The Baseball Writers’ Association of America elected Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza to the Hall of Fame.
Normally, Baseball Hall of Fame balloting carries its own suspense, as fans wait to see which stars will enter the pantheon, but in recent years another feature has piqued fans’ interest: whether huge stars who allegedly used PEDs would remain on the outside looking in, e.g. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire. This year, a third item of interest superseded the first two: would Ken Griffey Jr. become the first player in baseball history to be elected to the Hall unanimously?
Not quite, but Griffey Jr., named on 437 of 440 ballots, set a record of 99.3%. The highest prior percentage among vote-getters was Tom 98.84% in 1992, followed by Nolan Ryan’s 98.79% in 1999, and Cal Ripken Jr.’s 98.53% in 2007. Seaver was left off of five ballots; Ryan and Ripken six. Even the immortal Ty Cobb only received 98.2% of the vote in the initial vote in 1936.
The career of the fleet and powerful center fielder was untainted by any kind of drugs, as he slugged a remarkable 630 home runs with 1836 RBI. For four consecutive years he drove in over 130 runs. In the 1995 ALDS, playing for the Seattle Mariners against the New York Yankees, he hit five home runs in five games. Griffey won ten consecutive Gold Gloves from 1990-1999, winning the MVP in 1997. He played eleven seasons with Seattle before joining his father’s old team, the Cincinnati Reds, for nine more, then spent a brief period with the Chicago White Sox before rejoining the Mariners to end his career.
Griffey’s career was marked by injury as he suffered a fractured wrist, a torn labrum, a dislocated patella, and a torn hamstring as he played all-out. He likely would have set the all-time home run record had he stayed healthy, as he had seasons in which he played 72, 70, 50, and 83 games in the prime of his career.
Mike Piazza missed the 75% threshold last year by a smidgeon garnering 69.9%, but this year he made it with ease, garnering 83% of the vote. He hit a record 396 home runs as a catcher, (427 total) with a career .308 average. Among all players who played at least half of their games at the catcher’s position, Piazza ranks first in homers and fourth in RBIs.
Jeff Bagwell, who hit 449 home runs with 1529 RBI and a career batting average of .297, polled 55.7% last year, and surged to 71.6% this year. Fifteen more votes would have put him in the Hall, but he still has four years to gather the few votes he needs.
Tim Raines, in his ninth year of eligibility, leaving him with one more year before he is taken off the ballot, amassed 69.8% of the vote. As noted by NJ.com, Raines had a seven-year period in which he posted a .308/.398/.456 slash line, averaged 61 stolen bases per season, and totaled an OPS+ of 139. He ranks fifth all-time in career stolen bases.
Trevor Hoffman, who ranks second all time with 601 saves, trailing only Mariano Rivera’s 652, made a stellar debut in his first year of eligibility, gathering 69.3% of the vote.
Curt Schilling, with a 216-146 record and 3,116 strikeouts in his fourth year of eligibility, made huge strides toward entry, with 52.3% of the vote. Last year he got 39.2%.
Scrolling down to the PED crowd, seven-time Cy Young Award-winner Roger Clemens polled 45.2% in his fourth year of eligibility; last year he polled 37.5%. All-time home run leader Barry Bonds gained almost exactly the same percentage, polling 44.3% after getting 36.8% last year. Mark McGwire, who was attempting to gain the Hall for the last time before being kicked off the ballot, gathered a mere 12.3% of the vote.
Others included Edgar Martinez (43.4%), Mike Mussina (43%), Alan Trammell (40.9%), Lee Smith (34.1%), Fred McGriff (20.9%), and Jeff Kent (16.6%), and Larry Walker (15.5%).