WHAT ABOUT Tim Raines? How could you not have put him on your 2010 Hall of Fame ballot? When I wrote a column Dec. 30, revealing my ballot and praising the quality and depth of the first-timers up for election, the e-mail reaction I received the most involved why there has been so little support for one of the greatest leadoff men of all time.

My answer was formulaic. And I apologize for that. However, with the number of deserving carryover players each year, the annual flood of newcomers and the unique 15-year format, there has to be a winnowing process. It is simply not fair to keep placing your bet each year on candidates who simply have not been as highly regarded by your BBWAA colleagues as a man you consider worthy of a vote.

I voted for Tim Raines his first year of eligibility. But when he failed to get 25 percent of the vote, he was moved to the back burner. Sorry, that's just the way it has to be. Maybe more eligible ballwriters should have measured the Rock's career numbers in all phases against those of analog basestealer and first-ballot inductee Lou Brock. Try it, you'll be amazed.

Good news for Raines, however. Yesterday, in one of the most bizarre elections in a bizarre process, he collected 30 percent and is now back on my radar.

Hard to believe, Harry, that 26.3 percent of the electorate did not consider Roberto Alomar, one of the top five second basemen of all time, worthy of first-ballot enshrinement.

But I am certainly not surprised that the only player to emerge with more than the sacrosanct 75 percent required to sit on the podium next to the National Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame in Cooperstown next summer will be Raines' longtime Montreal Expos teammate, Andre Dawson.

The Hawk, who edged into the HOF wind shadow last year, stumbled across the finish line with a 77.9 percent total. The Flinging Dutchman, annually jilted Bert Blyleven, had a tantalizing near-miss at 74.2 percent. At least the 287-game winner is on deck.

I suggested last month that the quality of the newcomers on the ballot was a predictor that some pretty good ballplayers would be one-and-done. The numbers game would keep them from drawing the 5 percent it takes to be retained on the ballot. Staying there all 15 years without being elected is the HOF equivalent of Peter O'Toole being nominated for eight Best Actor Oscars without winning.

The outtahere scythe cut even deeper this year than I thought it would. Of the 15 first-timers, just four survived to be spurned another day. Pristine shortstop Barry Larkin made just 51.6 of the ballots. Edgar Martinez received scant support (36.2) in his quest to legitimize the DH position and Fred McGriff showed poorly with 21.5 percent. Andres Galarraga, a large, balletic first baseman, saw his Colorado Rockies numbers apparently backhanded into thin air. The Big Cat polled just 4.1 percent.

This is the third time in the past 5 years that the writers have elected just one man.

Dawson will join Veterans Committee choices Doug Harvey, an umpire nicknamed "God" by players, and Whitey Herzog, a manager nicknamed "The White Rat" and who was often described in less-than-religious terms. Cooperstown will not host a record crowd for this one. Pete Rose Inc. will have a slow weekend.

This was the closest election in HOF history at the top and the first time two candidates - Blyleven and Alomar - came within 10 votes of the Promised Land. Bert missed by five votes and Alomar by eight, the closest of any first-timer not elected. The classic closeasthis misser was Nellie Fox, who along with Pie Traynor fell two votes short. When Fox came to his 15th and final year of eligibility in 1985, the former White Sox second baseman was unfortunately also dead, of skin cancer in 1975. I had voted for him his 14th season and he missed by a substantial margin. Then I failed to vote for him in 1985, when Nellie's vote total spiked - all the way to 74.6 percent. A fine Detroit columnist named Joe Falls had supported Fox' candidacy for years. And he had checked his name on the 1985 ballot, as well. But Joe had a memory lapse and mailed it a day late. The Hall of Fame committee refused to accept the vote and would not round out the 74.6 to 75. Uncle Sam permits you to round 74.4 down to 74, but requires 74.5 and above to be 75. MLB rounds .2994 to .300.

Each time Falls and I would see each other we commiserated how we had inadvertently denied Nellie his place in Cooperstown. Of course, we were not the only ones who had failed to vote for Fox in '85. But if I had repeated my 1984 vote or Joe Falls had hit the post office a day earlier, Fox' fate would not have fallen into the clutches of the Veterans Committee.

Twelve years later, the old boys gathered in St. Petersburg and gave the steady, tobacco-chewing throwback his just dessert.

Send e-mail to bill1chair@aol.com.

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