They didn’t quite make it — you need that solid 75% to be elected — but Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Trevor Hoffman are now officially knocking on the Hall of Fame’s door.
Bagwell received 71.6% of the vote in his sixth year of eligibility, up from 55.7%, which is a HUGE jump. He has four more years to go to gain that extra 3.4%. Raines, in his ninth and penultimate year, got 69.8%, compared to last year’s 55%. Not too shabby either. Trevor Hoffman, in his first year on the ballot, got 67.3%. By way of comparison, Mike Piazza was at 69.9% last year and crossed over to 83% today.
Hoffman has nine more years to get to 75%, which seems inevitable. One year left for Raines and four years for Bagwell is not a lot of time for big advances, but they no longer need big advances. In fact, they seem to be sure things. The vast majority of players who received at least 50% of the Baseball Hall of Fame vote at some point were eventually elected by the time their eligibility expired and EVERYONE who got to where Bagwell and Raines are have gotten there. The exceptions to that 50% class include Gil Hodges and Jack Morris, each of whom were marginal candidates by the numbers compared to Bagwell and Raines. Lee Smith is heading in that direction, though he only once broke 50%, barely, before sliding back down to where he is now.
Another thing working in favor of these three: next year’s class is far, far weaker than this year’s and definitely weaker than last year’s. The biggest newcomers will be Vlad Guerrero, who will get a good deal of support but is not necessarily a sure thing. Manny Ramirez would be an easy-in if not for his multiple failed PED tests, so he won’t receive a huge number of votes. Ivan Rodriguez and Jorge Posada will likely get considerable support but, again, are nothing like Ken Griffey Jr. or Randy Johnson sure-things.
Beyond them: no one who will make it, meaning that there will be two fewer guys taking up space on the ballot now that Griffey and Piazza are in and no monsters crowding them out. Barring a planet-killing meteor strike, the class of 2017 will include Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Trevor Hoffman.