NEW YORK -- Today is the big day. The National Baseball Hall of Fame announces its Class of 2017, selected in a vote last month by the eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
As many as five candidates -- and possibly six -- could be elected according to the public ballots amassed online, with Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell looking all but certain, plus Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman hovering around the 75-percent threshold. Even Edgar Martinez has made huge gains from last year and is within reach of election.
The results of the 73rd BBWAA Hall of Fame election will be revealed at 6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 3 p.m.
The Class of 2017, along with MLB Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig and Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz, will be inducted July 30 behind the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y. Those executives were voted in last month by the 16-member Today's Game Committee.
"I guess I'm anxious," said Bagwell, the former Astros first baseman in his seventh year on the ballot. "I just want to get it over with. This is the first year I've kind of been keeping track of it and just looking. I'm excited about it."
The Hall these days keeps the calls to the new electees as close to the public reveal as possible to avoid any leaks before president Jeff Idelson opens up the white envelope on camera. The votes will be tallied on Wednesday, and only an accountant, a representative from the Hall and Jack O'Connell, the longtime secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA, will be in attendance. O'Connell makes the calls and considers it his greatest honor.
This year, Ryan Thibodaux -- who has gained prominence for keeping tabs on public votes -- has tracked more than 200 ballots -- almost 50 percent of the 435-440 ballots expected to have been cast by the Dec. 31 deadline. Last year, 440 were filed when Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were elected. Bagwell was short of the 330 votes needed by 15, Raines by 21 and Hoffman by 34.
The 200-plus ballots already counted this year are hardly a small sample size. Raines and Bagwell, who are both tracking at around 90 percent, have to feel good about their chances. Rodriguez, Guerrero and Hoffman are all hovering around 75 percent among public ballots and seemed destined to get in at some point soon, if not this year.
Martinez, the slick designated hitter for the Mariners, is tracking just below them. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, each plagued by the shadow of performance-enhancing drugs, are both at around 60 percent -- a leap of almost 30 percent from where they finished only two years ago.
In recent years, percentages for position players go down and closers go up by as much as 5 percent when all the non-public ballots are counted. That bodes well for Hoffman, the all-time leader in the National League with 601 saves, in his second year on the ballot. Next year, all the BBWAA ballots will be made public a week after the election.
"I saw a column where I had about 60 percent of the vote among younger writers," Hoffman said. "It wasn't a huge backing by them. So, I hope [the recent voting trend] stands true."
The news for Raines is very promising. The left fielder, one of the top basestealers and leadoff men in Major League history, is in his 10th and final year on the writers' ballot.
Guerrero and Rodriguez -- one of the top catchers in Major League history -- are making their ballot debuts. Guerrero, a slick fielding right-fielder and powerful hitter, would be the first native position player from the Dominican Republic elected. Pitchers Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez are the only Dominicans with their plaques hung in the red-brick Hall of Fame Museum on Main Street in Cooperstown.
Both Raines and Guerrero began their careers with the Montreal Expos and are most identified with that team, which already boasts the late Gary Carter and Andre Dawson in the Hall. Guerrero also played six seasons for the Angels, one of five teams still not represented by a single player in Cooperstown.
Raines, who played for six teams, including the 1996 and '98 World Series-winning Yankees, said his heart belongs to the Expos, the team for which he played his first 13 seasons. If elected, he will go in wearing an Expos cap.
"Montreal means everything to me," he said. "The fans took me in as a son. I love Montreal. They appreciated the way I played the game. They let me know it. I feel like it helped me as a young guy. It means a lot that the fans were behind me from Day One. It means a lot to a player. As players, you want to be welcomed, you want people to come out and see you perform. As a player, you love to hear what the fans think about you."
Hoffman, who had 552 of his saves in 16 years for San Diego, would be the third Padres player in the Hall, following Dave Winfield and eight-time NL batting champ, the late Tony Gwynn.
Bagwell, who spent his entire 15-year career in Houston, would be the second Astros player to get into the Hall, joining his teammate Craig Biggio, who was inducted in 2015.
Biggio said he will be watching.
"What happens when you know that you're on that cusp, and you're knocking on the door, the anxiety and excitement goes to a different level," said Biggio, who missed by a scant two votes in 2014, the year before he was elected.
"That's the craziest thing in the world. You don't control it. You submit your resume, and then hopefully people like your resume. You're like, 'Here's my resume. Here's where I played.' That's why it's so hard -- 75 percent is a big number, when you think about it."