|Ken Griffey Jr.|
His career accomplishments are many: 630 home runs; 1,836 RBIs; 2,781 hits; 184 stolen bases; a .284 lifetime batting average; a .538 lifetime slugging percentage; the 1997 AL MVP award; 13 All-Star appearances; nine Gold Gloves; seven Silver Slugger awards, etc., etc., etc.
It was a no-brainer for Griffey to be elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, and elected he was on Wednesday, appearing on 437 of 440 ballots. Griffey earned 99.3 percent of the vote, surpassing Tom Seaver's record of 98.84 percent in 1992.
A lot of folks are making a big deal about Griffey's selection not being unanimous, and I understand the dismay to a point. There's no justification for a voter not naming Griffey on his ballot, but when all is said and done, who cares? I doubt there will ever be anyone voted into the Hall unanimously, and at the end of the day, Griffey is taking his rightful place among the game's greats.
For me, it's more bothersome that only two players were elected this year, when there are at least a half-dozen names on the ballot worthy of enshrinement. Mike Piazza, who received 83 percent of the vote, will be the only man joining Griffey in this year's Hall class.
Piazza, a former 62nd round draft pick -- I don't think they have 62 rounds in the draft anymore -- defied the odds by becoming one of the greatest offensive catchers in the game's history. He finished his career with 427 home runs, 396 of them as a catcher. Piazza is a 12-time All-Star who won 10 Silver Slugger awards. He finished with a .308 career batting average and a .545 slugging percentage. He was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1993. He finished in the top 5 of the MVP balloting five times, including four times in a row from 1993-97.
Congratulations to both of these two great players, but it's surprising some other guys didn't get elected this year. Players need 75 percent of the vote to earn enshrinement.
Here's the list of other guys who fell short:
Jeff Bagwell: 71.6 percent
Tim Raines: 69.8 percent
Trevor Hoffman: 67.3 percent
Curt Schilling: 52.3 percent
Roger Clemens: 45.1 percent
Barry Bonds: 44.3 percent
Edgar Martinez: 43.4 percent
Mike Mussina: 43.0 percent
Alan Trammell: 40.9 percent
Lee Smith: 34.1 percent
Fred McGriff: 20.9 percent
Jeff Kent: 16.6 percent
Larry Walker: 15.5 percent
Mark McGwire: 12.3 percent
Gary Sheffield: 11.6 percent
Billy Wagner: 10.5 percent
Sammy Sosa: 7.0 percent
I'll bet every baseball fan out there can find a few players on that list who they believe should be in the Hall. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there making a case for Bagwell today, but for me, the two guys who deserve more respect than they are getting are Martinez and Kent.
Martinez's 2,247 career hits and 309 career home runs probably aren't good enough for some people, but his career slash line is .312/.418/.515. He's one of only 18 players in the history of baseball to have a career batting average over .300, a career on-base percentage over .400 and a slugging percentage over .500.
Martinez walked (1,283) more times than he struck out (1,202) over his 18-year career. Who does that anymore? And he had a period of dominance, as well, compiling seven seasons with a batting average of .320 or higher. He won AL batting titles in 1992 and 1995.
Why isn't Martinez getting more support? Well, he played for the Seattle Mariners, for one. He'd be enshrined already if he played for the Yankees or the Dodgers. Two, he spent most of his career as a DH, and some whiny purists have yet to accept designated hitter as a legitimate position, even though it's been part of the sport for more than 40 years. It's past time to get over that and put Martinez, one of the most feared hitters in the 1990s, into the Hall.
As for Kent, you would think the most prolific offensive second baseman of the modern era would be able to get at least 20 percent of the ballot, but you'd be wrong.
Of Kent's 377 home runs, 351 came as a second baseman. That's an all-time record. There's also the 2,461 career hits, the .290/.356/.500 career slash, the 560 doubles, four Silver Sluggers, five All-Star appearances and the 2000 NL MVP award. And, Kent was at his best on the postseason stage -- nine home runs in 49 career playoff games, including three home runs during the 2002 World Series.
The case against Kent? Well, his defense was average at best, and he was a jerk. But those factors didn't stop voters from putting Jim Rice in the Hall. I feel comfortable arguing that both Martinez and Kent were better players than Rice, and some other guys who have been inducted, as well.