Former Nat Ivan Rodriguez among 34 Hall of Fame candidates

There are a number of Hall of Famers who played at least a portion of their careers in Washington, but none played for this incarnation of the Nationals, and none sports a plaque that includes the words: "Washington, N.L."

That could change next summer if Ivan Rodriguez is inducted to the Hall in his first year of eligibility.

Rodriguez, who caught for the Nationals in 2010-11 to wrap up a remarkable career, officially became a candidate today when the Hall of Fame released its 2017 ballot. He's one of 34 players who made the cut for consideration, including fellow first-timers Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero.

Widely regarded as one of the best all-around catchers in baseball history, Rodriguez's stats - a .296 batting average, 311 home runs, 1,332 RBIs, 572 doubles, 46 percent caught-stealing rate - should make him a shoo-in for Cooperstown.

ivan-pudge-rodriguez-nats.pngBut the voters who decide these things - members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America with at least 10 years of service - face a more complex dilemma with Rodriguez. Though there has never been any hard evidence that the catcher took performance enhancing drugs, Jose Canseco wrote in his 2005 book that he personally injected Rodriguez with anabolic steroids while they were teammates in Texas. Rodriguez denied the allegation by Canseco, who made PED-related claims about other players in the book that later proved to be true.

If and when Rodriguez is inducted, his plaque is likely to feature him wearing a Rangers cap. He played 13 of his 21 major league seasons with Texas, including his 1999 American League MVP season and 10 of his 14 career All-Star campaigns.

But Hall of Fame plaques include every franchise the player appeared for during his career, and so at the end of the list of Rodriguez's six employers would be the words "Washington, N.L."

Rodriguez isn't the only former Nationals player on this year's ballot. Matt Stairs, who wrapped up his 19-year career as a member of the same 2011 Nats roster that featured Rodriguez, is one of 19 first-time candidates.

There also are several candidates who played for the Nationals franchise when it still called Montreal home: Guerrero, Orlando Cabrera, Tim Raines (in his 10th and final season of eligibility), Lee Smith and Larry Walker.

Ballots were mailed out to voters today and must be returned by Dec. 31. Results, including any new inductees who received at least 75 percent of votes, will be announced Jan. 18, with the induction scheduled for July in Cooperstown.

The full list of 2017 candidates: Jeff Bagwell, Casey Blake, Barry Bonds, Pat Burrell, Orlando Cabrera, Mike Cameron, Roger Clemens, J.D. Drew, Carlos Guillen, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Jeff Kent, Derrek Lee, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Melvin Mora, Mike Mussina, Magglio Ordonez, Jorge Posada, Tim Raines, Manny Ramirez, Edgar Renteria, Arthur Rhodes, Ivan Rodriguez, Freddy Sanchez, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Lee Smith, Sammy Sosa, Matt Stairs, Jason Varitek, Billy Wagner, Tim Wakefield, Larry Walker.

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