Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. With his name appearing on 99.32% of the ballots, Griffey edged out former New York Mets pitcher Tom Seaver for the highest percentage of votes ever received by a Hall of Fame inductee. There has never been a unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame, and Griffey came just three votes short of becoming the first.
Ken Griffey Jr. is the first number one overall draft pick to be elected to the Hall of Fame. This was Griffey’s first year of eligibility. He will also be the first player to wear a Mariners cap in the Hall of Fame. His classmate Mike Piazza, on the other hand, was selected in the 62nd round of the draft, 1,390th overall. Piazza is the latest draft pick to ever be elected to the Hall of Fame. It’s safe to assume that Piazza will retain that honor, since the draft has been reduced to 40 rounds. Piazza was elected to the Hall of Fame in his fourth year of eligibility. He will join Tom Seaver as the second player to wear a Mets cap in the Hall of Fame.
Both players in this year’s class had sensational numbers, and remained relatively free from the negative spotlight during the controversy-filled 90’s and early 00’s. Piazza hit 427 homeruns in his career, 396 as a catcher – the most ever by a player in that position. Griffey, with 630 homeruns, is one of only eight players in the 600 club. What’s remarkable about Griffey is that he has never been linked to a credible report on steroids use. Of the players that reached the 600 club in his era, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez were all linked to credible steroid reports. Jim Thome, another 90’s era member of the 600 club, is the only other member who was not proven to be on steroids. While Piazza was at the center of steroid reports a few years ago, nothing stuck. The election of Griffey and Piazza shows that the Hall of Fame voters have put an emphasis on PED use in their criteria. Both players were exciting, flashy players in an era of brutes. Griffey’s athleticism was rare for a baseball player. He was a star running back in high school, and could probably have gone the Deion Sanders route if he wanted to. Piazza was a fan and media favorite, and became iconic during the 2000 Subway Series, though he popped up to secure the final out for New York Yankees. Neither player in this year’s class ever won a World Series.
PED use will likely remain a talking point as the Hall of Fame inductees are announced over the next few years. We’ve already seen generational talents snubbed by the Hall of Fame because of their use of PED’s. Mark McGwire was on the ballot for the tenth and final time this year. While his numbers would easily put him in the Hall of Fame, McGwire was left out. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were also eligible, but didn’t get voted in.
Jeff Bagwell appeared on 71.6% of ballots, putting him a few percentage points shy of the 75 required for election. All-time great, and position-defining, generational closer for the San Diego Padres, Trevor Hoffman appeared on 67.3% of ballots. This is a good sign for Hoffman, who was only in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility. No pure reliever has ever been elected to the Hall of Fame, Hoffman has a good chance to change that next year.
Manny Ramirez, Jorge Posada, Ivan (Pudge) Rodriguez, and Vladimir Guerrero highlight next year’s class of players in their first year of eligibility.
Photo cred: Chris Evans