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Look for Tim Raines to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Vladimir Guerrero is on the bubble

Tim Raines bats for the Montreal Expos in September 1989.
Tim Raines bats for the Montreal Expos in September 1989.
(Ronald C. Modra / Sports Imagery )

By the imperfect standard of Hall of Fame voting, Ken Griffey Jr. might be considered the most well-regarded baseball player of all time. Griffey received a record 99.3% of the vote last year, three votes shy of becoming the first player to be elected unanimously.

Chipper Jones might get 100% of the vote next year, or Mariano Rivera two years from now, or Derek Jeter three years from now.

For the record:
1:54 PM, May. 20, 2019 An earlier version of this article said Vladimir Guerrero made his only postseason appearances with the Angels. Guerrero helped the Texas Rangers to the playoffs in 2010.

It is unlikely any player gets even 90% of the vote this year, but Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell are projected to be selected when the Hall of Fame announces its newest members on Wednesday (3 p.m. PT, MLB Network). Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman appear on the bubble to get the required 75%.

A few questions and answers about this year’s vote: 

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For Raines, why now?

Raines has been on the ballot for 10 years. In his first two years, he failed to attract even 25% of the vote. In this, his final year of eligibility, he’ll top 75%.

Raines has benefited from an unofficial campaign manager — Jonah Keri of CBS Sports — and more broadly a purge of older voters and a wave of younger, more analytically inclined voters.

If you’re Griffey or Greg Maddux, you’re a cinch. If not, your candidacy now can be evaluated by analytical standards in use today but not at the time you played, most notably the various wins above replacement (WAR) numbers. This can be unfair to some players, particularly closers. Lee Smith retired as the major league leader in saves but probably will get no more than 33% this year, his last on the ballot.

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Raines was overshadowed by Rickey Henderson as the dominant leadoff hitter of his era, but his candidacy flourished in this era, as on-base percentage has overshadowed batting average. Raines finished in the league top 10 in batting average four times, in on-base percentage seven times.

His career on-base percentage: .385, the same as Tim Salmon, the longtime Angels outfielder.

Salmon had more home runs in 3,000 fewer plate appearances, and a superior on-base plus slugging percentage. He also had an OPS+ of at least 130 — a hitter 30% better than league average — in seven seasons, the same as Raines.

Raines was one of baseball’s elite baserunners, and an offensive catalyst like few others. He absolutely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Salmon’s career was shortened by injury, he never dominated an era, and he properly belongs in the Hall of Very Good. But, given the new metrics, his 1% vote in his only appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot reflects an underappreciated career.

What would cap Guerrero’s career?

The Angels, born in 1961, have no players wearing their cap in the Hall of Fame. If Guerrero is elected, he could be the first.

Or he could be the fourth player to wear the cap of the Montreal Expos, a franchise born in 1969 and killed in 2004. Gary Carter and Andre Dawson already are in the Hall; Raines and Guerrero could join them.

Guerrero had statistically superior seasons in Montreal, but he won an MVP award and had postseason appearances in Anaheim. The Hall would consult with him about a cap preference.

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Vladimir Guerrero won the 2004 American League MVP award while playing with the Angels.
Vladimir Guerrero won the 2004 American League MVP award while playing with the Angels.
(Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times )

Could Bonds, Clemens be Cooperstown bound?

So, are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens really getting into the Hall of Fame?  Not this year, but what seemed an impossibility three years ago appears now within the realm of possibility.

In their first three years on the ballot, neither got more than 38% of the vote. After the purge of older voters — generally considered less forgiving about the steroid era — the duo jumped to about 45% this year. After a veterans committee last month elected steroid-era commissioner Bud Selig, Bonds and Clemens are expected to jump again, to between 50% and 60% of the vote.

That’s still a long way to 75%, with five years left on the ballot and older voters now dropping from the rolls a few at a time, not dozens at a time. Still, according to the Hall, every player that has gotten to 65% eventually has cleared the 75% threshold, with one exception: Jack Morris.

The best guess here: Bonds and Clemens remain out until 2022, when voters have a last chance to decide whether the Hall should include the only seven-time MVP and the only seven-time Cy Young winner.

That could be quite an election. The first-time candidates that year include David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez.

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin


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