Congratulations to Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez and Tim Raines, the newest members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Both selections were long overdue.
Bagwell, pride of the University of Hartford, is the second-greatest first baseman since World War II, behind only Albert Pujols. He hit for power, hit for average, played above-average defense and was one of the best baserunners of his generation. My favorite Bagwell stat: He scored 152 runs in 2000, still the most in a season since Lou Gehrig in 1936.
Raines became just the fifth player elected in his final year of eligibility, joining Red Ruffing, Joe Medwick, Ralph Kiner and Jim Rice. He had a terrific peak in the 1980s when he was one of the best all-around players in the game, an on-base machine who is fifth all time in stolen bases. My favorite Raines stat: Rickey Henderson would need to steal 448 bases without being caught to pass Raines’ lifetime stolen base percentage of 84.7 percent.
Rodriguez becomes just the second catcher elected on the first ballot, joining some guy named Johnny Bench. One of the greatest defensive catchers of all time and winner of 13 Gold Gloves and the 1999 AL MVP Award, allegations of steroid use weren’t enough to keep him out. My favorite Rodriguez stat: He caught 5,860 more innings than Bench.
Here’s what else we learned with Wednesday’s results:
Trevor Hoffman (74 percent) fell just short of the 75 percent needed. He’ll clearly get in, probably next year. Only Jim Bunning received at least 70 percent of the vote before his final year on the ballot and was never elected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America (he eventually made it via the Veterans Committee).
Vladimir Guerrero (71.7 percent) did well for a first-ballot candidate. I think he gets in next year, although Craig Biggio debuted at 68.2 percent and it took two more ballots before he was elected.
The most important gains were made by Edgar Martinez, as he’s up to 58.6 percent after sitting at just 27 percent two years ago. He’s been helped by some clearing of the logjam of candidates: Three players elected in 2014, four in 2015, two in 2016 and three more this year. It would have helped his case even more if Hoffman and Guerrero had made it, as with just two years remaining on the ballot his time is running out.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens continue to see increased support, climbing above 50 percent in their fifth time on the ballot. Since Bunning in the early ‘90s, the only candidates to top 50 percent in the BBWAA and NOT eventually get elected are Jack Morris and Lee Smith (who fell short this year in his final time on the ballot). Of course, Bonds and Clemens aren’t your average candidates, but the momentum seems to be moving full-speed ahead.
Manny Ramirez received just 23.8 percent in his first year. Two things: He wasn’t as good as Bonds and Clemens -- hey, that’s not an insult, nobody was as good as those two -- and he twice tested positive outside the Wild West era. He’s going to be treated differently.
Mike Mussina received a nice bump and climbed above 50 percent for the first time. Curt Schilling, an equally strong candidate, didn’t receive the same boost. With Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux all inducted in recent years, the only competition they’ll face from starting pitchers in upcoming years are Roy Halladay and Andy Pettitte (both join the ballot in 2019), and those two aren’t obviously better candidates.
Jeff Kent continues to struggle to gain momentum at 16.7 percent. Like Martinez, he would have been helped by getting more candidates elected. The 10-player limit has clearly hurt him, as many voters would like to vote for him, but he’s often the 12th-best player on their list.
New to the ballot in 2018: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones, Omar Vizquel, Johan Santana, Johnny Damon and 269-game winner Jamie Moyer (!).