Maybe 2017 will be the year another Astro of note finally has it in the Bag-well. Maybe it'll be the year it Raines on the Hall of Fame parade. And maybe one of the all-time great ninth-inning arms will close it out.
But for now, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Trevor Hoffman are juuuust a bit outside admission to Cooperstown, still shy of the magic number of 75 percent. And the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot will remain crowded around them next winter.
The three names of particular note that will be first-timers on the 2017 ballot: Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramirez, all of whom would have legitimate first-ballot cases purely on the merits of their numbers.
But of course, Ramirez was caught twice in the latter stage of his career with performance-enhancing drugs. Pudge has also faced steroid suspicion. And Vlad, like many others before him, might simply learn that the first-ballot standards are strict.
We'll break down the complete list of soon-to-be-eligible names in a moment, but first, a note: Sixteen of the past 17 players to appear on at least 70 percent of ballots without getting in one year made it in the next.
That bodes very well for Bagwell (who got 71.6 percent this year) and Raines (69.8). In part because of the smaller voting body, both men saw a dramatic spike from 2015 to '16 -- Bagwell leaping 15.9 percentage points and Raines rising 14.8 percent.
Bagwell's vote progression has been comparable to that of 2016 inductee Mike Piazza, and with Piazza in and momentum on his side, Bagwell seems a reasonably safe bet for inclusion in '17.
The problem for Raines isn't momentum but time. Because of the Hall of Fame's recent changes in ballot eligibility, from 15 years to 10, Raines has just one shot left at getting in on the BBWAA ballot. If he doesn't make it, he'll have to hope the Expansion Era Committee, which votes every three years, will one day let him in.
Then there's Hoffman. The man who accrued 601 career saves made a strong statement in his first year of eligibility, with inclusion on 67.3 percent of ballots. But you can bet your bottom dollar that was a matter of semantics, because we know well some voters see a difference between "Hall of Famer" and "first-ballot Hall of Famer." In fact, no relievers without significant experience as a starter have ever gotten in the Hall on their first try.
The addition of Guerrero and Rodriguez might hurt Hoffman's chances of making the 8 percent rise he needs for inclusion, but he'll get there eventually. The other notable holdover will be Curt Schilling, who, after maxing out at 39.2 percent in three previous tries, crossed the 50 percent mark.
And as discussed in this piece, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens saw an uptick in support in 2016, but not enough to lead us to believe they'll get to 75 percent any time soon.
2016 Hall of Fame results
440 votes were cast, 330 needed for election
Ken Griffey Jr.
Players who missed the 5 percent threshold and are no longer on the ballot: Jim Edmonds (2.5%), Nomar Garciaparra (1.8%), Mike Sweeney (0.7%), David Eckstein (0.5%), Jason Kendall (0.5%), Garret Anderson (0.2%), Brad Ausmus (0.0%), Luis Castillo (0.0%), Troy Glaus (0.0%), Mark Grudzielanek (0.0%), Mike Hampton (0.0%), Mike Lowell (0.0%) and Randy Winn (0.0%).
Here's a list of notable "new" guys for 2017, listed in order of how they rate on Bill James' Hall of Fame Monitor, a metric (available at Baseball-Reference.com) that is used to assess a player's career relative to the Cooperstown standards:
Ramirez: Simply one of the great right-handed hitters in history -- a career .312/.411/.585 slash line with 555 home runs and 1,831 RBIs. What more could you want? Oh, right. Authenticity. Ramirez blew it by violating the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program not once but twice, ending his career in ignominy rather than serving the second suspension. That's just "Manny Being Manny," and, sadly, his attempt to flaunt the rules tainted his colorful and productive legacy.
Rodriguez: We just saw one of the most productive catchers in history gain entry into the Hall. How about another? Well, like Piazza, Pudge faces the steroids suspicion, thanks in no small part to Jose Canseco's claims. So how will the voters weigh those suspicions against Rodriguez's record for most hits as a catcher (2,749) and most games caught (2,377), his American League MVP Award, World Series MVP Award and 13 Gold Gloves?
Guerrero: The man who never met a pitch he couldn't or wouldn't swing at -- or make contact with. He posted a .318/.379/.553 slash line, hit 449 homers and 477 doubles and had an abnormally productive peak in which he won an AL MVP Award and eight Silver Slugger Awards for the Expos, Angels and Rangers. It says here that Vladdy will get in the Hall, but, again, one can never be certain how the BBWAA, at large, will handle a first-timer. Even Ken Griffey Jr. was left off three ballots this year.
Magglio Ordonez: Injuries are an unfortunate (and probably Hall-killing) element in an otherwise stellar career. A six-time All-Star, Magglio hit 294 homers, drove in 1,236 runs and had an OPS+ 25 points better than league average over his 15 seasons with the White Sox and Tigers.
Jorge Posada: His greatest legacy of all? Those five rings. As a member of the Yankees' "Core Four," Posada will engender his share of fuzzy feelings from various members of the voting body. But his personal body of work -- a .273/.374/.474 slash line over 17 seasons -- probably falls flat.
Edgar Renteria: A terrific two-way player who stepped up when it mattered most, crafting two World Series-winning hits (in 1997 with the Marlins and 2010 with the Giants). That's not a Hall of Fame career, but it was certainly a special one.
Derrek Lee: In his peak years, he was good for an average of 27 homers (maxing out at 46 in 2005 with the Cubs), 34 doubles (maxing out at 50, also in '05) and terrific defense at first base. Again, a fine career, just not a Hall-worthy one.
Jason Varitek: He was part of that magic moment for Boston in 2004, and his reputation as a leader and a defensive asset precedes him. Alas, Varitek's Hall of Fame case ends there, especially relative to the numbers put up by Piazza and Pudge.
Others: Orlando Cabrera, Freddy Sanchez, Tim Wakefield, Carlos Guillen, Arthur Rhodes, Javier Vazquez, Aaron Rowand, J.D. Drew, Pat Burrell, Melvin Mora, Danys Baez, Mike Cameron and Julio Lugo will be eligible for inclusion on the ballot.