The Baseball Hall of Fame will have two new members this July. The BBWAA announced the elections of Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Piazza to Cooperstown. They both received in excess of the 75% of the required vote.
Junior Griffey, who had his best years with the Seattle Mariners, earned a record 99.3% of the vote in his first year of eligibility appearing on 437 out of 440 ballots. He surpasses Tom Seaver who received 98.8% of the vote in 1992. Meanwhile, Piazza earned 83% of the BBWAA vote in his fourth year on the ballot. Griffey, Jr. and Piazza are quite the contrast. Griffey, Jr. was a number one draft pick while Piazza was drafted by the Dodgers in the 62nd round as a favor to Tommy Lasorda. Some favor. Still, one should expect Piazza to be wearing a Mets cap when he gets enshrined.
Houston Astros great Jeff Bagwell missed enshrinement by 15 votes. But his vote total went up from 55.7% to 71.6%. Bagwell will surely get in 2017 as will Tim Raines who shot up from 55% to 69.8%. Next year will be Raines’ last on the ballot.
In his first year on the BBWAA ballot, San DIego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman earned 67.3% of the vote. If he doesn’t get enshrined in 2017, he should make the class of 2018.
Pitchers Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina got significant vote increases (39.2 % to 52.3% & 24.6% to 43%, respectively) as did Seattle Mariners DH Edgar Martinez (27% to 43.4%). Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens also saw vote increases (36.8% to 44.3% & 37.5% to 45.2%, respectively). With Piazza who was alleged to have ties to HGH getting in and Bagwell likely to get in next year, I believe Bonds and Clemens will be enshrined by their final year on the ballot in 2022.
The vote increases for many of these players can be attributed to attrition in the BBWAA. Writers who had not covered baseball in at least a decade were stripped of their right to vote. This affected more than 100 writers.
Alan Trammell failed to gain enshrinement in his 15th year of eligibility although his vote total increase by 15%. Of course, the BBWAA ballot is now 10 years but Trammell and Lee Smith were grandfathered. So Lee Smith has one year to go, but I have no illusions that he will get enshrined even though he and Hoffman are the only relievers to save 200 or more games in two different decades. This year represented Mark McGwire’s 10th and final year on the ballot and he barely mustered 12% of the vote. Trammell and McGwire (and eventually Smith) could get Veterans’ Committee consideration, but they tend to be tougher crowd than the BBWAA.
But back to the men of the hour. Ken Griffey, Jr. has to be given greater consideration as among the Top 10 of all time. And by Top 10, I mean Ruth, Gehrig, Mays, Aaron, Cobb and Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Pete Rose, Frank Robinson and Stan Musial and one of them has to go.
BTW, did you know that Griffey, Jr’s grandfather, Buddy, played high school baseball with Stan Musial in Denora, Pennsylvania? That is absolutely mind blowing.
As for Piazza, while I don’t think he’s in the class of Johnny Bench, the late Yogi Berra or the late Gary Carter, it can certainly be argued that he was the best hitting catcher in MLB history.
Junior Griffey and Piazza will be inducted in Cooperstown on July 24th.