Posted on January 19, 2017 by Bryan Zarpentine
The Baseball Hall of Fame welcomed three new members Wednesday night with the announcement that Tim Raines, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, and Jeff Bagwell have all received enough votes to attain entry into Cooperstown. Several notable players fell short of the 75% vote needed to reach the Hall, but the trio of Raines, Rodriguez, and Bagwell are all worthy of the honor. On July 30, those three will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig and Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz, who will also be welcomed to the Hall this summer.
The moment must be particularly sweet for Raines, who was in his 10th and final year of eligibility. During his 13-year career, Raines was one of the most prolific leadoff hitters and base stealers in the history of the game. He has 808 career stolen bases, good for 5th on the all-time list, and a career on-base percentage of .385. Raines also has the highest success rate on stolen base attempts of any player with at least 400 attempts. In his final year, he steals his way into Cooperstown with 86% of the vote.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, snuck in with 76% of the vote in his first year of eligibility. Pudge joins Johnny Bench as the only catchers elected to the Hall of Fame on their first try. Without question, Rodriguez is one of the finest defensive catchers to ever play the game. He won 13 Gold Gloves playing behind the plate and was named the All-Star Team 14 times. Pudge also hit 311 home runs and tops the all-time list among catchers in both total hits (2,844) and doubles (572). Rodriguez was also American League MVP in 1999, and in 2003 he was the NLCS MVP on the way to helping the Marlins win a World Series.
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Bagwell, meanwhile, bided his time, and in his 7th year of eligibility has received entry to Cooperstown with 86.2% of the vote. Despite having his career shortened by injuries, Bagwell accumulated 2,314 hits and 449 home runs, all as a member of the Houston Astros. He was a four-time all-star, Rookie of the Year in 1991, National League MVP in 1994, and the best power-hitting first baseman of his generation. On nine occasions, he hit 30 or more home runs in a season, and in eight seasons he drove in at least 100 runs. Most surprisingly, Bagwell stole 202 bases, more than any other first baseman in nearly a century.
Of course, there were some who were not so lucky to gain admission to the Hall. Closer Trevor Hoffman fell painstakingly close, receiving 74% of the vote, coming up just a few votes short. First timer Vladimir Guerrero received 71.7% of the vote. Both Hoffman and Guerrero are in great shape to be elected to the Hall a year from now, although nothing is guaranteed for two well-deserving candidates.
Two more candidates who fell short were Barry Bonds and and Roger Clemens, although both saw increased support, with Bonds appearing on 53.8% of ballots and Clemens receiving 54.1% of votes. Another controversial figure, Curt Schilling, received 45% support. Manny Ramirez, as expected, fell well short of the threshold, receiving just 23.8% of the vote. Quality players like Larry Walker, Fred McGriff, Jeff Kent, Gary Sheffield, and Bill Wagner all received less than 25% of the vote, although all received enough to remain on the ballot next year, as well they should.
Sadly, veteran reliever Lee Smith, owner of 478 saves and seven all-star appearances, will no longer be on the ballot. In his final year of eligibility, he received just 34.2% of the vote. Ultimately, his only chance at what many would consider to be a deserving place in the Hall of Fame rests with the Veterans Committee.