LAS VEGAS -- It's that time of the year again. National Baseball Hall of Fame results are going to be announced next week, and the sport is aflutter with curiosity and eagerness to see who will be anointed as freshly voted-in legends.
At the third annual Major League Baseball Players Association Players Trust poker tournament, it was easy to get inspired by the topic. After all, a quick glance around the room revealed the presence of three Hall of Famers -- Dave Winfield, Ozzie Smith and Eddie Murray -- plus current ballot hopeful Barry Bonds and, well, maybe a future Hall of Famer in Vegas native and event co-host Bryce Harper.
Several current and former players said they were happy to see that longtime Hall candidate Tim Raines was a strong possibility for entry in his 10th and final year on the ballot.
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"It's about time," said former All-Star outfielder Eric Davis. "It's been way overdue. When I first came to the ML, even before I got to the Major Leagues, that was the guy. Destroyer. Table-setter. Run producer. Game changer. Five tools. That was Tim Raines."
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Raines had an under-the-radar Hall campaign that gained steam over the years once advanced statistics helped point out how dominant he had been in getting on base, stealing bases, scoring runs and impacting games and how overlooked he had been because of the concomitant career of Rickey Henderson.
Meanwhile, the current ballot is on pace to show significant gains in support for the candidacies of Roger Clemens and Bonds, both of whom have struggled to gain traction because of their reported links to performance-enhancing drugs, while pitcher Curt Schilling, whose political views and social media activity have caused controversy recently, will likely see a regression in his vote totals.
There were mixed opinions about these Cooperstown cases floating around with the current and active players on hand at the MGM Grand.
"If [Bonds and Clemens] guys get in, from my standpoint, all of the [PED-linked candidates] have to get in, too," said former All-Star outfielder Kenny Lofton, who had a Hall case himself. "Manny Ramirez, A-Rod, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, Sammy [Sosa]. All of them. If you open the floodgates with one, you have to put in every single guy who got caught up with a situation with PEDs. All of them. And that's the sad part."
Veteran lefty Chris Capuano, who pitched for Milwaukee, had a different take on Bonds and Clemens.
"They still accomplished what they accomplished, and as disappointed as I am that there are guys that circumvented the rules, I still am awed by their accomplishments," Capuano said. "You can't just erase or change the fact that they actually accomplished those feats."