"The numbers aren't going to change," said Gwynn, who along with the other new 16 ballot members, retired at the end of the 2001 season. "They're posted. It's been five years. You can argue all day long about this and that, but it's all up to the people who vote. I think I'm a Hall of Famer. But you lay in bed at night wondering if you did enough."Ripken, who toiled his entire 21-year career for the Baltimore Orioles as a shortstop and third baseman, also professed to be a tad nervous. He played in a record 2,632 consecutive games from May 30, 1982, to Sept. 20, 1998, shattering the mark of 2,130 once held by Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig. Ripken, as well, had 3,184 hits --including 431 home runs -- batted .276, was twice an American League Most Valuable Player (1983 and 1991), was a 19-time AL All-Star, and won two Gold Gloves. "I always have butterflies in my stomach when it comes to momentous things like this," Ripken said. McGwire, who played 16 seasons for the Oakland A's and St. Louis Cardinals before a knee injury prematurely ended his career in 2001, hit 583 homers -- 70 of them in 1998 and 65 more in 1999. McGwire's single-season record was broken in 2001 by Giants slugger Barry Bonds, who hit 73. Though McGwire was a 12-time All-Star, the AL's Rookie of the Year in 1987 and a Gold Glove-winning first baseman in 1990, he has been a focal point of controversy. McGwire is plagued by the specter of his perceived place in Major League Baseball's steroid era and his reluctance to speak candidly about it during Congressional hearings in Washington, D.C., nearly two years ago. Even though ballot instructions strictly limit a voter's scope to a players' "record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which he played," some voters have said that the Congressional appearance, coming four years after his retirement, could have a profound affect on their voting for McGwire. "I think writers are going to make their point," Gwynn said. "I think he's a Hall of Famer. But it's a lot of people's point of view that he didn't come across well in the Congressional hearings. It's going to cost him. It's a shame, but I think that's what's going to happen." Also new on the ballot this year are some of baseball's best and brightest: Harold Baines, Paul O'Neill, Bret Saberhagen, Eric Davis, Bobby Bonilla and Tony Fernandez, but none are expected to make the grade. Among the 15 holdovers from last year's ballot are Rice, Gossage and Dawson, players who all scored above 60 percent of the vote at the same time that Sutter was selected with 76.9 percent. But next year, when the ballot is projected to be much thinner, may be the time for them. Gwynn said he's well aware of what is at stake. He's thrilled about his prospects, but some of the excitement is being tempered right now because he believes that some of his Major League predecessors should already be in the Hall. "There's always that guilt that bothers me because I'm a big baseball fan," Gwynn said. "I grew up watching baseball, and even when I first came up, there was no doubt that Goose was a Hall of Famer. I see guys like him not in there and to me it's a double-edged sword. I want to get in, but I want these guys to accomplish what they want to accomplish, too."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.