Cleat Geeks

Can Griffey Jr. be the 1st 100% Hall of Famer?

 

Ken Griffey jr says goodbyeThis year the MLB Hall of Fame Ballot has a sure fire Hall of Famer on it in Ken Griffey Jr.  He is everything a Hall of Famer should be both on and off the field. But will he appear on 100% of the ballots cast, for the first time in history?

It’s hard to believe, but since the first BBWAA election for Cooperstown in 1936, no player has been unanimously selected. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver share the record with 98.8 percent of the vote each. Babe Ruth got 95.1 percent and wasn’t the top player on his own ballot in 1936, tying Honus Wagner and trailing Ty Cobb’s 98.2 percent. Mickey Mantle didn’t crack 90 percent of the vote. Jackie Robinson came in below 80 percent. Joe DiMaggio wasn’t even a first ballot selection, nor were any other players between the first five selections of 1936 and Robinson and Bob Feller in 1962.

For others, unusual Hall of Fame voting practices are more about strategy than retroactive morality. The writers ballot remains crowded, Ryan Thibodaux noted that the average voter so far this year has selected 8.66 players. Many writers have been using all 10 spots and would use more if allowed. The Hall of Fame refused a request from the BBWAA to allow 12 votes per ballot. So there remains potential motivation for a voter to leave a sure thing like Griffey off the ballot and throw support behind someone like Billy Wagner or Jim Edmonds who could use it.

The writers’ voting process has worked better for getting players in quickly in recent years, with 26 of the 50 first ballot selections in Hall of Fame history coming since 1990. But unanimity remains a tall order. In the 2014 election, for instance, Greg Maddux got 97.2 percent of the vote. One voter, Mike Berardino, actually left Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson off his ballot last year so he could vote for Alan Trammell and Larry Walker. Another writer refused to vote for Maddux or Tom Glavine because of their success in getting outside pitches called as strikes.

Could things shift this year with Griffey? Perhaps. There’s more pressure than ever from fans for writers to vote a certain way, with social media quick to offer shame over perceived wrong, illogical or just plain dumb Hall of Fame votes. Voting privileges are also becoming increasingly restricted, with more than 100 former writers unceremoniously purged from the voting rolls before this election. Put it another way, I wouldn’t want to be the writer known for not voting for Griffey this year. But there’s a good chance someone could do it. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, for one, said a few years ago he wouldn’t vote for any player from the Steroid Era. Technically Griffey is from the Steroid Era, even though he is not associated with any PED’s of any sort.

GriffeyWaitingonDeckWhen I first started doing research and reading multiple articles for this article, I could not think of a single good reason to leave Griffey off the ballot. But, the writers can only vote for 10 players, and there are more than 10 players who you can make a Hall of Fame case for. I will be covering that and much more in my weekly MLB Podcast called The MLB Headfirst Slide today at 4:00pm on the West and 6:00pm on the East as we talk about several angles of the Hall of Fame Ballot for 1 hour. But sadly, I feel the number of reasons to leave Griffey off the ballot will outweigh the need for him to receive his just do and get 100% of the vote. That is a shame, because if any one player deserves to have that distinction it is Ken Griffey Jr. Today he waits on deck, tomorrow he will hit one out of the park, and will have until July to circle the bases.

 

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