Coop, 3 it is! Bagwell, Raines, Pudge elected to HOF
Astros slugger makes it on 7th try, leadoff man enters in final year, backstop in 1st year
By Barry M. Bloom
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.
"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.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. Andrew Simon, who is a research analyst for MLB.com, contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.