MICHAEL BAUMAN: Rickey Henderson, Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Jim Rice, Lee Smith
Henderson is the career Major League leader in both stolen bases and runs. No further introduction is required. With an unbeatable combination of talent and durability, his impact on the game makes him a first-ballot Hall of Famer. If Blyleven had the good fortune to pitch for better teams, he would have won 300 games and more instead of 287, and he would have already been in the Hall. He ranks fifth all-time in one pitching statistic of indisputable worth, strikeouts. Dawson was a splendid all-around player with power and speed, and eight Gold Gloves giving testimony to his defensive worth. In his 15th and final year on the writers' ballot, Rice deserves election because he was a dominant hitter in his era. When you looked at him hitting at the peak of his career, you thought: "There's a Hall of Famer." Only recently have the Hall voters caught up to the closer phenomenon, with the elections of Dennis Eckersley and, more specifically, Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage. Smith has yet to receive his due. He was one of the best over a long period of time, ranking third all-time in saves with 478.
BARRY BLOOM: Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire, Lee Smith
Henderson is a no-brainer. But my toughest decision was on Rice and I held my ballot talking with people about it until the last minute. In the end, I decided that since I hadn't voted for him for 14 years, nothing had changed for me to vote for him this year. In his 16 seasons, he didn't bat .300, didn't hit 400 homers, didn't have 2,500 hits and didn't have 1,500 RBIs. A nice player, but not in my estimate a Hall of Famer. The last left fielder to be elected -- his former Red Sox teammate Carl Yastrzemski in 1989 -- had 962 more hits, 70 more homers, 393 more RBIs, and was able to play seven more seasons.
HAL BODLEY: Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice, Jack Morris
Henderson is this year's slam-dunk. If there ever was a player who should have been a unanimous choice, it's Rickey Henderson. He was the best leadoff hitter in the history of baseball and could do it all: Get on, steal bases and hit for power, too. Rice has been knocking on the door the last few seasons and this is his year. He received 72.2 percent of the vote last year, just missing when Gossage was elected. The fact that this is his 15th and final season is significant. History tells me a player who comes as close as he did last year will make it the next year. No player has ever received that percentage (72.2 percent) and not been elected. This is Morris' 10th year on the ballot. He finished sixth in the voting last year at 42.9 percent, which amazes me. He had three 20-win seasons, 11 with 200-plus innings and three 200-strikeout seasons. He never won a Cy Young Award, but received votes seven times. His credentials are as good, if not better, than some Hall of Fame pitchers.
KEN GURNICK: Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice, Lee Smith
Henderson should wind up with one of the highest percentages in history. Dawson would already be in if his knees hadn't given out. Rice is long overdue as one of the best run producers of his generation. Some people don't like the way closers have changed the way a game is managed, but Smith helped make it happen as one of the best one-inning pitchers ever. Blyleven's bulk numbers put him right there with Hall of Famers like Don Sutton and Ferguson Jenkins.
CHRIS HAFT: Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Rickey Henderson, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Tim Raines, Jim Rice and Lee Smith.
If Henderson's not a first-ballot Hall of Famer, nobody is. People forget that Dawson and Rice -- and Parker, too -- were among the baddest dudes in the league, if not the baddest, when they played. Morris defined "ace." Murphy's numbers aren't quite there but he did something every day with his character to ennoble the game. I almost skipped Raines and Blyleven, but their bodies of work were too impressive. And when Smith entered the game, you knew it was over.
DICK KAEGEL: Bert Blyleven, Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice, Lee Smith
Henderson surged past a lot of Hall of Famers, most impressively Lou Brock and Ty Cobb. Nobody in history stole more bases or scored more runs. Blyleven fell just 13 wins short of 300 despite pitching for some mediocre clubs. His monster curveball accounted for a ton of strikeouts. Smith was a huge, menacing and hard-to-beat closer for most of two decades. Rice was a dominant, feared slugger who also hit for average in his long Red Sox career.
CARRIE MUSKAT: Rickey Henderson, Andre Dawson
I wanted to vote for former Cubs first baseman Mark Grace, because he always offered Hall of Fame quality answers to anything asked, but decided to be more rational. I picked two: Henderson, a no-brainer, and class act Dawson. Henderson once called himself the "creator of chaos," and I can't wait to hear his speech in Cooperstown. I've been lobbying for Dawson. I've never seen another player so revered by his teammates. I saw him at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas and he was coming off one knee replacement surgery and waiting to have the procedure done on the other knee. He still looked like he could put on a uniform and play right field.
MARK NEWMAN: Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire, Lee Smith
I was at "62" the night Big Mac helped bring back the game and I was at "2,161" the night Cal Ripken did the same. Both are Hall of Famers. So are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens as of now. A journalism degree isn't a Commissioner degree. If the Commissioner allows them on my ballot, they're Hall of Famers. And go look up how Larry Lajoie finished the 1910 season. They're not angels.
MARTY NOBLE: Rickey Henderson
In nominating Walter Payton for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Cooper Rollow of the Chicago Tribune said this: "Gentlemen, Walter Payton" and nothing more. Likewise, endorsement of Henderson requires no words beyond his name, rank and uniform number. A case -- not particularly persuasive -- is made for one or two others on the ballot. But none is nearly so compelling as the case for Rickey, not that it need be. I vote for those who I consider the elite, the best at what they did -- be it production as a leadoff man, defense at first base or throwing knuckleballs. Henderson is undeniable by anyone who watched baseball in the '80s.
TOM SINGER: Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice, Andre Dawson, Tommy John, Bert Blyleven, Lee Smith, Jack Morris
Loitering around too long dimmed his image, but Rickey was the game's most disruptive and effective weapon for two decades. Last-chancers Rice and TJ belong -- and so do comparables Dawson and Blyleven. Saves proliferation or not, Large Lee held the career record for 13 years. Morris was money, plain and simple.
JIM STREET: Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Rickey Henderson, Jack Morris, Tim Raines, Lee Smith.
Henderson had some troublesome deportment issues during his career, but the numbers he accumulated are so impressive that he belongs in the Hall of Fame. Therefore, he gets my vote as a first-ballot selection. I am voting for Raines, Rickey's overshadowed National League counterpart, for the second straight year, while Blyleven, Dawson, Morris and Smith remain perennial picks on my ballot, and will remain so until elected.
T.R. SULLIVAN: Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, Andre Dawson, Mark McGwire, Burt Blyleven, Alan Trammell, Lee Smith, Jim Rice, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy
Blyleven's unwavering supporters finally convinced me. But Dawson is threatening to become the biggest oversight since Ron Santo. That Santo and Dawson aren't in is just patently ridiculous.