elected into the Hall of Fame
Jeff Bagwell is elected to Cooperstown as part of the 2017 Hall of Fame class
Ivan Rodriguez gets voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as part of the 2017 class
Tim Raines is elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 2017
Ivan Rodriguez discusses the importance of playing the majority of his career with the Texas Rangers
MLB.com columnist Richard Justice discusses the reasons why Jeff Bagwell was elected to the Hall of Fame
MLB.com's Richard Justice discusses Trevor Hoffman receiving 74.0% of the vote in his second year on the Hall of Fame ballot
The MLB Network crew discusses if Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will ever get enough votes for Cooperstown
MLB.com columnist Richard Justice discusses Ivan Rodriguez's election on the first ballot to the Hall of Fame in 2017
Edgar Martinez discusses the 2017 Hall of Fame election class and offers his congratulations to Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez
Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez discusses coming up short in the 2017 Hall of Fame vote
The guys from MLB Network discuss Edgar Martinez's career after missing out on the Hall of Fame with 58.6 percent of the vote
Ivan Rodriguez talks about the joy of joining his favorite catcher, Reds' legend Johnny Bench, in the Hall of Fame
MLB.com columnist Paul Hagen discusses Vladimir Guerrero falling just short of being elected for the Hall of Fame
Ivan Rodriguez looks back on the moment he received the call that he had been elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame
Despite not being elected to the Hall of Fame, Larry Walker reflects on the future as he still remains on the ballot
MLB.com's Alyson Footer is joined by Claire Smith, the first female recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award
Former Braves and Royals general manager John Schuerholz discusses how properly scouting and developing players will keep a team competitive
MLB.com's Alyson Footer, Tracy Ringolsby, Phil Rogers and Mark Bowman talk about the Hall of Fame career of John Schuerholz
Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig and former Royals and Braves general manager John Schuerholz discuss being voted into the Hall of Fame
Bud Selig talks with MLB.com about his major achievements during his long tenure as the Commissioner
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
Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig discusses his election to the Hall of Fame
Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Today's Game Era Committee
Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson announces longtime executive John Schuerholz and Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig as new Hall of Famers
On MLB Tonight, Peter Gammons discusses what made the combination of John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox so important to the success of the Braves
Tim Raines was pleased to learn that four buses full of fans from Montreal will be traveling to Cooperstown, N.Y., to watch him get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 30.
Raines said the Montreal fans played a role in him becoming a great player.
"Montreal was the biggest part of my career," Raines said in a conference call. "I mean, it's where I started, it's where I grew up as a Major League player. It's where I lived for 12 years. I'm looking forward to seeing the fans."
Even though there hasn't been a professional baseball team in Montreal since 2004, Raines will never be forgotten, and for good reason. He was one of the best leadoff men to put on a baseball uniform.
Raines will become the third player -- Gary Carter and Andre Dawson are the others -- inducted with an Expos cap on his plaque, having spent 13 of his 23 seasons in the Major Leagues with Montreal while making seven All-Star appearances, winning an All-Star MVP in 1987 -- his game-winning triple helped the National League edge the American League, 2-0 -- and capturing four straight stolen-base titles from 1981-84.
Besides the Expos, who went on to become the Nationals when they moved to Washington, Raines played for the White Sox, Yankees, A's, Orioles and Marlins before retiring after the 2002 season.
Raines joins Ralph Kiner and Jim Rice as the only players elected in their final year on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot. Rice made it in his 15th year on the ballot in 2009, and Kiner made it on his 13th try in 1975.
Raines ranks fifth all time in stolen bases (808), and he recorded 2,605 hits with 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.
It didn't hit Raines that he was going to be enshrined in Cooperstown until he went to the Hall of Fame orientation a couple of months ago. The driver who picked him up at the airport in Albany, N.Y., had on a shirt that had the Hall of Fame logo on it. That's when Raines realized that he was going to be part of a great fraternity.
"Going through the orientation, it hit me wholeheartedly. I've been on a cloud ever since," Raines said.
Raines said he would not be a Hall of Famer without Dawson, whom Raines called his big brother and a father figure. The two played together in Montreal for eight seasons.
Earlier in his career, it looked like Raines' baseball career would go downhill before it started. He started having a substance-abuse problem after his first full year in the big leagues in 1981. But he managed to overcome his problems thanks to people like Dawson.
"The impact that he had on me was tremendous," Raines said about Dawson. "He was a silent leader. He led by example. He is one of the few guys I know that is in the Hall of Fame. … He was a big influence. I owe a lot to him for being a friend, teammate and a positive influence on the way I played the game."
Raines does not feel he will be the last member of the Expos to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He predicts that Vladimir Guerrero will join him as early as next year. The two were teammates in 2001.
"I'm not sure if he is going in as an Expo or not," Raines said. "There's one guy left, and I was able to play with him as well."More »
HOUSTON -- The wait is nearly over for former Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell.
Bagwell, who played his final game in the big leagues for the Astros in the 2005 World Series, will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 30, the culmination of a terrific 15-year career in which he's remembered as one of the most feared sluggers of a generation.
It took Bagwell seven years on the ballot before he was elected in voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, but the past few months leading up to the induction have flown by, he said. He will leave for Cooperstown, N.Y., next week, marking the final leg of his baseball journey.
"It's coming quick," Bagwell said Friday. "It was nice when it was three months, then it got to two and one, and now all of a sudden I'm here talking to you guys on Friday. It's sneaking up on me really quick. It's been a great process. I know once I get there and the culmination of the entire event, it will be special."
Bagwell will be enshrined alongside Tim Raines, who played most of his career in Montreal, former Rangers, Astros, Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez, longtime Braves general manager John Schuerholz and former MLB Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig. He'll join longtime teammate Craig Biggio as having the only two plaques in the Hall of Fame with Astros caps.
The induction is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. CT July 30 and will be broadcast by MLB Network.
Biggio, who was inducted in 2015, will be on stage with Bagwell and the rest of the 55 Hall of Famers who are expected to attend the ceremony. A huge contingent of Astros fans made the trip to Cooperstown two years ago, but Bagwell isn't sure what to expect this time.
"Baseball has become so big in Houston and people travel," he said. "If I watch the games nowadays, you can see Astros fans in every city they go to. That's very exciting. I hope they show up. A lot of people, when I walk the city say they're going to be there and stuff like that.
"I don't want to put expectations, but if they come, I'm very, very grateful for that. I also know if they can't come, they'll support me here, too. It's not that easy to get to Cooperstown and get hotels and all that kind of stuff."
Bagwell's induction comes at a time when the Astros are in the midst of one of their best seasons in history. Houston entered Friday at 63-32 with a 16-game lead in the American League West and the best record in the AL. Bagwell, who admitted he hasn't watched much baseball since he retired, has become hooked.
"They have so much talent, and young talent," he said. "What I've seen is the city has really taken to this team, and everywhere I go, even when they lose, people are like, 'What happened last night?' They're not going to win every game. They're really, really special. I walk into the clubhouse and I see the guys, and they all seem to enjoy each other's company.
"They've got a really good thing going on, and our main thing now is just to get everybody healthy and this is a great opportunity for us. ... I am truly just a fan, and to see the city so excited about them and me going into the Hall of Fame, it's a good vibe in the city, and I'm proud to be a part of it."More »
ATLANTA -- Those who have had the pleasure of being introduced to John Schuerholz's elegant and substantive communication skills have often said he could roll out of bed and steal the attention of any room with a speech he might not have previously prepared.
Blessed with the ability to educate and lead via the expression of the knowledge he has gained while spending more than a half-century within the baseball world, Schuerholz has established himself as one of the greatest executives in professional sports history. But now that it's time for him to gain his game's greatest honor, Schuerholz admits he was somewhat challenged as he attempted to provide proper thanks and context within the speech he has prepared to deliver on July 30, when he is inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame.
"I've made a lot of speeches in my life as a baseball executive, and before that I was an educator and communicator who spoke on my feet a lot," Schuerholz said. "I don't mind making speeches, but this one was the most profound and challenging [to prepare], because it's about me, it's about my life, it's about people in my life and circumstances in my life that have allowed me to go where I'm going to go."
Schuerholz's highly successful and celebrated journey will be highlighted when he travels to Cooperstown, N.Y., next week for the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. The former general manager, who currently serves as the Braves' vice chairman, will be inducted within a class that also includes Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez and former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.
"[These players] have distinguished themselves and separated themselves as consistently reliable winners," Schuerholz said. "They have committed themselves to be the greatest players in the world, and they have achieved that. I'm so proud and happy for all of them and honored to be inducted with guys of this caliber. I couldn't have picked three greater [players]. I probably tried to get all of them at one point as a general manager."
Schuerholz's speech will give context to a baseball journey that began when he ended his days as a junior high school teacher in his native Baltimore to accept an entry-level position for the hometown Orioles. He'll give thanks to Lou Gorman, who took him to Kansas City to help start the expansion Royals, who won the 1985 World Series, just four years after Schuerholz was named the team's GM.
Then, of course, Schuerholz will reminisce about the days he has spent in Atlanta, where he arrived in 1991 and immediately guided the Braves to a record 14 consecutive division titles. In '95, he became the first GM to win a World Series in both the American League and the National League.
Schuerholz's success in Atlanta was enriched by the time he spent employing Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox and three Hall of Fame pitchers -- John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux. Each of these men will be reunited again next week in Cooperstown to celebrate and reminisce about the greatest era in Braves history.
"I didn't expect to win 14 consecutive division championships, and neither did Bobby," Schuerholz said. "We just put our noses to the grindstone each and every year. We worked shoulder to shoulder to build the best teams possible, made the adjustments when we had to and just kept going."More »
ARLINGTON -- Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is just nine days away from the crowning moment of his Major League Baseball career.
On July 30, Rodriguez will be standing on a podium in the upstate New York village of Cooperstown. Behind him will be seated some of the greatest players in the history of the game and, on that Sunday afternoon, Rodriguez will join them as a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
"I'm really excited and basically anxious," Rodriguez said. "Obviously, I'm not going to lie to you, I will be a little nervous. The days are getting closer. It's going to be fun. It's going to be a great weekend."
Rodriguez was a first-ballot selection by the Baseball Writers' Association of America after a 21-year career in which he was a 14-time All-Star, a 13-time Gold Glove winner and won the 1999 American League Most Valuable Player Award.
Rodriguez will go in as a Texas Ranger after playing 13 seasons with the team that originally signed him as a 16-year-old out of Puerto Rico. But he also won a World Series with the Marlins, played in another with the Tigers and had brief stops with the Astros, Yankees and Nationals before retiring after the 2011 season.
Rodriguez will be inducted along with Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell, Expos outfielder Tim Raines, longtime Royals and Braves general manager John Schuerholz and former Commissioner Bud Selig.
The induction is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. CT July 30 and will be broadcast by MLB Network.
"I'm looking forward to everything," Rodriguez said. "This happens only one time, so I am going to enjoy it as much as I can. I talked to some of the Hall of Famers like Roberto Alomar and Orlando Cepeda, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, they all told me there is a lot going on but at the same time enjoy it. It's going to be a lot of fun."
A number of current and former Rangers players and executives are planning to be there including owners Ray Davis and Neil Leibman. The former executives include Tom Schieffer, Doug Melvin, Tom Grieve, Dan O'Brien, Sandy Johnson and Omar Minaya, along with former coaches Rudy Jaramillo and Bobby Jones.
Also attending is Gloria Oates, the widow of former Rangers manager Johnny Oates. He led Texas to division titles in 1996 and 1998-99 before passing away in 2004. Rodriguez had the best seasons of his career while playing for Oates.
"I have so much respect for Johnny Oates, having her there is going to be a very special moment," Rodriguez said.
Among the former teammates who are expected to attend are Tim Crabtree, Benji Gil, Jose Guzman, Geno Petralli, Darren Oliver and Ruben Sierra, as well as former Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
Hall of Fame golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez will also attend. Chi Chi and Pudge are not related, but they are both from Puerto Rico and have been close friends for many years.
"We have a great relationship," Pudge said. "He is a Hall of Fame golfer, but if you sit down and talk baseball with Chi Chi, he knows baseball. He can answer every question from A to Z about baseball. He knows what happened in the past and what's going on right now. He has been a big part of my career from day one."
The Rangers will also honor Rodriguez by retiring his No. 7 jersey before their Aug. 12 game against the Astros.More »
Bud Selig's telephone rang at 10:15 p.m. on March 31, 1970. He remembers the call lasting only a few minutes. Selig had spent four and a half years working toward that moment, and when it finally happened, he didn't know how to react.
"At first, you're so happy," he remembered. "And then it's overwhelming."
What changed that day? First, the Milwaukee Brewers were born as the Seattle Pilots won approval to move to Selig's hometown. He'd worked relentlessly to get baseball back in Milwaukee since the Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta after the 1965 season.
What no one could have known at the time was the impact that telephone call would have on Major League Baseball. Selig ran the Brewers for 28 years, including the last six in which he also served as chairman of baseball's executive committee.
He was, in effect, temporary commissioner before getting the job full-time in 1998 and serving until Jan. 24, 2015. In that time, he led a baseball renaissance that included 20 years of labor peace, technological advances, record-breaking attendance and competitive balance.
Now, two and a half years after he retired and Rob Manfred became Commissioner, Selig is preparing for the highest honor a baseball lifer can receive when he'll be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 30, his 83rd birthday.
Back to the birth of the Brewers, which started him down a path to this moment.
"We had eight days to prepare for Opening Day when we found out we got the Brewers in 1970," he recalled in a conference call with reporters on Friday. "The Brewers at that time had one employee -- me. We had a switchboard operator who introduced herself and told me she was temporary. She stayed for 40 years.
"Our equipment trucks were in Utah, not knowing whether they were going back to Seattle or to Milwaukee. We took the 'S' off the caps and put an 'M' on. Stunningly, 36,000 showed up for Opening Day. You wouldn't want to do it again, but it was a great experience."
Other Hall of Famers have warned him that the induction ceremony will be overwhelmingly emotional. As he has prepared his remarks for that day and received congratulatory telephone calls from around the country, he has been flooded with memories of his remarkable life.
For instance, there was a 13-0 start by the Brewers in 1987.
"What I'll never forget was the 12th win of that 13-0 start," he said. "It was Easter Sunday against Texas. It was a warm April Sunday, very unusual for around here.
"We were losing 4-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Rob Deer hits a three-run home run to tie the game. Then stunningly, Dale Sveum hits a two-run home run to win it. How could you ever forget that? It was an amazing year."
One of his proudest achievements was bringing back Hank Aaron to finish his career in Milwaukee in 1975-76. In the years since, the two men have become close friends.
And there was the time Selig made a trade, his only one as owner.
"I became very close to my players," he said. "I've often said I would have been a lousy general manager because I never would have traded my players. [GM] Harry Dalton had the courage to do things I couldn't have done.
"I only made one trade in my life. Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey wanted to bring George Scott back to Boston. We were between general managers at the time, and I asked our scouting director, Dee Fondy, who I should ask for.
"He didn't hesitate. He told me to get Cecil Cooper. I made that trade, and I quit. I knew I couldn't make another deal as good as that one. Cecil Cooper became one of my all-time favorites, and there was a seven- or eight-year period when he was as good a hitter as there was in baseball."
When Selig became Commissioner, the gap between baseball's large-market and small-market teams was threatening to destroy competitive balance. Through a series of reforms -- the Draft, labor peace, revenue sharing -- every team now has a chance to compete.
"No one looks at it as an overriding factor anymore," he said. "I'm proud of it. When I put together my Economic Blue Ribbon Panel in the 1990s, they told me within two or three meetings that we had about 25 clubs that couldn't really win. I knew there had to be economic reformation of the sport. We got there, but it was painful.
"When I went to Kansas City for the World Series in 2014 and 2015, I was very proud. We'd changed the dynamic. It shouldn't just be about money. It's in everybody's best interest."
One of the things he missed during his years as Commissioner was the day-to-day contact with scouts, managers, etc. He interacted as much as he could, but it wasn't the same relationship during his years as an owner.
One of the things he's looking forward to is going back to Cooperstown in subsequent years as a Hall of Famer and spending a weekend catching up with his friends, especially former players like Robin Yount and Rollie Fingers.
"My whole life has been a little boy's dream," he said. "I grew up a Yankee fan, a Joe DiMaggio fan. I think I convinced myself I was going to be his successor in center field for the Yankees. Forget Mickey Mantle.
"Around 1948, someone threw me a curveball, and that was the end of me. I loved the game, but I had no idea how it would play out for me. When I was in school in Madison [at the University of Wisconsin], I would go to the library to study and to read all the out-of-town newspapers to keep up with baseball.
"It was my dream to be involved in baseball in some form. I was able to live my dream, and that's all you can ask for in life."More »
We've got Chipper Jones penciled in for Cooperstown in 2018, and Mariano Rivera in '19. If you appreciate the greatness these two men represent, their Hall of Fame induction weekends may just send a chill down your spine.
And then, there's Derek Jeter in 2020. Can you imagine what a celebration that will be? Even Red Sox fans may be compelled to offer a tip of the hat to Jeter's 20 years in the Major Leagues.
And then what?
Wait for it.
Big Papi, that's what.
David Ortiz seems likely to be another first-ballot Hall of Famer when he's eligible in 2022 (assuming he doesn't come back, of course). If the party for him is anything like the man himself -- happy, outgoing, appreciative -- we could have one of the greatest induction weekends ever. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.
As induction classes have gotten larger in recent years, some of the backlog of deserving candidates has eased, and that also offers promise for the years ahead, as other players with Hall of Fame credentials -- Edgar Martinez, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina -- could have their names called.
Cooperstown is a magical place, and induction weekends are electric affairs as baseball's greats -- such as Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax -- return to help welcome a new class.
Those weekends are even more special when there's a large class drawing fans from all over the map. That will be true on July 30 when fans from Montreal (Tim Raines), Texas (Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez) and Puerto Rico (Rodriguez) pour into the city.
And two other inductees -- Bud Selig (Milwaukee) and John Schuerholz (Altanta, Baltimore and Kansas City) -- will also be represented.
In the past four years, the Baseball Writers' Association of America has voted 12 players into the Hall, which is two more than the previous eight years combined. Twelve players in four years is the most voted in by the BBWAA since the first four Hall of Fame classes (1936-39).
Those numbers could set the stage for an interesting few years. Knowing what we know about the past four HOF classes, let's take a peek at the next four.
Favorites: Jones, Trevor Hoffman, Vladimir Guerrero
Too close to call: Jim Thome, Edgar Martinez
Other possibilities: Scott Rolen, Omar Vizquel, Andruw Jones
Chipper Jones (85.0 WAR per Baseball-Reference.com) appears to be a slam dunk for first-ballot induction, and Thome (72.9 WAR) has a chance. Hoffman and Guerrero just missed getting in this year, and they could easily join Jones and Thome to form just the fourth four-man class in BBWAA history, with the most recent coming in 2015 (Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Craig Biggio and John Smoltz). As for other candidates on next year's ballot, Martinez, Bonds, Clemens, Schilling and Mussina should inch toward eventual induction.
Favorites: Rivera, Edgar Martinez
Too close to call: Andy Pettitte, Roy Halladay
Other possibilities: Todd Helton, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt
Relievers historically have been a tough sell to voters. Not this time. Rivera's 652 regular-season saves and 0.70 postseason ERA are the gold standard for closers. He will sail in. Halladay and Pettitte have Hall of Fame credentials, and they will be interesting test cases given the shifting standards for starting pitchers. This will be Edgar Martinez's final year on the ballot. His case is rock solid, and based on the surge that Raines got in his final year, it's not hard to imagine Martinez getting pushed over the top in a similar fashion.
Too close to call: Larry Walker
Other possibilities: Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, Mussina
Jeter could very well be the first unanimous pick in history, if Rivera doesn't grab that honor in 2019. Walker (72.6 WAR) has never cracked 23 percent, and this would be his final year on the ballot. He has a strong case based on advanced metrics, but the boost his numbers got from playing in Coors Field seems to have hurt his candidacy. This will also be another litmus test for Bonds and Clemens.
Too close to call: Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, Mussina
Other possibilities: Torii Hunter, Tim Hudson, Mark Buehrle
Hunter, Hudson and Buehrle are the best of the first-time candidates, and all are long shots despite distinguished careers. As a result, this sets up to be a year to clear some of the backlog with Bonds, Clemens and Schilling in their ninth years on the ballot.More »
NEW YORK -- It doesn't matter when a player is elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame once he gets in. Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez are the latest members, and they all shared the same sentiment on Thursday: They are just grateful to be there.
The trio was elected by eligible voters of the Baseball Writers' Association of America in results that were announced on Wednesday night. They shared the same stage for the first time on Thursday during an afternoon media conference at the St. Regis Hotel.
"I am happy to be here with all you guys, just being together with two good friends, even though we never played together," Rodriguez said. "But as baseball players, we are like a family, even though we play against [each other]. We respect each other. Play the game hard, play it the right way."
For Bagwell and Raines, their pending induction on July 30 in Cooperstown, N.Y., is coming after lengthy waits on the ballot -- seven and 10 years, respectively. Rodriguez, one of the top catchers in history, made it on his first try. The trio will be inducted along with Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig and Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz on the stage behind the Clark Sports Center.
"It's truly, truly just an honor to be here," Bagwell said. "To be in the Hall of Fame, that's crazy, man. I'm just happy to be here and trying to take this all in."
The three players make it an even dozen selected by the BBWAA from the past four ballots after no one was picked in 2013. Raines, 57, is the oldest of the bunch, and he became only the third player to make it in his final year of eligibility. Jim Rice ('09) and Ralph Kiner (1975) were the others.
Raines' 23-year career began with the Montreal Expos in 1979. He played at least a part of his first 12 seasons for the Expos before joining five other teams and returning to Montreal for 47 games in 2001.
"Once you're on the ballot, you just hope you get in," said Raines, who retired in '02. "It doesn't matter when or how. Once we retire as players, we're done. There's nothing we can do to change our stats or make it even better or sweeter for the writers to see. It took me 10 years, but my stats never changed from 15 years ago.
"It took a while. Better late than never. … I'm so proud to be here. ... The writers finally got it right."
Raines said he would go into the Hall wearing an Expos cap, despite participating as a super sub on the 1996 and '98 World Series-winning Yankees. He stole 635 of his 808 bases for Montreal, and he will join fellow former Expos Andre Dawson and the late Gary Carter in the Hall.
"I won two championships in New York, played in Chicago [with the White Sox] for five years. Later, Baltimore for a week and finished in Miami," Raines said. "But my career started in Montreal. I spent my first 12 years there, so it's only fitting that I go in as an Expo."
Rodriguez said he also was going back to his roots. He played for six teams as well, beating the Yankees in the 2003 World Series during his one year with the Marlins, and returning to the Fall Classic in '06 as a member of the losing Tigers.
The Rangers, though, are where Pudge's heart is. He came up with Texas in 1991 and also played his first 12 seasons there, returning for 28 games in 2009. Rodriguez notched 1,747 of his 2,844 hits wearing a Rangers uniform. Nolan Ryan is the only other member of the Rangers in the Hall.
"I'm going to go in as a Texas Ranger," Rodriguez said. "I'm going in wearing their cap. I know I played for five other teams and some very good organizations. If they'd let me, I'd put all the caps [on my plaque] if I could. But you have to go with one."
Bagwell will enter the Hall as an Astro, as he played his entire 15-year career in Houston. He came up in 1991 and amassed 2,314 hits and 449 homers before his surgically repaired right shoulder gave out. Bagwell had to retire after collecting a single in 10 plate appearances as his club was swept by the White Sox in the 2005 World Series, Houston's only Fall Classic appearance. Friend and teammate Craig Biggio, who was inducted as an Astro in '15, also played his entire 20-year career in Houston.
"I'm an Astro, man," Bagwell said to the laughs of the assembled family and media. "It's kind of surreal. I have no idea what I'm doing, but enjoying every moment of it. To be with Pudge and Rock, I couldn't be happier. Great dudes. Having a lot of fun together, just laughing at each other. In the baseball world, you need to be able to laugh at each other."
That still leaves five clubs with no representatives in the Hall -- the Angels, Rockies, Rays, Marlins and Nationals, where Pudge played his last of 21 seasons and record 2,422nd game as a catcher in '11. Technically, the Nats are the former Expos, who moved to Washington in '05.
Pudge was only the second catcher elected on the first ballot. Johnny Bench was the first in 1989.
"To me, we're going to have a great team in Cooperstown," Rodriguez said. "Just being there and being right next to all these Hall of Famers, it's a privilege just to be there. I'm fortunate to be there as a first-timer. Five years ago I retired and now I'm going to be in Cooperstown, so to me, I can't wait for July."More »
NEW YORK -- No matter how much time passes, it's likely no one will ever be able to truly explain why Jeff Bagwell's batting stance, in all of its weird, squatty, uncomfortable glory, worked so well for the first baseman.
It worked so well that it's safe to assume that without it, he may never have put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career -- especially if select Astros coaches decided to implement their plan to try to change that stance during Bagwell's first Spring Training after coming to Houston from Boston.
"If it's not broke, why fix it?" Bagwell says now of the advice he was given as early as the Cape Cod League, before the evolution of the stance no one fully understands began in earnest.
Bagwell, Tim Raines and Pudge Rodriguez are the newest electees to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rodriguez's work crouching behind the plate is largely why he's headed to Cooperstown; Bagwell's squat, almost as low as Rodriguez's, probably helped him get this far, as well.
Now 48 and more than a decade removed from his final game as an active player, Bagwell still doesn't have a specific explanation as to why he did most things backward at the plate -- namely, crouching down low to the ground, with an atypically wide stance, and leaning back before swinging.
"There were certain times during that evolution of my stance that it worked," Bagwell said. "I stuck with it. It's all I got. It worked out."
But it did evolve. Bagwell was much more upright with his stance the year he made the big league roster for the first time than when he won the Most Valuable Player award a few years later, but the premise of both stances was the same: It was unconventional, and it looked rather uncomfortable.
And it worked.
Bagwell was stuck behind Ken Caminiti on the third-base depth chart when he reported to his first Astros Spring Training in 1991, but when he hit and hit and hit throughout the exhibition season, the club had no choice but to find a place for him on the roster.
But the stance was bothersome to a couple of coaches, who doubted it would ever translate to success in the big leagues. Phil Garner, in his first year as an Astros coach, wasn't one of them.
"A few coaches said, 'We need to change him, he's not going to be able to hit like that in the big leagues,'" Garner recalled. "I was a young coach; I had only been with the Astros a week. But I sensed he was going to be able to hit."
Garner wasn't focused on the stance as much as the swing. He noticed how long Bagwell's bat stayed in the hitting zone and knew right then he was special.
"Bagwell was one of those guys who, regardless of how he started or how he looked in his stance, when the swing started, he got the bat on the ball and stayed on the ball," Garner said.
Fortunately for the Astros and Bagwell, the coaches who wanted to leave Bagwell alone outnumbered those who wanted to change him. Longtime coach Matt Galante, also credited with turning Craig Biggio from a catcher into a Gold Glove-winning second baseman, was the most vocal, and, in the end, the most effective with his argument.
"Thank God, Matt Galante said, 'No, let's just let him go. He seems like he's going to be a pretty good hitter,'" Garner said. "Matt actually saved the day on that one."
The coaches left him alone, but Bagwell did make adjustments over time. His true power emerged when he adopted the stance he's best known for now -- low, wide and exaggerated.
"I continued to tinker with it," Bagwell said. "Apparently, I just kept hitting. It worked. I think '94 was when I started to come into where I ended up."More »
NEW YORK -- The wait is finally over for Tim Raines, and it was worth it. On the ballot for the 10th and final time, Raines, one of the best leadoff hitters in history, was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Wednesday.
Raines was named on 86 percent of ballots.
Raines called the election the "final chapter of his baseball career" and is looking forward to going to Cooperstown, N.Y. The induction will be on July 30. Raines will be inducted alongside Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez, Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig and Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz.
"I thought I was in a position to get in, especially after last year. I went from 55 percent [in 2015 to close to 70 percent last year]," Raines said in a conference call. "I thought the momentum from last year would carry me through this year. I wasn't sure. Last night was probably the worst night I've had. It was kind of tough because I was kind of close and I wasn't sure.
"That's the situation, where everything was out of your control. You have to wait until that minute that you know you are going to get the phone call or you are not going to get the phone call. I went through last year not getting the phone call. I wasn't familiar of what was going to happen today. I was encouraged by what was going to happen last year."
Raines will likely become the third player -- Gary Carter and Andre Dawson are the others -- inducted with an Expos cap on his plaque, having spent 13 of his 23 seasons in the Major Leagues with Montreal while making seven All-Star appearances, winning an All-Star MVP in 1987 -- his game winning triple helped the National League edge the American League, 2-0 -- and capturing four stolen-base titles from 1981 to 1984. Besides the Expos, who went on to become the Nationals when they moved to Washington, Raines played for the White Sox, Yankees, A's, Orioles and Marlins before retiring after the 2002 season.
Raines joins Ralph Kiner and Jim Rice as the only players elected in their final year on the BBWAA ballot. Rice made it in his 15th year on the ballot in 2009, and Kiner made it on his 13th try in 1975.
"He was one of the four best players I played with in my career. The other three are in the Hall of Fame," said Marlins bench coach Tim Wallach, who played with Raines from 1979-1990. "I feel that's where he belongs. He did things that few people could do. The basestealing part is one of them. He is one of the best switch hitters in the history of the game.
Raines 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.
"Tim was one of the most beloved teammates I've ever had the pleasure of being around," said Indians manager Terry Francona, who played with Raines in Montreal from 1981-85. "His personality immediately impacted the clubhouse and his play on the field, in my opinion, was Hall of Fame caliber long ago. People talk about using all the tools, 'Rock' could beat you with his leg and his bat on any given day."
Raines was just as good as a member of the White Sox from 1991 to 1995. He hit .283 with a .375 on-base percentage during his five years in Chicago and helped them win a division title in 1993.
As a coach for the White Sox, Raines helped them win the World Series in 2005. The Sox did not forget Raines after it was announced he was going into Cooperstown.
"Rock was one of my favorite teammates ever," said Hall-of-Famer and White Sox legend Frank Thomas. "He made the game fun night-to-night and was a great leader in the clubhouse. His humor and hustle always brought the team closer. I'm so glad this has finally happened for one of my favorite people ever."
Raines, now a Minor League instructor for the Blue Jays, played during an era in which Rickey Henderson was the dominant leadoff hitter, but the man known as "Rock" was a difference-maker himself. 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.
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 in collusion with 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.
Of his 23 years, Raines called '87 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.'"
Raines almost didn't become the player fans grew to know. After he was taken by the Expos in the fifth round of the 1977 Draft, Jim Fanning, then the GM, envisioned Raines to be the next Joe Morgan. Raines was drafted as a second baseman, and the team believed that, like Morgan, Raines would become a player who displayed a lot of power.
But the predictions proved premature. Raines had a tough time playing defense in the infield. He didn't have the range to play second base, and he had trouble turning the double play. Switching to left field in 1981 was the best thing that happened to him. In fact, Raines led the NL in outfield assists with 21 in 1983.
"It was not a difficult switch to put him in the outfield. In fact, it was easy," Fanning told MLB.com in the mid-2000s. "I'm not surprised by the career he had. He had a knack how to play this game. He was a delight to watch. It didn't make a difference who the pitcher was."
Even when his days as an everyday player were over, Raines said he was able to adjust by becoming a team player.
"I took the selfishness out," Raines said. "When you are an everyday player, you pretty much know your job and go to the ballpark prepared to play. But when you are a role player, you have to take a back seat and know what's best for the team. We had a team full of veterans and great players in New York. But we had a team that believed in each other. In order to be successful we had to do it collectively as a team."More »
NEW YORK -- In the 15 years he spent on a Major League field, Jeff Bagwell never seemed overwhelmed by any situation presented to him -- not his big league debut, not his first postseason game, not the World Series, not even his number retirement ceremony in 2007, when 42,000 fans packed Minute Maid Park to salute him one final time.
But as soon as he was announced as part of the Hall of Fame class of 2017, Bagwell, quite frankly, has seemed a little over his skis.
Apparently, it took receiving the highest individual honor in Major League Baseball to finally rattle the sure-handed former first baseman, widely considered the greatest player in Houston Astros history.
"This is unbelievable," he said during the Hall of Fame's formal news conference Thursday at the St. Regis hotel in Midtown Manhattan. "I don't even know what the [heck] I'm doing here. This is crazy."
Well, it's not that crazy. Bagwell logged 449 home runs and 1,529 RBIs during a long career with the Astros that began in 1991 and concluded with the club's only World Series appearance in 2005. During his tenure, Bagwell posted eight seasons with at least 30 home runs, 100 runs scored and 100 RBIs. Those accomplishments have been matched by only Willie Mays and Jim Thome.
So Bagwell's resume has been loaded with Hall of Fame credentials for quite some time now. This week's announcement just made official what Astros fans have known for years -- Bagwell's accomplishments put him among the greatest first basemen in history.
It's just going to take him a while to get used to all of this.
"To be in the Hall of Fame, it's crazy, man," Bagwell said. "I couldn't be more happy to be here. I'm just trying to take this all in."
Wearing a blue checkered blazer, crisp white shirt and a shiny new Hall of Fame pin, Bagwell strode into the ballroom at the St. Regis flanked by his fellow Hall of Fame electees, Tim Raines and Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, in addition to Hall of Fame president Jeff Idleson, Hall of Fame chairwoman Jane Forbes Clark and Jack O'Connell, secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
The electees' jackets were soon replaced by the official cream-colored Hall of Fame jerseys, which sparked some jokes from Bagwell about how the sizes were a tick or two bigger than what they were during their playing days.
"You have to be able to laugh and make fun of each other," Bagwell said. "How much we weigh, how to get this jersey on … we're having a lot of fun together."
Bagwell has a few months to come up with more measured comments before he has to deliver in front of tens of thousands of revelers during the official ceremony in Cooperstown on July 30. For now, Bagwell has chosen to use his time in the spotlight to do what he did hundreds of times during his playing career -- shift the focus away from him, and to the teammates around him who made his job more enjoyable.
Having been to the postseason six times in his career, Bagwell was as well-known for his team-first approach as he is for his franchise-record 449 home runs. His basic philosophies resonated throughout the Astros' clubhouse, especially to the many young players who credit him with helping them navigate through the ups and downs that go along with being a Major League player.
"That was a big part of our team -- appreciating other people making you better," he said. "I was very fortunate that Craig Biggio did that for me. I'm sure 'Hawk' [Hall of Famer Andre Dawson] would say the same thing about [Raines]. That's what makes this game great.
"This is what we play for. We play to win, we play to make other people feel better about their day. We do play 162 games. That's a long time, man."
Fifteen years and nearly 450 homers later, clearly it was time well-spent.More »
HOUSTON -- One of the greatest players in Astros history, slugging first baseman Jeff Bagwell will soon take his place among the game's all-time legends.
Bagwell earned induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Wednesday, meaning he'll join longtime teammate Craig Biggio -- inducted in 2015 -- as the only players enshrined with an Astros logo on their plaques.
"I don't even know how I'm supposed to react," Bagwell said. "It's been a whirlwind. It's been fun and exciting. My family is very, very excited for this thing. ... I could not be more excited. It's a weird thing to be a Hall of Famer. I wrote it on a ball tonight, and it was kind of crazy. So it was cool."
Bagwell will be enshrined in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 30 in a class that will also include Tim Raines, who played most of his career in Montreal, former Rangers, Astros and World Series champion Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez, longtime Braves general manager John Schuerholz and former MLB Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig.
The Astros will hold a free public rally for Bagwell at 5 p.m. CT Monday in Union Station at Minute Maid Park. The list of special guests planning to attend includes former teammates Brad Ausmus and Lance Berkman, former managers Larry Dierker and Phil Garner and owner Jim Crane.
"Throughout his career, Jeff worked extremely hard to become a great player," Crane said in a statement. "He was a winner and an outstanding representative of the Houston Astros and of the City of Houston. We were thrilled when Craig Biggio was voted into the Hall two years ago, and now we are ecstatic that Jeff will be joining him this year. This is an exciting day for the Astros and for our great fans."
Bagwell, in his seventh year on the ballot, received 86.2 percent of the votes (75 percent is needed). Raines had 86 percent and Rodriguez 76 percent. Bagwell will be the 50th player in history to be inducted having played with only one team, joining longtime teammate Biggio.
"I'm very excited," said Biggio, who was inducted in 2015. "I'm excited for him and I'm excited for his family, I'm excited for his teammates, the Astros' organization and obviously the fans. You play with somebody for 15 years and it becomes synonymous where you mention Bagwell, you mention Biggio; you mention Biggio, you mention Bagwell. Now to be able to mention Bagwell and Biggio in the Hall of Fame, I can't tell you how happy I am for him and his family."
Bagwell spent the day at home with his family and agent, Barry Axelrod, awaiting the call from the Hall. He was soon whisked to the airport for a news conference before flying to New York for a full day of activities on Thursday.
"Man, it's kind of weird, man," Bagwell said. "I don't even know, I'm still kind of in shock. .... I'm excited and I'm happy. It's just very cool, I guess."
Bagwell, with his unmistakable crouched batting stance, won the 1991 National League Rookie of the Year Award and the 1994 NL Most Valuable Player Award during the strike-shortened season. He hit .297 with 2,314 hits, 449 homers, 1,529 RBIs, 1,517 runs scored and a .408 on-base percentage in 15 seasons in Houston (1991-2005). He was a four-time NL All-Star, won a 1994 NL Gold Glove Award and three NL Silver Slugger Awards.
He posted eight seasons with at least 30 home runs, 100 runs scored and 100 RBIs, tying him for eighth on that list all-time with Willie Mays and Jim Thome. Six of those seasons came in a row for Bagwell (1996-2001), making him one of just six players to reach that mark. He is one of only 11 players in MLB history with at least 440 home runs and 200 stolen bases.
"There's certain things I've done I'm proud of, like playing my entire career with the Houston Astros, the relationships I've made in the City of Houston," Bagwell said. "To play an entire career -- my numbers are where they are and you can look at them and decide what to think -- but I'm just proud I played my entire career with the Houston Astros, with Craig and enjoyed my time."
Born in Boston, Bagwell grew up a Red Sox fan, idolized Carl Yastrzemski and was drafted by the Red Sox in 1989. The Sox dealt him to the Astros at the Trade Deadline in 1990 for reliever Larry Andersen in one of the most lopsided trades in history. A skinny Minor League third baseman when he was traded, Bagwell started at first base for the Astros in 1991 and became a fixture there for 15 years and turned into one of the game's most feared sluggers.
Still, he had to wait a dozen years after his final game to get his Hall of Fame recognition.
"I don't have all the ability in the world -- I had a ton, I guess, of God-given talent, but not like crazy stuff," he said. "So there was only one way to play it. I grew up watching Carl Yastrzemski, and I just went after baseball the way I thought it was supposed to be done. I was very, very fortunate in my career that I got to be with Craig Biggio, Ken Caminiti, guys like Steve Finley and Luis Gonzalez. That's just how we played, man. That's just the way I knew how to play baseball, and that's the way I went after it."More »
ARLINGTON -- Ivan Rodriguez wanted this badly. He wanted badly to be in the Hall of Fame, and he wanted to go in on the first ballot.
Rodriguez knew it would be close, even though he is one of the greatest catchers in the history of the game.
"To be honest with you, I haven't slept in three days, I'm not kidding," Rodriguez said. "A lot of good friends telling me you're going to be in, you're going to make it. But at the same time, I was receiving a lot of caution, like if it's not this year, it's next.
"I didn't want to hear that."
Rodriguez heard what he wanted to hear and what he deserved to hear. Pudge is on his way to the Hall of Fame and will be inducted on July 30 in Cooperstown, N.Y., along with Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines.
"What can I say?" Rodriguez said. "I am out of words. Growing up as a child in my hometown of Vega Baja, [P.R.], to go into the Hall of Fame … It's a great honor."
Rodriguez received 76 percent of the votes cast by eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Rodriguez was chosen on 336 of 442 ballots cast, making him the second catcher to be elected in his first year of eligibility, joining Johnny Bench.
"Johnny Bench was my favorite player growing up, and I can't wait until July to see him on the same stage as me when I'm giving my speech," Rodriguez said. "It's a dream come true, probably my favorite player right there very close to me, and I would love Johnny Bench to be right next to me when I'm standing there on the stage."
Rodriguez played with six organizations but will enter the Hall Fame as Ranger. He signed with the Rangers in 1988, made his debut with them in 1991 at the age of 19 and was with them for 12 years before leaving as a free agent.
He is the second player, behind Nolan Ryan, to enter the Hall of Fame wearing a Rangers cap on his plaque.
"Regarded as one of baseball's greatest catchers, Pudge played the game with style and charisma that endeared him not only to his hometown fans but baseball fans worldwide," said Tom Grieve, who was the general manager when the Rangers signed Rodriguez. "I feel fortunate to have had a front-row seat for most of it."
Rodriguez was elected after a 21-year career in which he was a 14-time All-Star and winner of 13 Gold Glove Awards for his defensive excellence. He was the 1999 American League Most Valuable Player Award winner and finished with a career batting average of .296, with 311 home runs.
He was in his prime with the Rangers, helping them to win three division titles, in 1996 and 1998-99, while becoming one of the most popular players in franchise history.
"He's right where he belongs, alongside the very best that have ever played the game," former teammate Mark McLemore said. "Very well deserved honor for him to go in on the first ballot."
"Pudge is more than deserving of being inducted into the Hall of Fame," outfielder Rusty Greer said. "He did everything, both on and off the field, anyone could ask for."
Rodriguez was with the Marlins in 2003 and helped them win the World Series. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the National League Championship Series against the Cubs.
He then spent 2004-08 with the Tigers, helping them reach the World Series in 2006. He also was with the Yankees, Astros, again with the Rangers (at the end of the 2009 season) and the Nationals before retiring after the 2011 season.
"I respect all the six teams that I played [for]," Rodriguez said. "I feel very honored and just very happy to be part of the Texas Rangers organization. At the same time, obviously, I have to mention all the other teams that I played with. They were all very professional with me, as well, and they're all part of it. They're a big part of it as well."
Rodriguez finished his career with some impressive offensive numbers. He is one of six Major Leaguers with a minimum of a .295 average, 2,800 hits, 550 doubles, 300 home runs and 1,300 RBIs. The others are Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, George Brett, Stan Musial and Albert Pujols.
Then there was his defense, as the 13 Gold Gloves are the most by a catcher and fourth most at any position. He had quick feet that allowed him to block balls in the dirt, he was excellent at running down foul balls and he was fearless on plays at the plate.
Above all, there was the arm. For anybody who ever watched him play, what they remember most is Rodriguez nailing would-be basestealers with his incredible throwing arm.
"Best arm I've ever seen behind the plate," former pitcher Darren Oliver said.
"When a baserunner was on, I was begging him to steal," said Bobby Witt, another pitcher who benefited from Rodriguez's defensive work.
Rodriguez led the league nine times in throwing out attempted basestealers. His career best was 60.3 percent in 2001, and he threw out 52 percent in 2011 in the final year of his career.
"It's a great question, because that was my No. 1 thing I wanted to have in my career," Rodriguez said. "I just wanted to keep my defensive part of the game every day. Being able to shut down the running, and blocking and throwing guys out and trying to kill the other team's rally, I think that's one of the things that I feel most proud of. I know offensively I had a great career, but my main game was defense, and that's why I take a lot of pride in being a defensive catcher."
Rodriguez only made it by four votes, but that puts him in good company. Among the 52 first-ballot Hall of Famers, the margin of four votes is tied for the fewest.
Rodriguez is tied with Jackie Robinson. Now he is going into the Hall of Fame, to join Robinson, Bench and all the others who are considered to be the greatest ever.
"I feel most proud to be in the Hall of Fame as a first-timer," Rodriguez said. "It's not the second time or the fourth time, to be there in one of one is an honor."More »
For the past 10 years, Tim Raines has been very much on our minds. This is the wonder of the Baseball Hall of Fame. We don't really have deep conversations about long-ago players like Raines in other sports -- you don't hear too many people celebrating or arguing about Alex English or Andre Tippett or Mike Gartner.
But Raines, yes, for a decade now people have been contemplating him, quarreling about him, remembering him as a blur between first and second base, remembering him as a part-time player for the second half of his career, learning all sorts of new things about him. Did you know that Raines got on base more times than Tony Gwynn? Wow. Did you know that in his rookie season in 1981, he stole 50 bases in his first 54 games? Raines was on pace to absolutely shatter the stolen base record. And then the strike came. Remember?
The story of Raines getting elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, I think, is the story of why the Baseball Hall of Fame is so wonderful. Yes, of course, the Baseball Hall -- like all Halls of Fame -- celebrates the obvious legends, the players who were universally admired and revered in their time, Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Johnny Bench, Ted Williams, Henry Aaron, Greg Maddux, Bob Feller, Ken Griffey Jr.
But then there's a second category of Hall of Famer, players whose greatness was perhaps overlooked in their time, players whose excellence was overshadowed. Raines was one of those players. He did not hit .300 for his career. He did not compile 3,000 hits. Raines never won an MVP Award or a Gold Glove. He was a part-time player in the only World Series he ever played in. He did not make the All-Star team after he turned 28.
For the most part, Raines was known for what he was not. He was not Rickey Henderson.
Of course, no one was Rickey Henderson. It wasn't a fair comparison, it was like saying that Jeff Bagwell does not belong in the Hall of Fame because he is not Lou Gehrig. But because of a quirk of timing, Raines and Henderson came along together at precisely the same time, and Henderson was the star, Raines the understudy. In Raines' first year on the Hall of Fame ballot (2008), he got less than a quarter of the vote. The next year, Henderson came on the ballot, breezed in his first ballot at 95 percent, and Raines' percentage went down.
It seemed like Raines would slowly, surely, agonizingly fall off the Hall of Fame ballot.
Only then ... people began to look a little bit closer. The things Raines did so well were not obvious. Then, his whole baseball career was not obvious. Raines did not dream of playing baseball while growing up in Sanford, Fla. He wanted to play football at the University of Florida and then go on to the NFL as a wide receiver. Raines probably could have done that. But his father, Ned, was a legendary semi-pro baseball player. His younger brother, Ned II, was exactly Tim's height and weight (5-foot-8, 160 pounds) and was considered a better prospect than Tim (he went higher in the Draft).
So Raines gave himself two years to make a name for himself in baseball, and he was dead set on walking on at Florida if it didn't work out. At the end of his second full Minor League season, though, he got six games in the big leagues for Montreal. He stole two bases without getting caught.
So it began. Raines was successful in his first 27 stolen-base attempts. It seemed like no catcher would ever throw him out. Few ever did. His 808 stolen bases rank fifth on the all-time list -- one of the four ahead of him, Slidin' Billy Hamilton, played in the 19th century -- but none of the great basestealers was as efficient as Raines. He was successful in 85 percent of his attempts. He was a genius at reading pitchers and getting jumps and stealing bases. At age 41, long after his speed had left him, Raines attempted one stolen base. He made it, of course.
"Speed played a big role," Raines says, "but the reaction time ... was really the most important thing."
Raines also walked a lot. Nobody noticed that when he played, few cared even after he played. People will always underestimate walks. Yes, Raines hit for average in his prime, yes, he won a batting title in 1986 and hit .330 the next year. But the real strength of his hitting was his ability to foul off pitches and get in the heads of pitchers and get on base. Tony Gwynn hit .338 for his career and Raines hit .294, but their on-base percentages are virtually identical (Gwynn led .388 to .385) because Raines found other ways.
And of course, with Raines, those walks were doubles because he stole so many bases and was almost never caught. Raines scored almost 200 more runs than Gwynn. Also, Raines hit with surprising power for a small man. He cracked 160 home runs -- only the great Joe Morgan among men his size hit more.
At the start of this Hall of Fame journey, Raines was seen as a very good but not great player. Over time, a fuller picture developed. Voters began to realize how he altered games with his plate discipline, his speed, his power. No, Raines was not as good as Henderson ... but perhaps being the second-best leadoff man in history isn't a bad thing. Slowly, his percentages started rising, to 30 percent then to 38 up to 49 and so on.
"I can't say it was difficult [to wait], like, the first six years," Raines says, "because I didn't really have the votes to actually even consider thinking that the next year I would get in."
And then, last year, there was a shift. Raines' percentage jumped from 55 to 70 percent, and suddenly Raines realized he was on the Hall of Fame doorstep. This got him excited. And it made him extraordinarily nervous. "Last night," Raines admitted after his election, "is probably the worst night I've had out of the 10 years."
From one point of view, all of this is kind of ridiculous, right? Raines is no better a baseball player today, after he got 86 percent of the vote, than he was 10 years ago when he got 24 percent. In the past decade, he didn't add one hit, one steal, one great catch to his resume. But, in the end, I don't think it's ridiculous. It's beautiful. For all those years, we have relived the career of Raines again and again. And after all that time, the career ends in Cooperstown, exactly where it should.More »
SAN DIEGO -- Trevor Hoffman, one of the greatest relief pitchers of all time, came just shy of closing out his Hall of Fame legacy on Wednesday.
In his second year on the ballot, the legendary Padres closer fell a mere five votes short of the 332 required for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Only Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez received the 75 percent needed for enshrinement in Cooperstown on Wednesday. Hoffman ultimately finished at 74, making him only the sixth player in history to fall one percentage point shy of being voted into the Hall.
"I first want to send a very heartfelt congratulations to Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez. All three men exemplify what it means to be a Hall of Famer in our game," Hoffman said in a statement. "For me, falling short of this class is disappointing, but I don't take being on the ballot lightly. I'm grateful for every vote and I am truly humbled to have come so close. I hope to one day soon share a Hall of Fame celebration with my family, friends, teammates and all of San Diego."
Despite Wednesday's disappointment, Hoffman saw a significant uptick in his vote totals after he received 67.3 percent last year. Those numbers seem to indicate that he'll reach the Hall eventually -- possibly as early as next year. (Players are given a maximum of 10 seasons on the ballot.)
Since the Hall of Fame changed its voting structure in 1969, 15 players have returned to the ballot after receiving at least 70 percent of the vote. Only Jim Bunning was not elected by the BBWAA -- and he was later voted in by the Veterans Committee.
Hoffman joins Craig Biggio, Bert Blyleven, Bunning, Jimmy Williams and Nellie Fox as the only players to fall one percentage point short. The other five are all Hall of Famers. Biggio -- the most recent case -- came the closest at 74.8 percent in 2014, before he was easily elected the following year.
Hoffman pitched 18 seasons in the big leagues, 16 of which came in San Diego. During that time, he racked up 601 saves, second only to Mariano Rivera. Among relievers with at least 1,000 innings, Hoffman ranks second in save percentage (88.8), eighth in ERA (2.87), fourth in ERA+ (141), second in opponents' batting average (.211), second in WHIP (1.06) and first in strikeout rate (25.8).
Perhaps the two numbers that most harmed Hoffman's case were his 28 wins above replacement and his 1,089 1/3 innings pitched. (Only Bruce Sutter has been enshrined with fewer innings.) Of course, those numbers merely highlight Hoffman's role as a one-inning closer. In recent years, debate has arisen about the importance of the job.
But within the constricts of that job, Hoffman is undoubtedly one of the best ever, and the numbers back him up.
Now, he'll have to wait -- at least one year, perhaps longer -- to be recognized with baseball's highest honor.More »
Jeff Bagwell's dominance as a hitter will occupy the conversation from now through his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer in Cooperstown, N.Y., but that only tells a part of the story as to why this honor resonates so deeply for those closest to him.
To say that Bagwell was merely respected by his teammates undersells what the former first baseman meant to them. Bagwell's play on the field generated admiration among his peers, but what most remember beyond his physical abilities was his leadership, kindness and humility -- qualities that aren't necessarily universal when it comes to superstar athletes.
"When I think about Jeff ... he's a great teammate and I think everybody that ever played with him really just have a fondness for him that only comes to guys that are about their teammates, they care about the team, they care about winning," former teammate Lance Berkman said. "So that's what stands out to me about Jeff."
From the last guy off the bench to the ace of the pitching staff, Bagwell made some sort of connection with every teammate, every year, regardless of stature. In that respect, Bagwell shouldn't be surprised if an inordinate number of former teammates, managers and colleagues make the trek to Cooperstown to celebrate his induction on July 30. There are a lot of people who are going to want to be part of this event.
Count Moises Alou as one of them. Alou and Bagwell became fast friends after Alou was traded to Houston from Florida prior to the 1998 season. Though Alou reported to Spring Training that year still reeling from the shock of being traded from the Marlins soon after they won the World Series, it didn't take long until he felt at home with the Astros.
Having his locker located near Bagwell and Craig Biggio helped the transition.
"It was like family," Alou said. "Baggy made everything so easy, the adjustment and coming to a new team. He was a great teammate."
Alou was one of several additions to the late 1990s Astros that helped shape the club into a perennial division winner. Another was former catcher Brad Ausmus, who played 10 seasons with the Astros from 1997-98 and 2001-08 and is among Bagwell's closest friends. Like Bagwell, Ausmus generated similar respect among his peers for his no-nonsense, professional approach to the game.
"The reason the players respected him was because he was one of those superstars who put the team before himself," Ausmus said. "He understood that winning was really the main goal, and that personal accolades, although great and gratifying, aren't the reason you put on the uniform."
Because Bagwell never switched teams, he has long-standing friendships with a wide variety of figures that have come through the Astros' organization -- those who were older, mentor-types when he was a young player, and others who were the young "kids" looking for guidance when Bagwell was nearing the end of his career a decade ago.
Former shortstop Adam Everett was one of the kids who started to come into his own at the same time the Astros were regular contenders in the early and mid-2000s.
No one was more of a mentor to Everett than Bagwell, who took extra measures to make sure Everett was comfortable as he established himself in the big leagues.
"He took me under his wing and said, 'You're an Astro now,'" Everett recalled. "That's the way Baggy was. You were part of his team, he took care of you, he made sure you were doing what you should be doing -- running the bases correctly, and playing the game hard."
Brad Lidge has similar recollections from when he was a young closer on a talented Astros team.
"When I was a rookie, in my first full season, I remember especially there was a game in Cincinnati I just did not do well," Lidge said. "He came up to me right away and put his hand on my shoulder, in my locker, and just knew how to say the right things."
Bagwell's character was never in question, nor were his baseball skills that made him one of the most complete players among his peers. Beyond the obvious eye-popping offensive numbers, Bagwell was considered a tremendous baserunner, elite defensively, and perhaps most notably, fearless.
"I think it's long overdue and well-deserved," Berkman said of Bagwell's election in his seventh year on the ballot. "If you look at his numbers, there's just really no debate about it. It's a little surprising, but it doesn't really matter now because he'll be there forever."
For those with an up-close view, Bagwell's penchant for charging the plate on bunt plays, his mastery of the 3-6-3 double play and his routes on the basepaths will be remembered as well as his 449 home runs and 1,529 RBIs.
"Nobody else could affect the game defensively like him," former Astros manager Phil Garner said. "He was also a terrific baserunner. Baggy was sneaky. He didn't look like he was that fast, but he always took the base he was supposed to take and he never got thrown out."
"Fielding the bunt, no right-handed first baseman could play that bunt and get a guy at third like he did," said former pitcher Mike Hampton, Bagwell's teammate from 1994-99. "That took pressure off the pitcher.
"And running the bases -- he'd get great jumps, he could read the pitcher when stealing bases, he never wasted time, he cut corners on the bases. Just lost arts that people forget about. I know he worked at it, but it always seemed so natural for him, so easy. He was just really good at just about every facet of the game."More »
Jeff Bagwell's ultimate legacy will be that he was a complete player, and how many of those have there been? As former Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker said, "If you were looking to build a franchise around a player, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone better than Jeff Bagwell."
That was a thought repeated again and again on Wednesday with the announcement that Bagwell will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 30 in Cooperstown, N.Y.
With Bagwell's teammate Craig Biggio having entered the Hall in 2015, Astros fans can now feel that the most successful era in team history has been validated. Beginning in 1991, they were teammates for 15 seasons, and by the time they were done, a franchise had been transformed.
With teams built around those two cornerstone players, the Astros, a team that had never won a postseason series, reached October six times in nine seasons between 1997 and 2005. In that stretch, they won 882 regular-season games, third most in the National League, trailing only the Braves and Cardinals.
For Biggio, Wednesday was a day of emotion and celebration in seeing his buddy get his ticket punched in his seventh year on the ballot. Biggio had spent Tuesday night at Bagwell's home, breaking the tension by remembering their times together with laughter and stories.
"He was the ultimate teammate and a great friend," Biggio said. "We're going to be connected forever in the minds of baseball fans, and for me, that's the ultimate compliment, because I know what kind of player and what kind of man he is."
That's how Bagwell's teammates feel, too. On Wednesday, they spoke of his leadership and the example he set. They said he was driven to be great, but that he felt a responsibility to the entire team.
"I never saw him when he wasn't mentally focused on a game or a situation," former Astros first baseman/outfielder Lance Berkman said. "His professionalism -- the way he prepared to play and was locked in every day, every at-bat -- was amazing.
"That's true no matter how he was doing at the time or how he was feeling. He showed me what it takes to be a professional, and not just a guy in Major League Baseball. It's the pride you take in your approach. Baggy wasn't just a hitter. He prided himself on his defense, his baserunning, the little things, the nuances that are really the meat of the game."
When managers arrived in Houston, they turned the clubhouse over to Bagwell and Biggio, who had a kind of good cop/bad cop dynamic. Bagwell was, well, the good cop.
"I have a ton of respect for both of them," Berkman said, "but they're very different people with different social skills. Craig was very direct, very blunt. There was no question how he was feeling about how you were doing at the time.
"He would very much bark at guys if he didn't think you were doing what you should be. That's part of what made him great. Truly great players have that single-minded focus, that edge. They come to the park every day a little bit angry. That's how Craig was.
"Baggy was much more laid back. He was like a big brother to me. He'd get on you when you needed it, but it was in a kind way. He didn't try to ostracize you. He'd give you a hard time, but then he'd put his arm around you and let you know he cared about you. I don't think he ever had a teammate dislike him.
"But listen, Baggy and Biggio were similar in a lot of ways. They expected guys to toe a certain line when it came to the team. One thing they both did was play every day and put winning above everything else. They believed that if you can walk, you can play."
Asked about their different leadership styles, Biggio said the bottom line was the same.
"We believed that when you came through the clubhouse door, you left your ego outside," he said. "You were there to go to work and to take care of business. When you leave, you can be your own dude or whatever. "But when you put that uniform on, you do things a certain way. It came to be known as the Astros way, and we're both proud we were part of that."
Another of Bagwell's teammates, former Astros shortstop Adam Everett, said, "It's hard to put into words what he meant to us. If you played with him, you understood. It was his leadership, his awareness, his gentleness.
"I learned how to play the game from him. He led by example on the field. Off the field, he was the guy who would quietly come over and say, 'OK, this is what you need to learn from that.' It was really amazing the impact he had on others in such a quiet way."
Everett once asked Bagwell about the 1994 season, when Bagwell won the NL Most Valuable Player Award. Bagwell told him the lesson of that season is that no player feels great every day but that "grinding through" is some of what separates great players from the rest.
"You're not going to feel the same in the batter's box every day," Bagwell told him. "But if there's a guy on third base, you've still got to figure out how to get him in. It doesn't matter how you do it, but you've got to get that run in."
Everett added, "Baggy said there were other times you just needed to get on base, to draw a walk, whatever. You just did it. You found a way. No one cared how you felt or how you did it. You just had to do it. He was driven in that way. You do what a professional is supposed to do.
"He was confident and secure, both those things, and his confidence spilled onto all of us, the way he carried himself. You felt like, 'OK, Baggy is here. We're good.' He just had that effect on those around him."
Bagwell will largely be judged by his numbers as future generations study the plaques in Cooperstown. Those will be tribute to his power (449 home runs) and patience (.408 OBP), to his baserunning and to his defense.
Bagwell's Wins Above Replacement total of 79.6 is 38th all time among position players. His 149 OPS+ is 37th all time. Bagwell won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 1991 and finished in the Top 10 in NL MVP Award voting six times. By almost any standard, he was one of the great post-World War II players.
Again, though, others remember the man.
"This is a special human being," Hunsicker said. "The first thing is his humility. Being a celebrity and a star, that's not a trait you see that often. He never wanted to call attention to himself. He was the first to credit teammates for victories and the first to take responsibility for defeats.
"He had such great qualities you admire as a person. Consequently, he was a great teammate. I can't think of one person that ever disliked Jeff Bagwell. He was there for every teammate, whether it was the raw rookie or the 25th guy on the club.
"He was no one to stick his nose into one's business, but he was there if someone needed help. Conversely, if anyone was out of line, he'd let that person know it in a quiet, discreet manner. He was probably one of the best-kept secrets in the game during his career."
Not anymore.More »
He was a singular talent that will never be forgotten.
Vladimir Guerrero's five-tool arsenal, his violently poetic right-handed swing and his All-Star smile ... all that and a lot more added up to one of the most uniquely brilliant outfielders of his generation and one that seems destined for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
It just won't happen his first time on the ballot.
Guerrero finished fifth among the 34 players listed on the ballot for 2017 as results were revealed Wednesday on MLB Network, debuting with an impressive showing by being named on 71.7 percent of the 442 ballots of eligible Baseball Writers' Association of America voters. Guerrero is well positioned to reach 75 percent next year or in the coming years, of which he has nine more on the ballot.
On Wednesday, Jeff Bagwell (86.2 percent), Tim Raines (86 percent) and Ivan Rodriguez (76 percent) received enough votes for induction. Trevor Hoffman received 74 percent, and Guerrero ranked ahead of Edgar Martinez (58.6 percent), Roger Clemens (54.1) and Barry Bonds (53.8).
"There's no doubt that Vlad's career points to the Hall of Fame, and that's what's important," said Mike Scioscia, Guerrero's manager with the Angels from 2004-09.
"I think that not making it as a first-ballot Hall of Famer isn't necessarily a slight. To get into that group, sometimes it takes a little patience. But there's no doubt."
Guerrero's achievements on the field and the fear he struck in the hearts of the best pitchers in the game are the qualities that should eventually get him in.
Guerrero finished his career with a line of .318/.379/.553. He hit 449 home runs and drove in 1,496 runs. He had 2,590 hits and 1,328 runs scored. Early in his career, Guerrero was a serious threat on the bases, stealing 40 bags in '02, 37 in '01 and 181 in his career. He was a nine-time All-Star.
And in '04, in his first season after leaving Montreal for a free-agent deal with the Angels, Guerrero won the American League MVP Award with a line of .337/.391/.598, 39 homers, 126 RBIs, 124 runs, 39 doubles and 15 stolen bases. He also slashed .363/.424/.726 with 11 homers and 25 RBIs in the final month of that season as his club rallied to win the American League West.
"With Vlad, it was so much more than the numbers, though," said Guerrero's former Angels teammate Darin Erstad. "It was how he did it. Just pure, freakish talent, the most incredible hand-eye coordination you've ever seen. It was like every day at the park you'd see something you'd never seen before."
Former big leaguer Rex Hudler, who covered Guerrero as an Angels broadcaster before his current job in Kansas City, described Guerrero's strike zone as "from his toes to his nose." Any pitch was fair game to be crushed by Guerrero, who was gifted with an enormous wingspan and lightning-quick wrists.
"I know that eventually he'll be recognized with that great honor," Scioscia said. "I don't think there was a more dominant player for such a long stretch of time as Vlad was in two leagues, and his talent is very evident when you compare some of his accomplishments with some of the all-time greats.
"I'm sure he'll get it."More »
Ivan Rodriguez got the call to Cooperstown on Wednesday, when the Baseball Writers' Association of America officially made him only the second catcher in history to earn induction to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
"Pudge" received 76 percent of the vote in large part because of his prowess behind the plate, where he caught nearly 2,500 games, led his league in caught-stealing percentage nine times and won 13 Gold Glove Awards. Between the ages of 19 and 39, Rodriguez donned the mask for six organizations, and from the very beginning until the very end, he teamed up with many talented pitchers.
Here is a look at just some of the most memorable and accomplished batterymates Rodriguez had through the years, starting at the beginning:
Kevin Brown: 1991-94 Rangers
On June 20, 1991, at Chicago's Comiskey Park, a 19-year-old Rodriguez made his debut against a White Sox club that featured Carlton Fisk, Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura and a young Sammy Sosa. The Rangers' pitcher was Brown, who was in his third full season but a year away from the first of his six All-Star selections. On that day, Rodriguez caught Brown's quality start and picked up his first MLB hit and RBI. Brown went on to post a 3.28 ERA over nearly 500 career games, with Rodriguez catching more of them (95) than anyone else.
Nolan Ryan: 1991-93 Rangers
A 44-year-old Ryan, who already had set the all-time strikeout record, started Rodriguez's second career game. Two years later, in another matchup against the White Sox on Aug. 4, 1993, Rodriguez was catching Ryan again when he bore witness to an infamous play. When Ventura charged the mound after getting hit by a pitch, Rodriguez trailed behind. By the time he reached Ventura, the young third baseman was in a headlock.
Goose Gossage: 1991 Rangers
Gossage saved 310 games in his Hall of Fame career, and just one of those came in a Texas uniform. Sure enough, Rodriguez was behind the plate as the 40-year-old did the job against the Red Sox on July 23.
Kenny Rogers: 1991-95, 2000-02 Rangers; '06-'08 Tigers
The left-hander pitched in Rodriguez's second career game, relieving Ryan. More than 17 years later, the two were batterymates for the final time, on July 28, 2008, a couple of days before the Tigers traded Pudge to the Yankees. All told, Rogers appeared in 270 games with Rodriguez -- 165 more than with any other catcher -- throwing more than 1,200 innings to him. That doesn't include Rogers' brilliant run for Detroit in the 2006 postseason, when he tossed 23 scoreless innings.
R.A. Dickey: 2001 Rangers
Way before Dickey enjoyed his first sustained Major League success as a knuckleballer with the Mets, a run that included a Cy Young Award, he got his first cup of coffee in a four-game stint with Texas. Rodriguez coaxed a clean debut inning from him on April 22 against the A's, and 16 years later, Dickey remains in the Majors.
Josh Beckett: 2003 Marlins
A 23-year-old Beckett posted a 3.04 ERA in Rodriguez's only season in Miami. Across 42 2/3 innings that postseason, the righty put up a 2.11 ERA, struck out 47 batters and tossed two shutouts. One was against the Cubs in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series, and the other came against the Yankees in the decisive Game 6 of the World Series, as Beckett outdueled veteran Andy Pettitte.
Dontrelle Willis: 2003 Marlins; '08 Tigers
The D-Train couldn't sustain his early success, but his first four seasons with the Marlins were excellent, beginning with his NL Rookie of the Year campaign in '03. The 21-year-old lefty went 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA over 27 starts for the World Series champions, including a one-hit shutout Pudge caught against the Mets in what was just the eighth career outing by Willis.
Justin Verlander: 2006-08 Tigers
Rodriguez didn't catch either of Verlander's first two games in '05, but he was behind the plate for most of the right-hander's innings in '06. Verlander captured AL Rookie of the Year honors that season, going 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA and launching a career that so far has seen six All-Star selections, and more than 350 starts and 2,000 strikeouts.
Andrew Miller: 2006-07 Tigers
Ten years before Miller was a postseason sensation with the Indians, he was the sixth overall pick by Detroit in the 2006 Draft. Less than a month after signing, the lanky lefty out of North Carolina was in the big leagues, making his debut at Yankee Stadium. With Rodriguez catching, Miller threw a scoreless eighth inning, retiring Derek Jeter to end it.
Pettitte: 2008 Yankees
Rodriguez played just 33 games for New York, and in that time caught Pettitte (256 career wins) just once. The two were adversaries much more often over the years, facing each other in 63 plate appearances, with Rodriguez batting .333/.365/.433.
Mariano Rivera: 2008 Yankees
Eight of Rivera's record 652 saves came with Rodriguez catching. In true Rivera form, the righty held opponents to a .399 OPS over 12 innings working with Pudge.
Roy Oswalt: 2009 Astros
Rodriguez signed with Houston before the '09 season and then was traded back to the Rangers in August. In between, he caught Oswalt 24 times. While '09 was far from Oswalt's best season, the righty posted a 3.07 ERA from '01-07 and finished in the top five in the Cy Young Award race five times in that span.
Jordan Zimmermann: 2010-11 Nationals
On Aug. 26, 2010, Rodriguez was there when a 24-year-old Zimmermann returned from Tommy John surgery. In the righty's next outing, he struck out nine over six one-hit innings in Miami, setting the stage for a solid '11 season and a productive run in the Washington rotation.
Stephen Strasburg: 2010-11 NationalsMore »
Strasburg and Rodriguez each had a hand in a milestone for the other. First, on June 8, 2010, Strasburg made one of the most hyped pitching debuts in history. Rodriguez had a front-row seat as the 21-year-old phenom struck out 14 Pirates without issuing a walk over seven innings at Nationals Park. The next year, Strasburg returned from his own Tommy John surgery, just in time to bid Rodriguez farewell. The righty's fifth game back was the last of Rodriguez's Hall of Fame career, and Strasburg struck out 10 over six dominant innings against the Marlins, while Rodriguez picked up his 2,844th and final hit.
Hang in there, Trevor Hoffman. You're going to get into the Hall of Fame very soon now. There's pretty much no doubt about that.
How about next year? Yes, that sounds about right.
You're too close now. Close enough to taste it. In fact, that's the larger message on a bitterly disappointing day.
Sure, it's stinks to be forced to wait another year. When Craig Biggio missed by three votes three years ago, he got in his pickup and drove from his home in Houston to his ranch in South Texas.
"I needed to get away for a couple of days," Biggio said.
That's surely how Hoffman is feeling after being named on 327 of 442 Hall of Fame ballots, yet missing the 75 percent induction requirement by five lousy votes.
"For me, falling short of this class is disappointing," Hoffman said in a statement that was typically gracious. "But I don't take being on the ballot lightly. I'm grateful for every vote, and I am truly humbled to have come so close.
"I hope to one day soon share a Hall of Fame celebration with my family, friends, teammates and all of San Diego."
Former Padres teammate Mark Grant spoke for a lot of people when he tweeted: "This one hurts. Absolutely ludicrous that you didn't get in. 1% shy, but 100% HOF'er in my book!"
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer also took to Twitter, writing, "There's no doubt you're a Hall of Famer, @THoffman51. You are a San Diego legend -- and the game's best closer, period."
For Hoffman to get 74 percent of the vote -- to become the sixth player to miss by one percentage point -- says plenty about the Baseball Hall of Fame and how difficult it is to get in the door.
That's a good thing. That's how it was set up. As Joe Torre memorably said one year when he missed the cut, "It's the Hall of Fame. It's supposed to be tough to get into."
In other words, the Hall of Fame isn't a borderline deal. To clear the 75 percent threshold tells every inductee he belongs with the best of the best.
In 82 years of voting, the Baseball Writers' Association of America has voted for only 124 players, including this year's trio of Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez.
Various committees have honored another 195, including Negro Leaguers, managers, executives and umpires. By any metric, any club that has admitted 319 members in 82 years is a pretty exclusive little gathering.
Some of us think there's a backlog of qualified candidates and that this generation of players is under-represented in the Hall of Fame.
But that's a discussion for another day. The point is that the doors of Cooperstown will almost certainly open for Hoffman in 2018.
Biggio got in a year after his close call, and the whole waiting thing now seems like a distant memory.
"When it happens, you keep pinching yourself," Biggio said. "You look around on that stage and see the club you're now a member of."
That's how it'll be for Hoffman, hopefully in the summer of 2018. He'll look around and see Hank Aaron and Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax, the best of the best.
At that point, it won't matter that Hoffman had to wait an extra 12 months. He'll grasp the company he's now keeping, and the pain of Wednesday's close call will have given way to a celebration.
Here's the bottom line: Trevor Hoffman belongs in the Hall of Fame. No one in history has gotten this close and not ultimately reached the Hall.
Besides that, Hoffman has the appropriate credentials. Voters have struggled with whether relievers even belong in the Hall of Fame. Regardless, closers are part of the game, and the best of them should be in the Hall.
Hoffman's case is straightforward. His 601 saves are the second most in history, trailing only Mariano Rivera's 652. His 1,035 games are 11th on the all-time list.
Among relievers with at least 1,000 innings, Hoffman's save percentage (88.8) is second best all time. He's fourth in ERA+ (141), second in WHIP (1.06) and first in strikeout rate (25.8).
Hoffman's signature pitch -- a circle changeup -- was so good that hitters couldn't make contact even when they knew it was coming.
"He could tell me he was going to throw it -- and he pretty much did -- and I couldn't hit it," Biggio said.
Hoffman was so precise that his arm action was exactly the same for his fastball. His changeup just didn't get to home plate as quickly and tied hitters in knots.
Hoffman saved at least 30 games in 14 of his final 16 seasons and made the National League All-Star team seven times in a 12-season stretch between 1998 and 2009.
Hoffman placed second in NL Cy Young Award voting in 1998 and 2006, as well as fifth- and sixth-place finishes in 1996 and '99, respectively.
Closers have to be evaluated apart from starting pitchers because they don't have the innings to stand out. Hoffman's career Wins Above Replacement of 28.4 is that of an average offensive player.
But Hoffman helped define a new role in baseball, just as Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage did in an earlier era.
Hoffman's entrance into home games, preceded by the iconic opening of AC/DC's "Hells Bells," became one of the coolest things in baseball.
Maybe they'll play that in Cooperstown when Hoffman approaches the podium for his acceptance speech, hopefully in 2018.
There's zero question Hoffman belongs in the Hall of Fame. That's where the best of the best are supposed to be.More »
SEATTLE -- Edgar Martinez's sterling Major League career was defined by patience that paid off. His Hall of Fame quest just might be following the same blueprint.
The results of the National Baseball Hall of Fame election for 2017 were revealed Wednesday by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, and even though Martinez did not gain entry, the longtime designated hitter and Mariners legend made the most significant jump in vote totals in the eight years he's been on the ballot.
Martinez, now the Mariners' hitting coach, finished sixth among the 34 players listed on the ballot, jumping from his 43.4 percent total in '16 to 58.6 percent this year. The increase of 15.2 percent was the biggest of any returning player this year, and the result left Martinez within realistic reach of the 75 percent that's required for enshrinement with two more years to get it done.
Include - Html: :: 2017 Hall of Fame election results ::
"In general, I would have loved to be over 60 [percent], but at least I'm closer to 60 than to 50," Martinez said on a conference call with Seattle-area reporters. "The jump is encouraging. I still have two more years to go, so I think it's moving in the right direction now."
On Wednesday, Jeff Bagwell (86.2 percent), Tim Raines (86 percent) and Ivan Rodriguez (76 percent) received enough votes for induction. Trevor Hoffman (74 percent) and Vladimir Guerrero (71.7 percent) are knocking at the door, and the same goes for Martinez, who received a higher total than Roger Clemens (54.1), Barry Bonds (53.8) and Mike Mussina (51.8).
Martinez, who also played some third base, compiled a lifetime .312 batting average and .418 on-base percentage, and he remains one of just 10 players in Major League history to have put up 300-plus home runs, 500-plus doubles, 1,000-plus walks and post a batting average over .300 and on-base percentage over .400. The others are Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams, as well as Manny Ramirez, Chipper Jones (eligible in '18), Todd Helton ('19) and the still-active Albert Pujols.
Martinez's career .418 on-base percentage ranks 21st all-time, while his career OPS of .933 is the 34th best in Major League history and the fourth-best among right-handed hitters in the modern era. He is 44th in career walks with 1,283 and 50th in doubles with 514.
He's still not a Hall of Famer, though, and aside from a perennially crowded ballot, the main reason is the question of whether a player who played DH should be considered worthy of enshrinement over position players who played defense.
That argument seems to be losing steam, however.
"It appears that the argument about the DH, people are getting comfortable about it," Martinez said. "There's been more discussion about my situation, almost like there's been a debate about it. People are taking a different look about the DH and the sabermetric numbers and taking into consideration all those numbers, and it's helping. It's helping my case."
One thing that's always been in Martinez's favor is the "eye test." Martinez has been actively pushed for Hall induction by former teammates and Hall of Famers Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey Jr., and Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez once called him "the toughest guy I faced."
BBWAA voters can select up to 10 players on their ballots, and players who earn 5 percent or more are eligible to remain on the ballot for 10 years.
Martinez said he's excited to see how it all plays out.
"We knew it wasn't going to happen this year, but this year was more a look-and-see to how it will increase and how close I'd get to the 75 percent," Martinez said.
"It was an honor to play [in Seattle] and it's a little humbling to see the support of the fans, that they want me to get in really bad. I'm almost at a loss for words."More »
SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds surged forward while Jeff Kent remained at a virtual standstill, as the pair of former Giants were met with contrasting results in baseball's Hall of Fame balloting announced Wednesday.
Bonds received votes from 238 of 442 tenured members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America who cast votes. His 53.8 percent total represented an increase of 9.5 percent from last year's 44.3, his largest gain in five years of eligibility on the ballot.
Kent made barely incremental progress. He drew 74 votes to receive 16.7 percent of the total, up from 16.6 last year.
Kent brushed off his essentially unchanged share of the vote.
"I haven't given much thought to the totals for today," said Kent, who added that he spent most of the day working at a sports facility that he's planning to launch later this year in Texas' Hill Country. "I forgot all about it. I knew it was building up to it."
Kent congratulated Jeff Bagwell, whom he played alongside with the Houston Astros from 2003-04, for earning election to the Hall.
"I know he was knocking on the door and he was a good teammate of mine. I'm proud for him," Kent said.
Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez and Tim Raines were the only three players elected to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
Eligible players are limited to 10 years on the Hall ballot. Bonds has five years remaining to Kent's six.
Bonds' ascending fortunes indicate that the suspicions of performance-enhancing drug use that once enveloped him are dissolving. This year marked the third in a row that he has experienced a voting increase. After debuting at 36.2 percent in 2013 and dropping to 34.7 percent the following year, Bonds has gained momentum. He received 36.8 percent in 2015 and 44.3 percent last year to set up this year's near-double-digit increase.
Bonds, the Major Leagues' all-time home run leader with 762, amassed most of his statistical credentials during 15 years with the Giants (1993-2007), including a .312/.477/.666 slash line in 1,976 games. He also won five of his seven National League Most Valuable Player Awards and received 12 of his 14 All-Star team selections with San Francisco.
Kent's support stayed stagnant despite his enviable resume.
Kent hit 351 of his 377 career homers as a second baseman, the highest all-time total at that position. Kent performed for six Major League teams, but excelled most during his six seasons with the Giants (1997-2002), when he posted a slash line of .297/.368/.535 and averaged 29 home runs and 115 RBIs per season. A five-time All-Star, Kent captured the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 2000 with the Giants.More »
HOUSTON -- Jeff Bagwell will become the second player to enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame wearing an Astros cap on his plaque -- joining longtime teammate Craig Biggio, who was inducted in 2015 -- but another one of their former teammates is making a push.
Seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, who played with the Astros from 2004-06, appeared on 54.1 percent of the ballots in voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America released Wednesday. Only Bagwell (86.2 percent), Tim Raines (86 percent) and Ivan Rodriguez (76 percent) surpassed the 75 percent needed for induction this year.
Clemens, in his fifth of 10 years on the ballot, saw a significant jump in support from the 45.2 percent he received last year. He won 354 games and struck out 4,672 hitters in 24 seasons, going 38-18 with a 2.40 ERA in 84 starts for Houston.
Meanwhile, former Astros pitcher Curt Schilling, whose glory years came after he left Houston, appeared on 45 percent of the ballots, which was a significant drop from the 52.3 percent he appeared on last year.
Schilling appeared in 56 games in relief for the Astros in 1991 before turning into a star with the Phillies, D-backs and Red Sox later in his career. He won 216 career games, not including an 11-2 record with a 2.23 ERA in 19 starts in the playoffs.
Former National League Most Valuable Player Award winner Jeff Kent, who played with the Astros from 2003-04, saw a slight bump in support to 16.7 percent this year from 16.6 percent last year. In his fourth year on the ballot, Kent still appears to be a longshot to get inducted in his remaining six years.
Kent is a career .290 hitter with 377 homers -- the most by a second baseman in history -- and 1,518 RBIs.
Billy Wagner, who holds the Astros' all-time record for saves with 225 from 1995-2003, received only 45 votes, garnering 10.2 percent. That's a slight drop from the 10.5 percent he received in his first year on the ballot in 2016. Wagner has eight years left on the ballot, but would need a huge surge in support to have a shot.
Wagner's 422 saves rank sixth all-time, second most by a lefty behind another former Astros pitcher, John Franco (424).
In addition to Bagwell, Biggio and Rodriguez (2009 with Astros), seven other players are in the Hall of Fame who spent time with the Astros: Randy Johnson (1998), Don Sutton (1981-82), Nolan Ryan (1980-88), Robin Roberts (1965-66), Joe Morgan (1963-71, '80), Eddie Mathews (1967) and Nellie Fox (1964-65).More »
BALTIMORE -- Tim Raines, who was in an Orioles uniform for just four games, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, his 10th and final chance on the ballot.
Raines got 86 percent of the vote from eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, easily eclipsing the 75 percent needed. He joined first baseman Jeff Bagwell and catcher Ivan Rodriguez as 2017 inductees, joining Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig and Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz, who were elected last month by the 16-member Today's Game Committee.
Raines, who was traded to Baltimore at the end of the 2001 season to play with his son, Tim Raines Jr., was a seven-time All-Star in his prime with Montreal.
Perfectly cast as a leadoff man, the multitalented left fielder posted a .385 career on-base percentage, ranks fifth all-time in stolen bases (808) and tops the list in success rate among those with at least 400 attempts.
Former Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina saw an increase from 43 to 51.8 percent of the votes this year, while Vladimir Guerrero -- who played his final season with the O's -- received 71.7 percent. It was Guerrero's first year on the ballot.
Mussina, who has been on the ballot four times, spent 10 seasons with Baltimore before signing with the Yankees as a free agent.
Mussina posted a career 3.53 ERA with Baltimore and is third on the O's all-time win list with 147.More »
CHICAGO -- Whether Lee Smith will get into the Hall of Fame is now in the hands of the Eras Committee.
Smith received 151 votes (34.2 percent) in the last year the right-handed pitcher was eligible for Cooperstown in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, released Wednesday. Players need to appear on 75 percent of the ballots cast to earn election into the Hall.
Smith, who turned 59 on Dec. 4, finished his 18-year career with 478 saves and held the Major League record for career saves from 1993-2006. Trevor Hoffman then passed Smith's save total in 2006, and finished his career with 601 saves, second only to Mariano Rivera's 652. Hoffman just missed selection into Cooperstown this year, receiving 327 votes (74 percent) in his second year on the ballot.
Smith never received much support in the balloting by the BBWAA. In the 14 previous years he was on the ballot, he never received more than 50 percent, and last year, garnered 34.1 percent. He was the last player to appear on the ballot for 15 years, as players now only get 10 years to reach the 75 percent threshold.
Whether he gets into Cooperstown now will be determined by the Eras Committee. The Eras Committee considers retired players no longer eligible for election by the BBWAA along with managers, umpires and executives whose greatest contributions to the game were realized in one of three eras.
Only Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter have been inducted into the Hall of Fame based primarily on their relief pitching, and only Sutter has been elected with fewer innings or starting appearances than Smith.
Smith led the National League in saves in 1983 with 29, and again in '91 with 47 and in '92 with 43. He also paced the American League in saves in 1994 when he totaled 33 with the Orioles.
Smith pitched for the Cubs from 1980-87, and saved games for the Red Sox, Cardinals, Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Reds and Expos in his career. The right-hander never won a Cy Young Award, but he finished in the top 10 four times (1983, '91, '92 and '94), and he was eighth in NL Most Valuable Player Award voting in '91.More »
PHILADELPHIA -- Curt Schilling must wait at least another year for enshrinement into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame announced its 2017 inductees Wednesday night on MLB Network. Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez received 75 percent of the vote required from the Baseball Writers' Association of America for enshrinement. Schilling received 45 percent of the vote, and former Phillies closer Billy Wagner received 10.2 percent. Former Phillies outfielders Pat Burrell and Matt Stairs received no votes and will no longer appear on the ballot.
Players have 10 years to reach the 75 percent mark as long as they receive at least five percent of the vote.
This was Schilling's fifth year on the ballot and Wagner's second.
Schilling received 52.3 percent of the vote last year, so he lost ground in 2017. Schilling's politics and controversial remarks on social media seem to be one reason why some voters from the BBWAA who voted for him in the past did not vote for him this year.
Schilling pitched for the Phillies from 1992-2000, where he established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball. He posted a 1.69 ERA in two starts in the 1993 National League Championship Series, earning series MVP honors. Over 242 career appearances with the Phillies, Schilling had a 3.35 ERA and 101 wins.
After being traded in 2000, Schilling went on to win World Series with both the D-Backs and Red Sox.
Wagner pitched for the Phillies in 2004-05, making the National League All-Star team in '05. Burrell and Stairs both had long successful careers and were teammates on the Phillies' 2008 World Series championship team.More »
CLEVELAND -- The Manny being Manny phenomenon took off in Boston, but Manny Ramirez began to carve his place in baseball history in Cleveland. His was a unique and remarkable career, and there was a point in time when Ramirez seemed like a lock for the hallowed halls in Cooperstown, N.Y.
There is no denying that Ramirez was one of the most fearsome hitters of his era and one of the best right-handed sluggers the game has seen. In light of Wednesday's voting results for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, however, it seems clear that the controversy surrounding the end of Ramirez's career currently overshadows the impressive statistics he piled up over 19 years in the Majors.
The Hall of Fame grew by three on Wednesday, with Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez each receiving enough votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America to earn a plaque in Cooperstown. Ramirez, who holds a handful of Indians records and ranks among baseball's greats in terms of offense, received 105 votes for 23.8 percent, falling well short of the 75 percent required to gain entry into the Hall.
Jeff Kent, who played part of the 1996 season with the Indians, received 74 votes (16.7 percent).
If stats alone were the basis for being inducted, Ramirez would appear to be a shoo-in. Ramirez has the unfortunate distinction, though, of being one of the only Hall-eligible candidates to have suspensions for performancing-enhancing drug use on his resume. Ramirez was hit with a 50-game suspension in 2009 and then received a 100-game ban in '11. Whereas some sluggers from past eras have careers clouded in suspicion, Ramirez was actually punished by Major League Baseball.
So now, Manny waits.
Before Ramirez was a World Series MVP for the Red Sox, he came up with the Tribe during the franchise's 1990s renaissance. Cleveland selected Ramirez with the 13th pick in the first round of the 1991 Draft, and he was in the big leagues by '93. That set off an eight-year run with the Indians that established Ramirez as one of the organization's all-time greatest batters.
From 1993-2000, Ramirez hit .313/.407/.592 in 967 games for the Indians, who won five straight division titles from '95-99 and captured a pair of American League pennants. In his time as a key member of the Tribe's potent lineup, Ramirez compiled 236 homers, 237 doubles, 541 walks, 665 runs, 804 RBIs and a .998 OPS.
Ramirez holds Cleveland's career marks for slugging percentage and OPS, ranks third in homers, fourth in on-base percentage and eighth in RBIs. His 165 RBIs in 1999 remain a club record and he earned the Hank Aaron Award for his work that season. Four of Ramirez's 12 All-Star appearances and three of his nine Silver Slugger Awards came with Cleveland.
The Indians drafted and developed Ramirez and then kept him in the fold with a four-year, $10.1 million extension in December 1995. During that era, former Tribe GM John Hart used such contracts to lock up the team's core players, helping sustain the Tribe's success. After the 2000 season, though, Ramirez tested free agency and inked an eight-year, $160 million contract that brought his act to the Red Sox.
Ramirez had stops with the Dodgers, White Sox and Rays to conclude his career.
With Boston, Ramirez won a pair of World Series (2004 and '07), captured a batting title (2002) and had three top-five finishes in balloting for the AL MVP Award. His antics on and off the field both amused and annoyed at times, making Ramirez one of the more unique characters in the game.
When it was all said and done, following nearly two decades in the Majors and the pair of suspensions that tainted the ending to his career, Ramirez had 555 home runs (15th all-time). His career slugging percentage (.585) and OPS (.996) each rank eighth in Major League history, and only Barry Bonds ranks better in those categories among this year's class of Hall-of-Fame candidates.
In terms of Indians history, Ramirez is unquestionably one of the all-time greats. It will take more time to determine whether his career as a whole -- flaws included -- will become viewed as worthy of enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.More »
DENVER -- Former Rockies star Larry Walker saw his National Baseball Hall of Fame voting percentage increase from 15.5 percent last year to 21.9 percent, although he wasn't close to the 75 percent needed for induction.
Still, he will be on the ballot next year -- his eighth shot at Cooperstown.
"What it all boils down to is I'm still on the ballot," Walker said by phone. "That's a good thing for me. My dad sent me a text tonight, saying it's still an honor to be on that ballot, and I agree with him."
Walker, who began his career in 1989 with the Expos and ended it in 2005 with the Cardinals, spent the bulk -- and the best years -- of his time in the big leagues with the Rockies, for whom he batted .334 with a 1.044 OPS and 258 homers from 1995 until he was traded to the Cardinals in late 2004.
Tim Raines, a teammate of Walker's in Montreal; catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez; and first baseman Jeff Bagwell were announced Wednesday as the 2017 Hall of Fame class. Walker tweeted his congratulations:
Walker had warm words for Raines.
"Obviously, very well-deserved," Walker said. "The numbers speak for themselves. He's a great guy, to boot -- one of the funnier guys I've met in the game. He could make you laugh almost with not even saying anything. His laugh was very contagious -- fun to be around, a total gentleman."
This was Walker's seventh year on the ballot, and it was his second-highest vote percentage. He garnered 22.9 percent in '12, his second year on the ballot.
Walker signed with the Rockies in 1995, the year that Coors Field opened, and the impact of playing there on his offensive numbers has been a consistent factor in Walker's candidacy. It could be one that affects first baseman Todd Helton, who will be eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot in '19.
"I could be frustrated by it all," Walker said. "I don't let it bother me. I guess I have a fault, and my fault is I played at Coors Field. You're not going to find anything that's going to link me to any steroids or anything of that nature. I'm not worried about that at all. That doesn't exist.
"Unfortunately, I still have a fault. But it was one that was out of my control. I played in the big leagues for the wrong team, according to a lot of the voters."
But not according to Walker.
"I can't help where I played, and I don't regret one minute of it," he said. "Not one game, not one inning, not one thing about it. I played in Colorado. I had the opportunity to play for a great franchise in an amazing city and nobody's ever going to take that from me. I'm grateful for that."
Walker was a five-time All-Star and won seven Rawlings Gold Glove Awards, three Louisville Silver Sluggers and the 1997 National League MVP Award.
His offensive numbers are similar to those of Vladimir Guerrero, who was nearly elected on the first ballot this year at 71.7 percent.
A native of Trail, British Columbia, Walker remains involved in coaching with the Canadian National Team. He was with Canada's 2015 Pan Am Games team, which beat Team USA for the Gold Medal, and he will be with Canada's World Baseball Classic club in this year's tournament.More »
The Tampa Bay area will always have reason to thank Fred McGriff for returning home to provide leadership during the expansion Devil Rays' first season. But thoughts of celebrating his election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame have steadily dwindled over the past decade.
When this year's Hall of Fame balloting results were announced on Wednesday night, it was revealed McGriff received a vote on 21.3 percent of the ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. A player must receive a vote on 75 percent of the ballots to be elected. Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were voted into the class of 2017.
All players who receive a vote on 5 percent of the ballots remain eligible for up to 10 years. It appears McGriff will remain on the ballot until his eligibility expires in two years. But he has never received votes on more than 23.9 percent (in 2012) of the ballots. This year's percentage was just slightly higher than the 20.9 percent he received last year.
McGriff finished his 19-season career with a .284 batting average, a .377 on-base percentage, a .509 slugging percentage and 493 home runs (tied with Lou Gehrig for the 28th most in MLB history). The Tampa native joined the Rays before their inaugural 1998 season and remained with the organization until he was traded to the Cubs during the 2001 season. He returned to close his career with the Rays in '04.
While amassing 2,399 plate appearances with the Rays, McGriff batted .291, tallied 99 home runs and compiled an .864 OPS. He ranks third in club history (minimum 2,000 plate appearances) with 20.95 home runs per at-bat, trailing only Carlos Pena (14.92) and Evan Longoria (20.07).
Manny Ramirez and Pat Burrell were the only other former Rays on this year's ballot. In their first year of eligibility, Ramirez received a vote on 23.9 percent of the ballots, and Burrell did not receive a vote.More »
NEW YORK -- A former Yankees catcher was inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, but it was not Jorge Posada, who dropped off the ballot after just one appearance.
Unlike Ivan Rodriguez, who played 33 games for the Yankees in 2008 and appeared on 336 ballots (76 percent) to gain entry to Cooperstown in his first try, Posada was unable to register the necessary 5 percent needed to remain on the ballot. He picked up just 17 votes (3.8 percent) from members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, who elected Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines alongside Rodriguez.
With the BBWAA having cast votes elsewhere, Posada's case will next be examined by the Today's Game Committee at the 2018 Winter Meetings, for possible induction in 2019.
"I think I gave it all out on the field," Posada told the YES Network in December. "I'm not a guy to make excuses or anything like that. I went out there. Certain times I played hurt. Being behind the plate, you understand that not every day you're 100 percent.
"I think catchers should get a lot more votes. I'm very comparable to a guy like Ted Simmons. He's not on the ballot. He's not even in the Hall, and we should take into consideration catchers a little bit more."
Spending his entire 17-year career in Yankees pinstripes, the switch-hitting Posada proudly comprised the "Core Four" alongside teammates Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, securing five World Series championship rings and participating on seven American League pennant winners.
A five-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger Award recipient, Posada retired with a .273/.374/.474 slash line. He hit 275 home runs and drove in 1,065 runs in 1,829 games, 1,574 of them behind the plate.
Posada owns the record for most postseason games as a catcher (119), and he stroked 103 hits in October. In franchise lore, Posada stands as a worthy entry in the catching lineage that features the likes of Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Elston Howard and Thurman Munson.
Of the catchers currently enshrined in the Hall, only Berra, Mike Piazza and now Rodriguez posted higher marks in all three Triple Crown categories of batting average, home runs and RBIs.
"I think he's a Hall of Famer," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who helped groom Posada in the mid-1990s. "When you look at his numbers and stack his numbers against the catchers who have been there, what he has meant to this club and the championships, his numbers are incredible."
Though Posada never was a Gold Glove defender, his value to the Yankees was immense after moving from his original position of second base, helping him get to the Majors and develop into a power-hitting threat from both sides of the plate.
Rivera said Posada's impact on those championship clubs may have been underestimated.
"When I hear Jorge Posada's name, it brings me back to all those great games we had," Rivera said. "The passion and the determination that he had to win, the dedication, going through tough times, adversities, family issues. But he was there. He was giving his best. That's what I remember: him being there for us. He was a hard guy to replace."
Including Raines and Rodriguez, there are now 53 Hall of Famers who have either played for, managed, coached, owned or served as general manager for the Yankees.More »
NEW YORK -- For Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, a long wait has ended. For Ivan Rodriguez, there was no wait at all.
Those three players will be part of the Hall of Fame's Class of 2017, taking their place alongside the game's legends in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 30, with Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig and Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz, who were elected last month by the 16-member Today's Game Committee. The news arrived on Wednesday evening, when Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson announced the Baseball Writers' Association of America's results live on MLB Network and MLB.com.
There could have been more. Trevor Hoffman missed by five votes in his second year on the ballot and Vladimir Guerrero by 15. Still, this was only the third time (first since 1947) that five players received more than 70 percent of the vote. It also was the ninth time the BBWAA elected at least three players, and the 12 players voted in since 2014 is the most over a four-year stretch since 13 players got the call in the first four years of balloting (1936-39). They are almost certain to be elected next year, when newcomers Chipper Jones and Jim Thome make their debuts on the ballot.
Entering the final year of eligibility, Raines made it on his 10th attempt. It took seven years for Bagwell to get in. Rodriguez and Guerrero, were both on the ballot for the first time.
"I'd like to thank the baseball writers for giving me this opportunity in my last year. This is my biggest day," said Raines, who played his first 13 of 23 seasons for the old Montreal Expos and went on to five other teams, amassing 808 steals, fifth best of all-time. "This is the final chapter of my career. I'm looking forward to going to Cooperstown, giving my speech and being a part of the Baseball Hall of Fame."
The weekend ceremonies will also include Claire Smith, who is the first female writer to win the J.G. Spink Award that is given each year by the BBWAA, and the late Bill King, the winner of the Ford. C Frick Award for excellence in baseball broadcasting. They will be honored on July 29 at Doubleday Field.
"Last year, it kind of came on me really quick, I didn't know what was happening," Bagwell said about the election process. "And this year I knew I had a chance to get in. It was an interesting process, but the anxiety was very, very high."
There now will be 220 players in the Hall, 124 of them elected by the BBWAA. The 75 percent threshold this year was 332 of the 442 ballots cast. Two voters filed blank ballots.
Bagwell and Raines both narrowly missed last year when Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were elected. Bagwell was short of the 330 votes needed by 15, Raines by 21. This year, the former first baseman, who played his entire 15-year career with the Astros, had 381 votes (86.2 percent) and became the first first baseman elected to the Hall of Fame since Eddie Murray in 2003.
Raines was a vote below Bagwell with 380 (86 percent). The multitalented left fielder posted a .385 career on-base percentage, and he tops the list in success rate among those with at least 400 stolen-base attempts. He joins Jim Rice (2009) and Ralph Kiner (1975) as the only players to be elected in their last year on the BBWAA ballot. But while Rice was on the ballot for 15 years, Raines got only 10, thanks to a 2014 rule change that cut down the maximum tenure.
Raines said perception of the voters obviously changed since his first year of 2008, when he generated only 24.3 percent.
"They have a new way now of looking at things," he said. "You got new stats. You have WAR and all this stuff. People didn't really look at it that way back in the day. Back in the day, you looked at 500 home runs, 300 wins and 3,000 hits. Back then, if you didn't reach that criteria it was hard for people to view you as a Hall of Famer."
Rodriguez, who had 2,844 hits, barely squeaked in by four votes with 336, 76 percent. He caught in a record 2,427 games for six teams in 21 seasons and became only the second catcher elected the first time he was on the ballot. Johnny Bench was the other, making it in 1989.
Of the catchers recently inducted, it took four years for Piazza and the same number for the late Gary Carter, who was elected in 2001. A year before that, Carlton Fisk made it on his second try.
Rodriguez is the fourth player from Puerto Rico to make it into the Hall and the first catcher, joining countrymen Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda and Roberto Alomar.
• Hall calls on Pudge in first time on ballot
"I'm so proud to say that," said the catcher nicknamed Pudge when he arrived in Port Charlotte, Fla., for his first spring as a member of the Rangers organization. "We come from such a small island. It's only 190 miles by 35 and to be able to have four players in it is really something. And to be able to be the eighth Latin player is such an honor."
Bagwell played his final game at age 37 because of a degenerative shoulder condition, leaving him with 2,314 hits and 449 homers. But the four-time All-Star first baseman built quite a resume before that, including the 1991 National League Rookie of the Year Award and '94 NL MVP Award. Out of his intimidating crouched stance, Bagwell produced nine seasons with 30-plus homers and eight with 100-plus RBIs despite spending the majority of his career at the cavernous Astrodome. He also stole more bases (202) than any other first baseman in the past 90 years.
He will join his former Houston teammate Craig Biggio and become the second Astro in the Hall. Both played their entire careers with that team, going to the World Series in 2005, when the Astros were swept by the White Sox in four close games. Bagwell was in attendance in 2015 when his close friend was inducted. Now, it will be Bagwell's turn.
"Being there with him is going to make it that much more special," Bagwell said. "When we went to the Hall of Fame [in 2015], the Astros had changed their colors back to orange again. To see all the people in Cooperstown walking down the street, wearing orange, it was certainly fun. I was so proud of Craig. He's a super player, who belongs in the Hall of Fame."
Hoffman, who missed by only 34 votes last year, enjoyed a 29-vote uptick, but he still finished short with just 327 votes at 74 percent. In 2014, Biggio missed by two votes, but he was elected the very next year. Hoffman, the right-handed reliever who compiled a National League record 601 saves, is the seventh player to miss election by five votes or fewer. Of the six, four were elected the following year and the other pair was approved by a Veterans' Committee.
"For me, falling short of this class is disappointing, but I don't take being on the ballot lightly," said Hoffman in a statement. "I'm grateful for every vote, and I am truly humbled to have come so close. I hope to one day soon share a Hall of Fame celebration with my family, friends, teammates and all of San Diego."
As far as the rest of the ballot was concerned, Edgar Martinez, the designated hitter who played all 18 seasons for the Mariners and hit .312, jumped to 58.6 percent. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, each plagued by their suspected use of performance-enhancing drugs, increased to 54.1 percent and 53.8 respectively, while 270-game winner Mike Mussina had 51.8 percent.
All of them enjoyed nice bumps over last year. As far as the future is concerned, Martinez, despite a 15.2 percent jump over 2016, seems to have the toughest go of the group with just two more years of eligibility remaining. Both Bonds and Clemens have five years remaining and Mussina six.
Curt Schilling, also with five years to go, suffered a severe decline that was seemingly related to numerous provocative political comments he has made over the past year. He dropped 7.2 percentage points to 45 percent.
Another player with a somewhat surprising total was Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, who didn't make the 5-percent cut to remain, finishing with 17 votes at 3.8 percent. Manny Ramirez, who twice failed drug tests and was twice suspended, had 23.8 percent in his first year, and was the only other first-year candidate aside from Guerrero to carry over. Like Posada, 15 other players will not be back next year. Eleven didn't get a vote.
Lee Smith, in his 15th and final year on the ballot, had 34.2 percent. The closer with 478 saves was the last of the three players grandfathered in when the eligibility rules were changed. Don Mattingly and Alan Trammell were the others.More »
NEW YORK -- Cooperstown forever changed for Mets fans last summer, when Mike Piazza joined Tom Seaver as the only players with Mets caps on their Hall of Fame plaques.
Don't expect more of the same anytime soon.
Players with Mets ties missed out on the 2017 Hall of Fame class completely, according to voting totals released Wednesday. The Baseball Writers' Association of America voted in three players: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez.
Among those who did not earn induction were Jeff Kent (16.7 percent), Gary Sheffield (13.3 percent), Billy Wagner (10.2 percent), Mike Cameron (0 percent) and Melvin Mora (0 percent), all of whom have Mets connections. Because Cameron and Mora did not receive 5 percent of the votes, they will not be included on future ballots.
Wagner has curried favor among some in the BBWAA given his superior career ERA (2.31), FIP (2.73) and ERA+ (187) to Trevor Hoffman, who received 74 percent of votes and is a strong candidate for induction next year. Wagner also struck out more batters than Hoffman and made the same amount of All-Star teams, despite pitching fewer innings over a shorter career. Amassing 101 of his 422 career saves over four years with the Mets from 2006-09, Wagner spent the bulk of his career in Houston.
Also receiving modest Hall support was Kent, whose best years came in San Francisco. With the Mets from 1992-96, Kent hit .279 with 67 homers, but he did not make his first All-Star team until later in his career, his age 31 season. Kent's peak Hall of Fame vote support occurred last year, when he received 16.6 percent of the vote.
Sheffield and Mora each spent minimal time with the Mets, though Sheffield hit his 500th home run in New York in 2009. Neither Mora nor Cameron, who was with the Mets from 2004-05, were serious candidates for Cooperstown.
The Mets' next prime candidate may be Carlos Beltran, who spent a plurality of his 19-year (and counting) career with the Mets. Beltran's career Baseball Reference WAR of 70.4 is tied for 93rd all-time. Nearly a third of that production occurred with the Mets.More »
Below are the results of the BBWAA vote to elect the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2017 with vote totals and percentages. A total of 442 ballots were cast, with 332 required for election.
Jeff Bagwell, 381 votes, 86.2%
Tim Raines, 380 votes, 86.0%
Ivan Rodriguez, 336 votes, 76.0%
Trevor Hoffman, 327 votes, 74.0%
Vladimir Guerrero, 317 votes, 71.7%
Edgar Martinez, 259 votes, 58.6%
Roger Clemens, 239 votes, 54.1%
Barry Bonds, 238 votes, 53.8%
Mike Mussina, 229 votes, 51.8%
Curt Schilling, 199 votes, 45.0%
Lee Smith, 151 votes, 34.2%
Manny Ramirez, 105 votes, 23.8%
Larry Walker, 97 votes, 21.9%
Fred McGriff, 96 votes, 21.7%
Jeff Kent, 74 votes, 16.7%
Gary Sheffield, 59 votes, 13.3%
Billy Wagner, 45 votes, 10.2%
Sammy Sosa, 38 votes, 8.6%
Jorge Posada, 17 votes, 3.8%
Magglio Ordonez, 3 votes, 0.7%
Edgar Renteria, 2 votes, 0.5%
Jason Varitek, 2 votes, 0.5%
Tim Wakefield, 1 vote,0.2%
Casey Blake, 0 votes, 0.0%
Pat Burrell, 0 votes, 0.0%
Orlando Cabrera, 0 votes, 0.0%
Mike Cameron, 0 votes, 0.0%
J.D. Drew, 0 votes, 0.0%
Carlos Guillen, 0 votes, 0.0%
Derrek Lee, 0 votes, 0.0%
Melvin Mora, 0 votes, 0.0%
Arthur Rhodes, 0 votes, 0.0%
Freddy Sanchez, 0 votes, 0.0%
Matt Stairs, 0 votes, 0.0%
All candidates that received less than five percent of the vote on ballots cast will be removed from future BBWAA consideration.More »
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.
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.
As many as five candidates -- and possibly six -- could be elected, according to the public ballots amassed online. Here's a look at how the 14 voted, and at the bottom you can see what the totals look like among this group:
Jeff Bagwell, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Ivan Rodriguez, Lee Smith
I don't believe there is a substantial argument against induction with any of these candidates. Bagwell's candidacy may have been held back by unfounded rumors, but this should be the year when he wins a richly deserved place at Cooperstown. Rodriguez should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He won 13 Gold Gloves and seven Silver Slugger Awards as a catcher.
Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Guerrero, Hoffman, Mike Mussina, Jorge Posada, Tim Raines, Rodriguez, Smith
I'd known for a while I'd be using all 10 spots and who my first nine candidates would be. For the first time this year, I asked for suggestions from readers about that final slot and said I was leaning toward Smith, whom I wound up choosing in his last of 15 years on the ballot. Smith had 478 saves, a record Hoffman and Mariano Rivera surpassed. I've never understood why he hadn't earned much traction among voters, while Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter did. Edgar Martinez and Larry Walker were also very good candidates. If I had 12 spots to use, I would have voted for them.
Bagwell, Hoffman, Martinez, Fred McGriff, Raines, Rodriguez, Curt Schilling
Bagwell missed by just 15 votes last year and should easily make it this time. He's worthy because of his 449 homers and .297 lifetime average. Hoffman gets my vote because his 601 career saves are second only to Rivera's 652. Rodriguez was the best catcher of his era, hands down. Schilling was a big-game, dominant pitcher. Martinez defined the role of DH, and I've felt for years McGriff should get elected.
Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Hoffman, Martinez, Mussina, Raines, Rodriguez, Schilling, Billy Wagner
Fourteen players with Hall of Fame credentials were on this year's ballot, so the challenge was coming up with 10 most deserving. It's an imperfect science. Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Mussina, Schilling, Rodriguez and Raines are no-brainers. Closers (Hoffman and Wagner) and DHs (Martinez) are relatively new parts of the game and should be reflected in HOF voting. Guerrero was my toughest no-vote, but he'll surely get in at some point.
Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Guerrero, Hoffman, Martinez, Raines, Manny Ramirez, Rodriguez, Smith
It was tough to leave off Mussina, but hey, I only get 10 votes. I thought hard about Walker, but I am concerned about the Colorado effect. His road splits were not nearly as good. But I will revisit the vote again next year, as with Mussina.
Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Guerrero, Hoffman, McGriff, Raines, Rodriguez, Smith, Wagner
The philosophy here has been consistent for years. Hall of Fame votes are too important to guess who did or didn't use PEDs. Voters should either vote for the best players or don't vote for anyone. Also, I'm still skeptical about DHs, but I think closers have been largely shortchanged.
Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Guerrero, Hoffman, Jeff Kent, Raines, Ramirez, Rodriguez, Smith
For the first time, I voted for Bonds and Clemens. I vacillated on Rodriguez and Ramirez before throwing my support behind their sheer force -- Manny at the plate, Pudge behind it. Guerrero is a first-ballot guy. No pitcher wanted to face him. I've supported Bagwell, Hoffman, Kent and Smith virtually nonstop.
Jon Paul Morosi
Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Guerrero, Hoffman, Martinez, Mussina, Raines, Rodriguez, Schilling
Raines is the only player in MLB history with 800-plus stolen bases, 1,300-plus walks and 100-plus triples. He belongs in the Hall of Fame, as do two deserving candidates -- Martinez and Hoffman -- for whom contemporary awards are named. Walker is worthy of Cooperstown, too, but was my toughest omission.
Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Raines, Rodriguez
I added Bagwell this year after more discussion and analysis of his career. Rodriguez was impressive both defensively (13 Gold Gloves) and offensively. Bonds, Raines and Clemens are carryovers from last year's ballot.
Bagwell, Guerrero, Hoffman, McGriff, Raines, Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Smith
Since McGriff should make the Baseball Hall of Fame, so should Bagwell. They have similar offensive numbers. In many cases, these first basemen ended their careers with offensive numbers superior to those of Tony Perez. That's the same Perez in Cooperstown.
Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Guerrero, Hoffman, Martinez, Mussina, Raines, Rodriguez, Schilling
I completely changed my ballot strategy in an effort to be a better voter. Relying more heavily on analytics and being mindful of a grossly underrepresented generation of fans and their favorite players, this voter checked 10 boxes for the first time, including five new names: Bagwell, Martinez, Mussina, Raines and Schilling. Guerrero deserves to be the first Dominican position player inducted, opening an important door after overcoming cultural hurdles. I would add Walker and Wagner if the ballot were expanded.
Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Hoffman, McGriff, Mussina, Raines, Rodriguez, Smith, Walker
Walker has to be the biggest oversight from voters. They get hung up on the Coors Field factor, but if you use the analytics for his road stats, you will find he ranks in the upper third of the players in the Hall of Fame.
Bagwell, Mussina, Raines, Rodriguez, Schilling, Walker
I would love to see Rodriguez elected in his first try. He's the best catcher I've seen, and there's no close second. I hope more voters take a hard look at Walker. He was such a complete player. Coors Field helped his stats, but his game was about lots more than his batting average.
Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Guerrero, Hoffman, McGriff, Mussina, Raines, Ramirez, Rodriguez
Rodriguez should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He is one of the five best catchers in baseball history, along with Johnny Bench, Roy Campanella, Yogi Berra and Josh Gibson. Mussina is way too overlooked and should be in the Hall already.
Vote totals of the 14 MLB.com writers
With 75 percent of the vote needed for entry to the Hall, Bagwell, Rodriguez, Raines and Hoffman received enough support -- appearing on a minimum of 11 of the 14 ballots -- from MLB.com writers, with Bonds, Clemens and Guerrero knocking at the door.
1. Jeff Bagwell: 14More »
1. Ivan Rodriguez: 14
3. Tim Raines: 13
4. Trevor Hoffman: 12
5. Barry Bonds: 10
5. Roger Clemens: 10
7. Vladimir Guerrero: 9
8. Mike Mussina: 7
8. Lee Smith: 7
10. Edgar Martinez: 5
10. Fred McGriff: 5
10. Curt Schilling: 5
13. Manny Ramirez: 3
14. Billy Wagner: 2
14. Larry Walker: 2
16. Jeff Kent: 1
16. Jorge Posada: 1
16. Gary Sheffield: 1
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.More »
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.
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."
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."
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.More »