The newest list of candidates for the Hall of Fame's Class of 2014 is headlined by players who not only dominated their era, but stars -- like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas -- who put up historic numbers.
But beyond those elite names on the writers ballot are other players, many of whom are up for enshrinement in Cooperstown for the first time. And while they may not be considered first-ballot possibilities, at one point or another during their careers they were among the game's best. That may not send them straight to Cooperstown, but it is reason enough to consider them for baseball's highest individual honor.
A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote from eligible Baseball Writers' Association of America members to gain election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. No players reached that threshold in 2013. Second baseman Craig Biggio (68.2 percent), starting pitcher Jack Morris (67.7 percent) and first baseman Jeff Bagwell (59.6 percent) are the top returning vote-getters from last year's ballot. Results of the 2014 election will be announced on Wednesday, Jan. 8, on MLB.com and MLB Network.
Among the players on the ballot for the first time:
Alou racked up impressive numbers during his 17-year big league career: 2,134 hits, 332 home runs, 1,287 RBIs and a .303 average. He finished second in the 1992 National League Rookie of the Year Award voting, earned six All-Star nods and garnered Most Valuable Player votes in seven seasons, finishing third in 1994 and '98. Alou played six years for the Expos, but he also was a member of the Cubs, Astros, Mets, Giants, Marlins and Pirates.
The right-handed reliever logged a 3.13 ERA throughout his 15-year career and appeared in consecutive All-Star Games in 2003 and '04. Although Benitez totaled at least 40 saves three times, his best season was with the Marlins in '04, when he saved a career-high 47 games and earned down-ballot MVP votes. That season was the last of seven consecutive with at least 20 saves for Benitez, who pitched for the Mets, Orioles, Giants, Marlins, Mariners, Yankees and Blue Jays. His 289 career saves rank 26th all-time.
Nicknamed "The Mayor," Casey was one of the game's most popular players during his 12-year career with the Reds, Tigers, Pirates, Red Sox and Indians. His best season was 1999 with Cincinnati, when he posted career highs in average (.332), home runs (25) and RBIs (99, a number he reached again in 2004). He had a career .302/.367/.447 line and was a three-time All-Star with the Reds (1999, 2001 and 2004).
Durham was a two-time All-Star during his 14-year career, earning nods in 1998 and 2000 while with the White Sox. A fine defensive second baseman with pop at the top of the order in his prime, Durham had his best seasons when he batting in that lineup spot for the White Sox before he moved down in the order later in his career with the Giants. Durham reached double digits in homers in 11 seasons while also totaling 2,054 hits. He spent eight years with Chicago, six with San Francisco and also played for the A's and Brewers.
Gagne put together one of the most dominating three-year runs by a closer in Major League history from 2002-04, converting a record 84 consecutive saves for the Dodgers, winning the NL Cy Young Award and finishing sixth in NL MVP Award voting in 2003. Gagne was an All-Star in each of those three seasons, posting a combined 1.79 ERA, 0.822 WHIP and 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings in that span. Injuries derailed his career, though he returned to close for the Rangers in 2007 and the Brewers the following year. He was named in the Mitchell Report.
Gonzalez's 2001 campaign always will be the first that comes to mind when thinking about his 19-year career. He hit .325 with a career-high 57 home runs and 142 RBIs to finish third in the NL MVP balloting, and also had the walk-off game-winning hit for the D-backs in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Although that was by far Gonzalez's best year, he totaled more than 20 homers six other times and drove in at least 100 runs each year from 1999-2003. He was a five-time All-Star and a 2001 Silver Slugger Award winner while compiling 2,591 hits for a .283 career average.
A key member of the Twins teams that won three straight AL Central titles from 2002-04, Jones spent seven of his 10 years in Minnesota. He hit 14 or more homers each season from 2000-06, four times totaling more than 20. He also played for the Cubs, Tigers and Marlins.
Dubbed "Roller Coaster" by legendary Tigers play-by-play announcer Ernie Harwell, Jones nonetheless enjoyed a great deal of success during a 16-year career spent mostly with the Detroit (eight years) and the Astros (four). He totaled 319 saves, 235 with Detroit, and earned AL Cy Young Award votes during an 2000 All-Star season in which he saved a career-high 42 games. His 319 saves rank 16th all-time.
Paul Lo Duca
A contact hitter with a remarkable ability to avoid strikeouts, Lo Duca was named to four All-Star teams during his 11-year career. Primarily a catcher but also a first baseman and left fielder, Lo Duca hit .286 with a .337 on-base percentage, .409 slugging percentage, 80 home runs and 481 RBIs for the Dodgers, Marlins, Mets and Nationals. Lo Duca's best season was 2001, his first full year in the Majors, when he hit .320 with 25 homers and 90 RBIs for Los Angeles.
A dominant starter in his native Japan for five seasons, Nomo broke onto the scene in the Majors and eventually helped pave the way for other Japanese stars to make the transition to Major League Baseball. Nomo pitched 12 years for eight teams in the big leagues, but he was at his best during his debut with the Dodgers. Nomo won the 1995 NL Rookie of the Year Award after going 13-6 with a 2.54 ERA and a league-high 236 strikeouts. He finished fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting in '96 and later led the AL with 220 strikeouts in 2001. He pitched two no-hitters, the first in 1996 at Coors Field and the second in his Red Sox debut in 2001.
Rogers authored the 14th perfect game in Major League history on July 28, 1994. The left-hander was a four-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove Award winner and won a World Series with the Yankees in 1996. Rogers pitched for the Rangers, Yankees, A's, Mets, Twins and Tigers during his 20-year career, recording 219 wins and a 4.27 ERA. In his perfect game against the Angels, Rogers struck out eight and threw only 98 pitches in a 4-0 victory.
Sexson hit 306 homers over his 12-year career, which has the longtime first baseman currently tied for 129th on MLB's career home run leaderboard. The towering slugger posted a .261/.344/.507 batting line and drove in 943 runs. A two-time All-Star, Sexson hit 45 homers in 2001 and again in '03, launched more than 30 six times and drove in more than 100 runs six times as well.
A six-time Gold Glove first baseman, Snow was a popular figure during his nine seasons with San Francisco. The lefty hitter played 16 years in the Majors, including stints with the Yankees, Angels and Red Sox. Snow retired as a Giant after signing a one-day contract with the club in 2008, calling it a career with a .268/.357/.427 batting line, 189 home runs and 877 RBIs.
A four-time World Series champion and the winner of the 2007 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award for character and integrity on and off the field, Timlin pitched 18 seasons as a reliever. Timlin peaked toward the end of his career, making an astonishing 81 appearances with a 2.24 ERA for the Red Sox in 2005 at age 39. Timlin finished his career in 2008 with a 75-73 record, 3.63 ERA, 141 saves and a 1.28 WHIP in 1,204 1/3 innings.
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less