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Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Pudge Rodriguez were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
USA TODAY Sports

A former unanimous MVP, an elite leadoff hitter and one of the game’s most complete catchers were elected Wednesday into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Iconic Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell, base-stealer extraordinaire Tim Raines and 13-time Gold Glove winner Ivan “Pudge’’ Rodriguez earned baseball’s most coveted distinction when they were named on more than 75% of the ballots cast by eligible members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Raines (86%) was on his 10th and final year of eligibility, while Bagwell (86.2%) made it on his seventh attempt and Rodriguez (76%) on his first one, earning 336 of 442 votes – four more than necessary. Closer Trevor Hoffman fell five votes short. Vladimir Guerrero was named on 317 ballots (71.1%), 15 votes shy of induction in his first year.

And the Hall of Fame continues to slowly open its doors to players linked to performance-enhancing drugs.

Bagwell overcame years of crowded ballots and an electorate wary of power hitters who played through the heart of the so-called steroid era. While Bagwell was never linked to steroid use, he did acknowledge using androstenedione, a substance now banned by Major League Baseball.

Both Rodriguez and Bagwell were suspected of using PEDs because of the dramatic physical transformations they underwent during their careers, but no conclusive evidence has been found of their involvement with such substances.

Rodriguez received the rare honor of first-ballot election after setting the record for most games played behind the plate, winning the 1999 AL MVP and compiling a .296 career batting average with 311 home runs.

He and Bagwell’s strong showings on the ballot and the surge in support for the steroid-tainted Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens – both of whom surged from the mid-40% range to 53.8% and 54.1%, respectively – provide the latest indications that the current Hall of Fame electorate has become more amenable to voting for suspected PED users with Hall-worthy credentials.

Former catcher Mike Piazza, who fits that profile, was elected last year on his fourth try.

The cloud of doubt over Bagwell’s accomplishments was likely the only reason he had to wait so long to be admitted into Cooperstown, considering he put together eight seasons with at least 30 home runs, 100 runs scored and 100 RBI, a feat matched by only nine other players.

A .297 career hitter, Bagwell belted an Astros-record 449 home runs, posted a .948 on-base plus slugging percentage and averaged better than 100 RBI over his 15 seasons. Three times he finished in the top three in the NL MVP voting, including his runaway victory in 1994, and he was also chosen the league’s rookie of the year in 1991.

The Boston Red Sox certainly never envisioned that kind of output when they sent Bagwell, a fourth-round pick who never hit more than four homers in the minors, to the Astros in a 1990 trade for journeyman reliever Larry Andersen.

Bagwell reached the majors the next year and eventually became a four-time All-Star and a three-time Silver Slugger award winner. He was also an excellent fielder, earning a Gold Glove in 1994. Bagwell will become the 50th Hall of Famer to spend his whole career with the same club, joining former teammate Craig Biggio – elected in 2015 – in that group.

Both Bagwell and Raines transcended the traditional roles of the slugger and speedster, respectively. Bagwell is one of just 11 players ever to combine at least 440 career home runs with 200 stolen bases.

Raines is the only one ever to amass a minimum of 100 triples, 150 home runs and 600 steals, and also the only one with four different seasons of at least 50 extra-base hits and 70 steals.

Such prolific numbers in game-impacting categories made Raines a favorite of the sabermetric crowd, as did his efficiency as a base stealer. Raines’ 808 career steals rank fifth all-time, and his 84.7% success rate is the second highest ever among those with at least 300 attempts.

The 5-8 dynamo was considerably more than just a threat on the basepaths, especially during the first 12 years of his career with the Montreal Expos. Raines hit .294 with a .385 on-base percentage over his 23 seasons, winning the NL batting crown in 1986, one of his seven consecutive All-Star seasons.

Raines became a baseball vagabond after being traded by the Expos following the 1990 season, playing for six teams – including Montreal again – in those 11 years. His performance tailed off in that second half of his career, and his Hall of Fame case might have also been hurt by Raines’ involvement in baseball’s cocaine scandal in 1985, during which he admitted using the drug.

But the brilliance of Raines’ first decade and his longevity put him among the game’s greatest leadoff hitters, his overall numbers comparing favorably to Hall of Famer Lou Brock.

After an extended wait, Hall voters finally came to that conclusion with Raines’ election Wednesday.

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Vote totals (Ballots cast: 442; Needed for election: 332)

Gallery: 2017 Hall of Fame class