NEW YORK (AP) — Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines might want to block off the date for the 2017 induction ceremony at the baseball Hall of Fame after falling just short of election this year.
National League career save leader Trevor Hoffman also appears to be closing in after making a strong showing in voting results announced Wednesday by the Baseball Writers Association of America, his first year under consideration.
On the day Ken Griffey Jr. was elected with the highest percentage ever and Mike Piazza also cruised into the Hall, Bagwell, the Houston Astros' 1994 NL MVP, fell 15 votes short of the 75 percent necessary for admittance in his sixth year on the ballot. He was checked off on 315 of the 440 ballots cast for 71.6 percent, up from 55.7 percent in 2015.
Raines, a seven-time All-Star with the Montreal Expos, took a big jump from 55 percent to 69.8 percent (23 votes shy) in his ninth — and next to last — year on the ballot.
"I would like to thank @officialBBWAA writers for once again considering my @baseballhall candidacy, the ultimate honor in the sport," Raines said in the first of a series of three tweets.
Raines, considered the greatest leadoff hitter not named Rickey Henderson, also thanked the bilingual fans of Montreal in French in a fourth tweet.
Second to Mariano Rivera in career saves with 601, Hoffman got 296 votes (67.3 percent), a sure sign that the San Diego Padres closer should be enshrined soon.
"While the news today wasn't the news I was hoping for, I am humbled and honored to have been on the ballot and in the conversation with players of this caliber," Hoffman said in a statement. "If and when the day comes that I receive the ultimate honor in our game, I look forward to sharing it with my family, friends, teammates, the Padres organization, and most importantly, the fans."
The top three vote-getters who fell short of that magic number needed for admittance should have an easier time next year with a thinner ballot. Leading the first-timers are Vladimir Guerrero, Ivan Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez, who was twice suspended for performance-enhancing drugs.
Six-time All-Star Alan Trammell and steroids tainted slugger Mark McGwire missed in their final opportunities on the BBWAA ballot. Trammell received 40.9 percent in his 15th year. McGwire received just 12.3 percent in his 10th year.
The Hall lowered the years of eligibility from 15 to 10 in July 2014, partly because the issue of PEDs has created a crowded list of candidates.
Trammell and McGwire can be considered by the Expansion Era Committee starting in 2020.
Bagwell and Raines' impressive jumps in their percentages might have been aided by the elimination of about 100 baseball writers from the electorate who are no longer active BBWAA members. Younger writers are taking into account more sophisticated statistics in judging a players' career. Raines, for example, had a 69.1 Wins Above Replacement, better than all but five of the 21 left fielders already in the Hall.
Hoffman was likely hurt by the writers' reluctance to elect relievers to the Hall. Only five pitchers who were primarily relievers are currently in.
Billy Wagner had 422 saves in a 16-year career. Also in his first year on the ballot, he got just 46 votes (10.5 percent). Lee Smith, third all-time with 478, has one more year on the ballot. He garnered 34.1 percent.
Certain Hall of Famers without the steroids stain, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each saw a rise in their percentages in the fourth year eligible. Bonds went from 36.8 to 44.3 percent and Clemens jumped from 37.5 to 45.2 percent.
Others seeing significant leaps in their totals: Curt Schilling rose from 39.2 percent to 52.3, Edgar Martinez from 27 percent to 43.4 and Mike Mussina from 24.6 percent to 43.
"First, I want to congratulate Ken on his election today. Both as a teammate and as a player, it was obvious that he was a Hall of Famer," Martinez said. "For me, I am really encouraged, and thankful, in the increase of votes. I certainly didn't expect to be elected today, but it is always a little disappointing when it becomes official. Although, I'm so happy for Ken that makes it a little easier."
Eight-time Gold Glove outfielder Jim Edmonds and 1997 AL Rookie of the Year Nomar Garciaparra were dropped from the ballot after failing to get at least 5 percent.