Will this be the year Raines, Smith reach Cooperstown?

The 2013 Hall of Fame ballot is out, released today by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Members with 10 years under their belts get a vote, and 75 percent of the votes is the threshold necessary for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Last year, the first National appeared on the ballot: third baseman Vinny Castilla. He received only six votes among 573 ballots cast, meaning he’s no longer eligible, relegated to the answer to a trivia question. Any player who doesn’t get at least 5 percent of the votes is removed from consideration, though players may stay on the ballot for at least 15 years if they reach that limit. Results will be announced Jan. 9.

Of the newcomers to this year’s ballot, there are some Nationals connections. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m not a BBWAA member - the organization refuses to admit staffers from MASNsports.com because we are owned by the teams we cover, though our Roch Kubatko and Mel Antonen are voting members from their previous employment with The Baltimore Sun and USA Today, respectively).

Shortstop Royce Clayton spent 17 seasons in the majors, playing half of the 2006 campaign - the Nats’ second in D.C. after relocating from Montreal - in Washington. He was the Nats’ opening day shortstop and batted .269 with no homers and 27 RBIs in 87 games before being traded to Cincinnati in the eight-player deal that brought the Nationals Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez and Ryan Wagner.

Lefty reliever Mike Stanton had two tours of duty in NatsTown. He was signed on July 13, 2005 after being cut loose by the Yankees and pitched in 30 games, going 2-1 with a 3.58 ERA, before being spun off to the Red Sox on Sept. 29 for two minor leaguers. Stanton returned to Washington on Dec. 24 and started the 2006 season in D.C., posting a 3-5 record and 4.47 in 56 games before being shipped to the Giants in exchange for pitcher Shairon Martis.

First-timers Larry Walker and Rondell White played in Montreal in the pre-D.C. era.

None of those guys stands much of a chance of election this year. They’ll be lucky to get enough votes to remain on the ballot into 2014, though Walker might.

Two of the Hall-hopeful holdovers with a shot at Cooperstown immortality also have ties to the Expos - and they have a chance at being added to the Ring of Honor at Nationals Park reserved for Hall of Fame inductees from Washington’s many eras of baseball.

Closer Lee Smith, in his 10th year on the ballot, finished his 18-year career with a forgettable 1997 in Montreal, where he went 0-1 with five saves and a 5.82 ERA in 25 games before retiring at midseason. But his body of work is more impressive - 478 saves (including league-leading totals four times), seven All-Star nods, three Rolaids Relief Man awards, four top 10 Cy Young Award finishes. From 1993 to 2006, when he was eclipsed by Trevor Hoffman, Smith held the major league record for career saves. Smith got 50.6 percent of the vote last year, his highest mark ever, but he’s viewed as a borderline candidate.

Fleet outfielder Tim Raines is viewed as a better candidate after garnering 48.7 percent last year in his fifth year on the ballot. He made seven All-Star teams, was voted MVP of the 1987 Mid-Summer Classic, won the 1986 National League batting title and a Silver Slugger, twice led the NL in runs scored and, for four straight years from 1981-84, was the league’s leader in stolen bases en route to the second-most thefts of all time. Raines’ 808 swipes were fifth all-time behind Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who stole 1,406. The rest of the top five - Henderson, Lou Brock (938), Billy Hamilton (912) and Ty Cobb (892) are already in Cooperstown, in fact.

Earlier this year, in a “What If Wednesday” feature, we wondered whether the fact that Raines became a baseball vagabond later in his career has hurt his Hall of Fame candidacy.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Raines can break through this year. Some voters seem to think he has a better shot than the first-year chances of players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who are linked to the game’s steroids scandal.

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