Announcement Day for the Baseball Hall of Fame is one of my favorite days of the year. The kid in me loved seeing an impossibly aged, 46-year-old Ken Griffey Jr. – a guy who I idolized and whose posters were all over my bedroom walls growing up – get the official phone call from the Baseball Writers Association of America. I also loved seeing the elation of a guy like Mike Piazza, who had to wait years because of the dark cloud of PED speculation swirling over his head, finally getting in as well. But mostly, like I said in my last blog, the baseball nerd in me loved seeing guys like Bob Costas, Peter Gammons and other baseball writers and experts weigh in on the candidates and spark debates that I could watch all day. And so I did. I watched the pre-pre shows. I watched the four hours of coverage. I watched the post-coverage and the post-post coverage. I watched it all. And here’s what I learned.
1. Everyone But 3 Writers and Tom Seaver Wanted Griffey to Get 100% of the Ballots.
Ken Griffey Jr. was on 100% of the early ballots reported and everybody seemed really giddy about it because that’s never happened before. Not with Willie Mays. Not with Hank Aaron. Not with anybody. The highest vote total ever was actually Tom Seaver’s 98.84% in 1992. But when all of the ballots were finally in, Griffey ended up at 99.30%. Which means that three people didn’t vote for him. There are already all kinds of theories as to why that would be, and witch hunts for who those three people are, but my best guess would be that two people accidentally voted for David Eckstein and one person accidentally voted for Garret Anderson. The math works and so does the logic. Otherwise, holy shit.
Also, one thing that I found really interesting after Griffey and Piazza were elected, there were get-well wishes from Johnny Bench and Tom Seaver. And if you’re thinking, “How nice. Seaver congratulated the guy who surpassed his vote total and Bench congratulated the guy who surpassed him as the greatest hitting catcher of all-time,” then you’d be wrong. Bench congratulated Griffey, who grew up around Bench’s Big Red Machine because of his dad and Seaver congratulated Piazza because they were both on the Mets, decades apart. I mean, they could have said other stuff. But this is all they showed. And it’s way more fun to be catty.
Another fun moment was when they dug up Griffey’s first manager, Jim Lefebvre, to congratulate him. First of all, Lefebvre had no idea how the voting process worked and kept saying, “For this young man to get 100% of Hall of Famers to vote for him is truly a remarkable accomplishment.” And that’s just no. And second of all, Griffey seemed slightly confused and annoyed as to why he had to talk to Lefebvre to begin with. Plus the show’s host, Greg Amsinger, basically had to get a shepherd’s hook to shut Lefebvre up every time he was rambling. It really made no sense to have him there. Jim Lefebvre only managed the Mariners for three years. So Lou Piniella must have been too busy angrily tossing bases around on some Little League diamond or something to be bothered.
2. Griffey is Only the 4th Center Fielder to Be Elected Since Duke Snider.
And that’s counting Robin Yount (who was a shortstop) and Andre Dawson (who, as a Cub’s fan, I consider a right fielder). So really, Ken Griffey Jr. and Kirby Puckett are the only center fielders since Willie, Mickey and the Duke to get elected to the Hall of Fame. That sounded like it had to be wrong, but it isn’t. And the weird thing is, since 1964 (the year Snider retired) nobody else has really been in the conversation. I mean, are you actually going to argue for Jimmy Wynn and Chet Lemon? Sure, this was used as more of a devil’s advocate argument for Jim Edmonds than anything. But Kenny Lofton was one-and-done on the ballots. So was Bernie Williams. And, unfortunately for him, so was Edmonds. The position is currently highly underrepresented as it is. But after Griffey, we’ll have to wait and see the fates of Andruw Jones, Carlos Beltran and Torii Hunter. And then probably just hope Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen can keep it up.
3. This is the Class of #1 and #1,390.
Griffey was the first pick of the 1987 Draft. Mike Piazza was the 1,390th pick in the 1988 Draft. So that makes for a good story. Especially since Griffey was also the first number one overall to go to the Hall of Fame. Not Harold Baines in 1977, not Darryl Strawberry in 1980. Certainly not Shawon Dunston in 1982. But that feat will soon be equaled by Chipper Jones. Possibly A-Rod. Possibly Joe Mauer. And (dare I say) possibly David Price. Plus it gives hope to down-on-their-luck guys like Bryce Harper and Carlos Correa who nobody ever talks about like they’re any good.
4. Trevor Hoffman Will Get In. Because Mariano Rivera.
I want you to listen to me. Trevor Hoffman getting more votes than Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina is INSANE. Schilling pitched 3,261 innings in his career. Mussina pitched 3,562. On the other hand, the two new relievers to the list (Hoffman and Billy Wagner) only pitched 1,089 and 903. That’s not even close to the same thing. And don’t tell me how they were used was not their fault. If either Hoffman or Wagner were good enough to start, they would have. Clayton Kershaw isn’t a relief pitcher. You want him going seven instead of one. When John Smoltz started to suck, they sent him to the pen. When Kerry Wood started to suck, they also sent him to the pen. And then they were both somehow good again. Like, do you know what Curt Schilling would have done as a one inning relief man? He would have made everybody in question, Rivera included, look like fucking chump change. Rivera was a failed starter. Wagner was a failed starter. Hoffman was a failed shortstop who could throw hard for one inning. The logic of voting for Hoffman over any starter is so stupid to me. But since everyone blindly decided that Mariano Rivera (and his 1,283 innings) was this infallible super god, then we have to deem the #2 guy with almost the same respect. But the fact is, if Rivera was just slightly better, he could have been a mediocre #3 starter. Give me a break.
5. I Changed My Mind on Larry Walker and Fred McGriff.
Larry Walker isn’t getting in, period. I think they said the lowest vote total anybody has gotten and still eventually been elected was Duke Snider’s 17%. Walker is currently sitting at 15.5% and wasn’t even covered in any of the discussions leading up to the announcement. And that’s because his home/road splits are bananas. No pun intended. So I guess I’ll have to give up on Walker for now. Your move, Todd Helton. On the other hand, I’ve come to the realization that the 1994 strike completely fucked Fred McGriff. And somehow that argument had never occurred to me. Maybe because I don’t like thinking about the strike. But McGriff is just seven home runs shy of an automatic Cooperstown bid. And through 113 games in 1994, he had 34. So yeah, he would have gotten seven more if they’d played the season out. So I’d switch my votes out for those two if we were ready to play the game all over.
6. There’s a Real Movement to Soften on Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
They’re different than the rest of the steroid guys, you see. And they might well be. So we’ll have to see if people are willing to forgive and forget over the next six years. Or if they’ll be banished to Mark McGwire/Rafael Palmeiro Island. And while we’re at it, there seems to be another real movement to let the BWAA vote on Pete Rose. Just to be clear, Shoeless Joe Jackson was on the first ever Hall of Fame ballot in 1936. He got two votes and was never back on. But Rose has never gotten that opportunity. And aren’t being banned from baseball and being in the Hall of Fame two different things?
Okay. That about wraps up my excitement from Hall of Fame Announcement Day. See you next year when Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines finally get in. And I complain even more about Trevor Hoffman.