From Greg Maddux two years ago to Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez this past winter and now Ken Griffey Jr., more “should/could be unanimous” players are making their way on to the Hall of Fame ballot.
But, as we all know (and history continues to teach us)…no one is a lock.
In 1992, Tom Seaver got the highest percentage of any vote (98.84%) after being left off just five ballots, beating out Ty Cobb’s longstanding best of 98.23%. Nolan Ryan (98.79% in 1999) and Cal Ripken Jr. (98.53% in 2007) would end up surpassing Cobb as well.
Fast forward to January 6.
That’s the day when we find out just how many votes Junior Griffey will see on this, his first (and only) stint on the Hall of Fame ballot. Currently, the 13-time All-Star is polling at 100% (a solid 114 of 114 as of December 29) of the ballots that have been released publicly, but it’s more of a lock that that total will change versus it staying the same.
Why? Because this.
Every year, there are guys who, because they’re bitter, think they’re clever or otherwise will submit a blank ballot (looking your way, Murray Chass) as a way of making a point. That point? I’m not entirely sure, but I’m fairly certain that with the list of candidates that have been sent his way over the past couple of years…there’s almost no way anyone with a sane mind can conclude that none of the former players are eligible for enshrinement.
Similarly, but not really, are the writers who are using their votes strategically. Take Mike Berardino for example.
A year ago, when Johnson and Martinez virtual locks for Cooperstown, the Pioneer Press writer opted to not vote for the pair, but instead use his vote to ensure some others stayed on the ballot a little longer.
“Randy and Pedro weren’t in any real danger of failing to reach the 5-percent mark required to stay on the ballot,” Bernardino wrote. “What’s more, these two first-timers appeared to be super candidates, the type that wouldn’t just cross the 75-percent threshold for induction but soar past it to near-record levels of support.”
Then, there are the guys who are just simply confused.
Remember Jerry Dowling, the longtime cartoonist for the Cincinnati Enquirer who, two years ago, called Craig Biggio (who fell two votes shy of induction) a cheater because he wore “armor” to the plate? Mind you, Dowling supported Barry Bonds’ use of the same protective gear, but that’s only because the home run king “didn’t want a broken, bruised arm”. Apparently Biggio, who got hit by nearly three times as many pitches as Bonds, didn’t mind the risk of injury.
To make it better (or worse?), Dowling also opted to not vote for Frank Thomas because, as a Cincinnati Reds fan, he claims to not be familiar with players that suited up only in the American League. Of course, he routinely voted for Jack Morris because, frankly…I don’t know why. You see, just like Thomas, Morris spent his entire Major League career not in the National League and, well, Dowling used to draw funnies for a newspaper.
Speaking of Morris…there’s the curious case of Ken Gurnick.
The MLB.com scribe infamously voted for Morris (and only Morris) when the hurler was on his fifteenth and final ballot in 2014. His reason… “as for those who played during the period of PED use, I won’t vote for any of them.” It should be noted (and it was by many) that Morris indeed did play (albeit briefly) during the so-called PED era, but, hey…why should that enter in to any of this?
Another Morris supporter, Marty Noble, routinely keeps his votes to the minimum because…he wants shorter Hall of Fame ceremonies. Of course!
Which leads me to this. The outright stupid.
Matt Trowbridge from the Rockford Register Star said, during Maddux’s 2014 campaign, that he wouldn’t have voted for the surefire Hall of Famer. The reason? It’s simple. Maddux cheated during his years on the mound by getting the umpires to call low-outside corner pitches strikes.
“Maddux and (fellow Hall of Famer Tom) Glavine didn’t fool anyone,” the self-proclaimed “picky” slowpitch softball hitter wrote. “They got the umpire to conspire with them.”
Thankfully, Trowbridge hasn’t kept his BBWAA card current and, based on his flawed logic…I think we’re all the better for it.
So this all begs the question…who is not going to vote for Junior first? And better yet…what asinine reason are they going to have for it?!?