The Baseball Writers Association of America made its voice heard on Wednesday, surprising fans with just three selections. Two them were surprises. Former Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell was not. Bagwell easily passed muster, being elected on over 86.2 percent of the ballots. Former Expos base-stealer extraordinaire Tim Raines was right behind Bagwell at 86 percent, while former Tiger Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez just snuck in with 76 percent of the ballots.
Evan Davis of FanRagSports brings up a retrospective of Bagwell’s outstanding career. Meanwhile, here is Bagwell launching a suitably titanic dinger for the 400th of his career.
Rodriguez became the first Tigers regular since Al Kaline to be elected to the Hall of Fame. He’s also just the second catcher installed in his first year of eligibility. Naturally, Johnny Bench was the first.
While we appreciate his contributions to revitalizing the Tigers, Rodriguez will go into the Hall as a Ranger. Evan Grant of the Dallas News opines that Rodriguez should be remembered as the first true Rangers great. Rodriguez himself suggested that fellow catcher Yadier Molina would join him one day. Seems likely.
Pudge Rodriguez believes that #STLCards Yadier Molina will join him one day in the Hall of Fame.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 19, 2017
On a conference call, Pudge Rodriguez said, "I feel very, very honored to have worn that English D."— anthony fenech (@anthonyfenech) January 19, 2017
He also offered some kind words to the Detroit Tigers organization. Over at the Player’s Tribune, he put together a short, autobiography with some great pictures.
Patience pays off for one of the all-time great base-stealers
Tim Raines, who played an incredible 23 years in the major leagues before retiring in 2002, was the most interesting selection to the Hall of Fame. For those of us who grew up Tigers fans in the 1980s before interleague games, Raines was a shadowy figure. He had a baseball card of eye-popping stats and a robust highlight reel, cast as Ricky Henderson’s NL doppelganger during the great stolen base wars of the 80s. Raines finished fifth all-time in stolen bases, with 808. He posted a wRC+ of 125 in a career that bridged four decades, from 1979 to 2002.
For years, Raines’ candidacy struggled to gain traction. Without the elite defensive reputation or home run power of the usual Hall of Fame suspects, Raines never really seemed a true star player in his day. However, recent re-evaluations of his career moved him much closer in the last few ballots. This was Raines’ last year of eligibility, so it was great to see the former Expos star definitively elected in his final opportunity. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs considers the ways in which viewing Raines through a modern lens makes him a clear Hall of Fame candidate.
Jonah Keri at CBS speaks for all fans of the defunct Expos in writing about the meaning of Raines’ selection to all those who lost their childhood team. Presumably, the Expos hat will rise from the ashes at least one more time at Raines’ induction ceremony. Meanwhile, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post hails Raines’ election as a victory for the nerds.
Ted Berg of USA Today has an excellent retrospective of Raines’ part in the labor battles of the late 80s. At the height of his powers after an outstanding 1986 season, Raines filed for free agency. Due to collusion among league owners, he did not receive one reasonably priced offer. Even the notoriously contentious George Steinbrenner refused to cross the owners’ reverse picket line to acquire one of the all-time great leadoff men and stolen base artists. It was one of the major shots fired by owners on the warpath that led to the 1994 lockout and strike.
Vlad will get to Cooperstown
In his first year of eligibility, Vladimir Guerrero missed out on Hall of Fame election by a slim margin. He finished fifth behind Trevor Hoffman at 71.7 percent of ballot, a mere 15 votes from immortality. While there are numerous players with better Hall of Fame cases than Guerrero, anyone who had their jaw dropped on the regular by Guerrero’s freakish athletic gifts recognized that he needs to be in Cooperstown someday. Doug Miller of MLB.com agrees. Danny Knobler of Bleacher Report turns in a nice career retrospective of Guerrero.
The P in PED is for purgatory
With any Hall of Fame announcement, there are the messier questions. As one of those who puts equal blame on the league owners, the players, and then-commissioner Bud Selig — and feel that the whole league and the journalists who covered it tacitly consented to the PED era — I don’t lose any sleep over this. I say just vote them in. Ted Berg of USA Today concurs. Matt Calkins of the Seattle Times, writes for the opposition.
Instead, Rodriguez gets in. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens do not. It begins to feel more and more that the better you were while presumably using performance enhancing drugs, the worse your Hall of Fame chances. The dam will eventually break, presumably, as the position against Bonds and Clemens as distinct from all other players of the era, remains untenable.
For now, they’ll have to wait and be made to feel uncomfortable for another year with just over 50 percent of the vote and only five years remaining on the ballot. Dayn Perry at USA Today breaks down the developing case for each.
Mahtook comes north
The Tigers made a deal for Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Mikie Mahtook on Wednesday. We’ve covered it already, but you can head over to DRaysBay and see the muted reaction of their faithful. In short, Mahtook seems well liked, but not missed. Here he is, doing a good thing to rescue Chris Archer.