- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The wait is over for two players. One didn’t have to wait long at all.

Houston Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell, seven-time all-star outfielder Tim Raines and catcher Ivan Rodriguez received more than 75 percent of the votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, making them the three players who will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. They will be joined this summer  by former MLB commissioner Bud Selig and longtime Atlanta Braves executive John Schuerholz, who were previously elected by the Today’s Game Era Committee.

Bagwell waited seven years to gain entrance to the Hall of Fame. Raines had a longer wait: a full decade. Rodriguez was elected the first year he was eligible.

The election of Raines in his final year of eligibility rewards one of the preeminent players from the 1980s, an era when baseball was more entrenched in speed. Raines went to seven consecutive All-Star Games from 1981-87. During that period, Raines hit .310, averaged 72 stolen bases and just 61 strikeouts.

The move to the needed 75 percent of the vote for Raines was laborious. In 2009, Raines received just 22.6 percent of the vote. By 2013, he received 52.2 percent of the vote. He surfaced past the threshold this year with a healthy 86 percent of the vote.

“I felt like I was in position to get in,” Raines said on a conference call. “Especially after last year. I started at 55. I ended up at [69.8]. The momentum from last year kind of carried me through this year. I wasn’t exactly sure it was going to happen.

“Last night was probably the worst night I’ve had out of the 10 years. It was kind of tough because I knew I was close, but I wasn’t sure. And, that’s a situation where everything is out of your control. You have wait until that minute that you’re going to get the phone call or not get the phone call.”

Bagwell’s wait wasn’t as long. Receiving 86.2 percent of the vote, the most by any player this year, will put him into Cooperstown where longtime teammate and friend Craig Biggio already resides. Bagwell’s open stance and heavy swings led to potent numbers in his 15 seasons with the Houston Astros. He finished with 449 home runs and a career OPS of .948.

“I don’t even know how I am supposed to react,” Bagwell said on a conference call.

Rodriguez became only the second catcher in the history of the voting to be elected in his first year of eligibility. The other was Johnny Bench in 1989.

Rodriguez’s defensive ability was the driving force behind his election. He won 13 Gold Gloves in his time with six organizations, including 13 seasons with the Texas Rangers.

“That was my No. 1 thing,” Rodriguez said on a conference call. “Be able to shut down the running game, blocking and throwing guys out.”

Raines and Rodriguez have ties to Washington baseball. Raines played 13 seasons for the Montreal Expos, who became the Washington Nationals when the team relocated in 2005. Rodriguez played the final two seasons of his career, 2010 and 2011, for the Nationals.

“I am honored to extend the warmest congratulations of the entire Lerner Family to Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez on this tremendous honor,” said Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner in a statement.

There were 442 ballots, including two blank ballots, submitted by qualified senior members of the BBWAA, writers with 10 or more consecutive years of service.

Falling five votes short of election was relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman at 327 votes (74 percent). Hoffman, in his second year on the ballot, tied pitcher Bert Blyleven, who, in 2010, missed election by the sixth-slimmest margin. Pie Traynor in 1947, Nellie Fox in 1985 and Biggio in 2014 share the record of the slimmest margin by being two votes short apiece. Falling four votes shy were Billy Williams in 1986 and Jim Bunning in 1988. Traynor, Biggio, Williams and Blyleven were each elected the following year. Fox and Bunning were subsequently elected by veterans committees.

Outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, who along with Rodriguez was among 19 first-year candidates, received 317 votes (71.7 percent).

Both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens both moved up from last year. Bonds received 9.4 percent more of the vote than 2016. Clemens went up 8.9 percent. Though, both remain far from induction. Clemens received 54.1 percent of the vote; Bonds 53.8.

Pitcher Curt Schilling fell to 45 percent of the vote, down from 52.3 last year. Former Baltimore Orioles starter Mike Mussina received 51.8 percent of the vote.

Receiving the lowest percentage of the vote this year was outfielder Sammy Sosa. He appeared on just 38 ballots, which was 8.6 percent of those cast.

This year’s election was the third time as many as five players received more than 70 percent of the vote. The other years were 1936, the first election, and 1947. This is the ninth time the BBWAA has elected three players. Over the past four years, the BBWAA has elected 12 players, the most over such a stretch since 13 players were elected in the first four years of balloting from 1936-39.

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