We'll get the announcement regarding the new members of the Baseball Hall of Fame later today. The consensus is Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines are going in, with potentially first-time ballot players Ivan Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero having a shot. I've written more extensively about the HOF elsewhere, but I think that would be a good class. Bagwell was a legitimately great player, but because he played in Houston he was often out of the spotlight.
This is the last year on the ballot for Raines, who would have been considered the greatest leadoff hitter in baseball history except for one thing -- he was an exact contemporary of Rickey Henderson, who was a greater player than Raines. One could make the argument that Henderson is one of the top 20 players in the history of the game, so falling short of that standard hardly seems like a disqualification for Raines. He's been worthy of induction since his first year on the ballot, in my view.
Rodriguez is an interesting case, because he has been linked to steroids, although it's never been proven. If you look at the objective numbers, he's arguably the greatest defensive catcher in history and his offensive numbers are comparable to Yogi Berra. He certainly belongs there on the merits.
I've give a little more thought to Vlad Guerrero, who was a great hitter (.318 batting average, the same as Kirby Puckett) and hit 449 homers. Those are really good numbers. He also was a good, if somewhat erratic, outfielder. No one has linked him to PEDs. He's more likely to get there sooner than Manny Ramirez, who was a better overall player but has two failed drug tests on his record.
The other guy who should be close is Trevor Hoffman, the longtime relief pitcher. I'm not sold on him as an HOF guy, but he's going to get in within the next year or two. It could even be this year.
The other story to watch -- will Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens get closer? They both have an undeniable PED taint to their careers, but I would argue both were lock HOF players before they got involved with the dark side, which was on the downside of their careers. I don't think either will make it this time, but if either of them get above the 50% threshold, it will mean the baseball writers are making their peace with the steroid era.
UPDATE: While it's not definitive, the Hall of Fame Tracker results suggest that Raines, Bagwell and Rodriguez will comprise the HOF Class of 2017. Trevor Hoffman and Vlad Guerrero may end up just short of the 75% threshold, while Edgar Martinez, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are now all well above 60%, suggesting their chances are good in subsequent years. Stay tuned!