5. Jack Morris
Morris is in a race against time and semantics in his quest to make it to Cooperstown. He has just two years left on the ballot but figures to have a tough time cracking through against stiff competition the next two seasons. Morris has increased his votes in each of the past five years, peaking in 2012 at 66.7 percent to finish second behind Barry Larkin.
Morris' case is buoyed by excellent performances in the 1984 and 1991 postseasons when he anchored the Tigers' and Twins' staffs to World Series titles in those respective years. Morris' best argument for enshrinement may be that he was the American League's winningest pitcher of the 1980s and the respected staff ace for a lengthy period of time. He finished with 254 career wins, finished in the top five in Cy Young voting five times and won 20 games three times.
4. Gil Hodges
Hodges' case for the Hall of Fame is interesting because he is a player whose value went beyond the numbers he put up. He never led the league in any major categories, but was still a very productive leader and beloved player on the great Brooklyn Dodger teams of the 1950s.
Hodges lost three years early in his career to World War II, causing his breakout as a player to be delayed until he was 25 years old. Because of this and a quick downfall to his production after age 35, Hodges amassed only 1,921 hits. However, in his prime, he made seven straight All-Star games, had eight top-20 MVP finishes, won three Gold Gloves and three World Series titles. Hodges' 370 homers might not stand as too impressive today, but when he retired it marked the league's fourth-best career total.
Hodges consistently finished in the top five in Hall of Fame balloting throughout his career. In 1971, he finished fourth with 180 votes, better than 12 future Hall of Famers. Remarkably, he finished with 90 more votes than teammate Duke Snider who would go on to be elected in 1980. Incidentally, Hodges finished fourth again in 1980, this time ahead of nine future Hall of Famers.
3. Tim Raines
Raines' candidacy has been gaining momentum in the past few seasons, and it seems that one day he will take his place in Cooperstown. He has increased his totals in each of the past three elections and was up to 48.7 percent in 2012. Arguably the second-best leadoff hitter of all time, Raines' stats have gained more credence as on-base percentage becomes a more valued statistic.
Raines' role as a part-time player over his last six years caused him to miss out on reaching 3,000 hits, as he fell short with 2,605. His 1,330 walks ranks 36th all time and his 606 stolen bases ranks fifth. He made seven straight All-Star games in the 1980s and has three top-seven MVP finishes.
2. Rafael Palmeiro
Instead of talking about his incredible baseball accomplishments, Palmeiro's career is defined as being one of the poster boys for the steroid era. He made a fool of himself in front of Congress, was named in the Mitchell Report and Jose Canseco's book Juiced, and was implicated in Jason Grimsley's affidavit about amphetamine use in the major leagues.
As a player, Palmeiro should have received automatic first-ballot induction into Cooperstown after compiling over 3,000 hits and 500 home runs in his 20-year career. Palmeiro topped 30 home runs 11 times and batted over .300 six times. For all of his accomplishments, though, he only made four All-Star games and had just three top-10 MVP finishes. He received 11 and 12 percent of the Hall of Fame votes thus far in his candidacy.
1. Jeff Bagwell
Bagwell has been on the Hall of Fame ballot for two years and if trends hold up, he should find himself in Cooperstown one day. In 2012, his second year, Bagwell received 56 percent of the vote to finish in third place. Bagwell's numbers are there, and he passes the eye test as a dominant player in his era, but the cloud of steroids has kept him out so far, right or wrong. Bagwell has vehemently denied taking steroids, but that hasn't stopped voters from having their doubts.
His play on the field, though, is worthy of enshrinement. He won the 1994 MVP award and finished in the top 10 in the voting five other times. Bagwell led the NL in home runs in 1996, scored 100 runs nine times and drove in 100 runs eight times. His .948 OPS ranks 21st all time.