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Three new Hall of Famers and another step forward for Bonds and Clemens

The Baseball Writers' Association of America has elected Ivan Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines into the 2017 Class of the Hall of Fame. Former Oriole, Yankee Mike Mussina didn't receive enough votes. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

Jeff Bagwell was left in the on-deck circle a year ago, but he had to know his day would come.

Tim Raines was known for his quickness on the basepaths, but he waited until the last minute.

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Ivan Rodriguez didn't have to wait long at all.

They all have one big thing in common. They'll be inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame on July 30 alongside former commissioner Bud Selig and longtime executive John Schuerholz.

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There's going to be no great controversy over that. Bagwell seemed like the obvious choice in his seventh year of eligbility. Raines was down to his 10th and last ballot. Rodriguez was on the ballot for the first time and narrowly qualified with 76 percent of the vote.

Bagwell got 86.2 percent and Raines got 86 percent. Those percentages don't matter any more, but some of the down-ballot vote counts will be of great interest going forward.

San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman missed induction by just a single percentage point, which probably means he'll be on stage in upstate New York in 2018. Vladimir Guerrero also cracked 70 percent and should be on the threshold of his Hall of Fame dream.

Perhaps most interesting, however, was another big jump in the percentage of writers who voted for superstar steroid suspects Roger Clemens (54.1) and Barry Bonds (53.8), which seems to signal a softening in what has been a hardline stance against players whose names have been prominent in baseball's major PED investigations.

There had been speculation that some voters would be more likely to name Bonds and Clemens on their ballots after Selig was elected to the Hall in December by an offshoot of the Veterans Committee -- the rationale being that Selig presided over the steroid era and shared culpability for it because he was slow to act on growing scandal.

Whether that swayed some voters or Bonds and Clemens are simply benefiting from the passage of time, it is beginning to appear that each may get his day in Cooperstown.

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