Harvesting the Cooperstown crop

Jeff Passan
Yahoo! Sports

Here, in alphabetical order, are the top candidates to gain immortality Tuesday when Hall of Fame voting is announced:

Bert Blyleven

Year on ballot: 11th

Why he should get in: Second-most wins among retired players not in the Hall of Fame with 287. Most shutouts with 60. Most strikeouts with 3,701, which is fifth all-time. Ranks 13th – and, again, tops among non-Hall members – with 4,970 innings.

Why he shouldn't: Made only two All-Star teams. Never finished higher than third in Cy Young voting. Could argue that numbers were a product of longevity (22 seasons) and not any sort of dominance.

Chances: Might happen one of these years, even though he hasn't exceeded 54 percent in his first 10.

Andre Dawson

Year on ballot: 7th

Why he should get in: One of three players with 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases, the other two being Willie Mays and Barry Bonds. Won eight Gold Gloves and was named MVP in 1987 even though he played for the last-place Cubs.

Why he shouldn't: Awful .323 on-base percentage. Had only three 30-plus home run seasons. Injured too often. Not considered dominant for a long enough period.

Chances: Solid, though it wasn't promising that he dropped from 61 percent in 2006 to less than 57 percent last year.

Rich "Goose" Gossage

Year on ballot: 9th

Why he should get in: Helped pioneer the role of the modern closer. Posted perhaps the best back-to-back relief seasons in 1977 and '78. Saved 310 games and finished his career with an ERA of 3.01 (and ERA+, which is era- and park-adjusted, of 126, when 100 is average). Made nine All-Star teams.

Why he shouldn't: Never won a Cy Young Award. Didn't save more than 33 games in a season.

Chances: Excellent. If he doesn't make it this year, it will be a shock.

Mark McGwire

Year on ballot: 2nd

Why he should get in: Ranks eighth all-time with 583 home runs, and every other 500-home run hitter retired and eligible is in. Career OPS+ (adjusted for park and era) is 162, which ranks 12th all-time. Broke Roger Maris' single-season home run record with 70. The most feared power hitter of his day.

Why he shouldn't: Those pesky steroids.

Chances: Nil this year. As voters are faced with more alleged performance-enhancing drug users, however, the opinion on him could change.

Jack Morris

Year on ballot: 9th

Why he should get in: His 162 victories in the 1980s were tops in the decade, and he finished with a .577 career winning percentage (254-186). Pitched a 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

Why he shouldn't: Career ERA of 3.90 would be the highest for a starter in the Hall. Never finished higher than third in Cy Young voting. Allowed nearly 12 baserunners per nine innings. Finished seven of 18 seasons with 4.00-plus ERA.

Chances: Has a shot eventually, mainly on the strength of that Game 7, but not this year.

Tim Raines

Year on ballot: 1st

Why he should get in: First seven seasons was among the five best players in the game, stealing 70-plus bases six times and scoring 719 runs (both second over that time to Rickey Henderson), plus getting on base at a .394 clip and slugging .448. Continued 23-year career as solid role player and won two World Series rings.

Why he shouldn't: After those first seven seasons, the decline was gradual but noticeable. Didn't make an All-Star team after his 27th birthday. Never finished higher than fifth in MVP voting.

Chances: Should be better than they are. The type of candidate who voters may warm to, but not this year.

Jim Rice

Year on ballot: 14th

Why he should get in: Peers regarded him as one of the AL's most fearsome hitters. Six top-5 finishes in MVP voting, including victory in 1978. Eight 100-plus-RBI seasons and an eight-time All-Star.

Why he shouldn't: Terrible home-road splits, hitting 43 points higher and posting 130-point-higher OPS at Fenway Park. Never walked more than 62 times in a season. For someone on a slugger platform, 382 home runs is a low total.

Chances: He's got two more shots, and if this year isn't it, all the focus of next year's vote will be on him and the class' one shoo-in, Rickey Henderson.

Lee Smith

Year on ballot: 6th

Why he should get in: Save king with 478 until Trevor Hoffman passed him in 2006. Seven-time All-Star. Career ERA+ of 131 is better than Gossage's. Struck out nearly a batter per inning.

Why he shouldn't: Saves are overrated, and Smith was also king of the one-inning save. Only the most dominant relievers are in the Hall, and Smith doesn't necessarily fall into that category. Played for six teams over last five years, giving him, like Gossage, an off-putting nomadic aroma.

Chances: Unlike Smith himself, very slim. He dipped more than 5 percent last year to less than 40 percent, though with probably first-ballot Hall of Famers Hoffman and Mariano Rivera soon to retire, Smith could get a boost toward the end of his 15-year window.

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