Seriously, it's totally palpable.
Anyway, I agree with Mike Sullivan that Cal Ripkin, Jr. and Tony Gwynn are shoe-ins, and that Mark McGwire doesn't have a snowball's chance. The interesting action comes when you look down the ballot at the top returning vote getters. Here are the top five players returning from last year's ballot:
The requirement for election is that a player must appear on 75% of ballots cast. There were 520 ballots cast last year, so that works out to 390 votes. As you can see, Rice and Gossage are both right on the cusp.
Here's part of what Sullivan had to say about Rice, the returning player with the highest vote total:
The attitudes toward Rice have softened over the years, as is evident by his vote total last year. He received 337 votes, good for 64.8 percent but just short of the required 75 percent. Working in Rice's favor is the historical fact that nobody has ever gotten such a high vote total without eventually getting in.
I happen to think that all five of those players deserve election, but unlike Sullivan (I think), I don't believe that any of them will make it this year. The simple reason is that the voters are extremely unlikely to induct more than two players in any given year -- the last time it happened was 1991 -- and this year there are more than two newly eligible players deserving election.
Those high vote totals for Rice and Gossage are probably explained by the fact that last year there weren't any strong candidates among those in their first year of eligibility. The world having turned, their totals will probably drop this year. There is, though, hope for the future. The only sure-fire hall of famer arriving on to the ballot in the next couple of years is Rickey Henderson in 2009, so there should be room to elect a few borderline guys next year or the year after.