Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza attained baseball immortality Wednesday, earning enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.
The Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins honored the two stars:
Ken Griffey Jr. is Cooperstown bound! Junior receives over 99% of the votes, most in @BaseballHall history. #JrHOF https://t.co/OlxPFG2Lmm2016-1-6 23:05:47
Los Angeles Dodgers @Dodgers
Congratulations, @mikepiazza31! #HOF https://t.co/GgqNudSsVh2016-1-6 23:05:13
Miami Marlins @Marlins
Once a #MarlinsAlum, always a #MarlinsAlum. Congratulations @mikepiazza31 on being elected into the @BaseballHall! https://t.co/HZkl7jhohw2016-1-6 23:50:10
Here are the full results from the Baseball Writers' Association of America:
|2016 Baseball Hall of Fame Voting Results|
|Player||Votes||% of Ballot|
|Ken Griffey Jr.||437||99.3%|
|Source: Baseball Hall of Fame|
MLB.com's Greg Johns was on hand to see Griffey get the call about his HOF enshrinement:
Greg Johns @GregJohnsMLB
Honored to be at Griffey's home in Orlando for announcement. Here he is hugging son Trey after getting the call. https://t.co/EXGCRuXPJK2016-1-6 23:13:58
"I'm really superstitious," he said regarding the Hall of Fame, per MLB Network PR. "I've played in the HOF Game three times and I never set foot in the building."
"I wasn't expecting to break that record," said Griffey about his record-breaking ballot percentage, per Johns. "It's been up there for a long time."
Griffey added that he "can't be upset" about not being on three of the 440 ballots, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.
According to MLB.com's William Boor, the NFL and NBA have seen 14 and 13 No. 1 overall picks, respectively, enter their Halls of Fame; Griffey will be the first in MLB. He and Piazza make for an interesting combination, per C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer:
C. Trent Rosecrans @ctrent
Tomorrow you could the Hall of Famers with the highest draft position (Griffey 1st overall) & lowest draft position (1,390, Piazza)2016-1-5 16:20:17
Griffey was the lone inductee this year for whom an enshrinement was a mere formality. The 13-time All-Star was a lock for the Hall of Fame as soon as his name hit the ballot, and the bigger question was whether he'd be the first player to earn unanimous induction.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan were on 98.8 percent of the ballots submitted in their respective years, tying for the highest percentage ever before Wednesday. Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Ted Williams and Stan Musial are among the greatest players of all time, and none was on more than 95.1 percent of the ballots in his HOF year.
Griffey sits sixth all-time in home runs (630), 15th in runs batted in (1,836) and collected 10 Gold Gloves and seven Silver Sluggers in his career. ESPN Stats & Info noted how rare his combination of stellar hitting and fielding is:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Ken Griffey Jr. is 1 of 3 in MLB history with 500 HR and 10 Gold Gloves (Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt) Hall of Fame announcement 6 p.m. ET2016-1-6 16:25:05
Mashable's Sam Laird reflected on how Griffey's level of star power also set him apart from his peers:
Sam Laird @samcmlaird
Ken Griffey Jr. was the only athlete whose shoes were as cool as the NBA guys' in middle school. Feel like that says a lot in some weird way2016-1-6 18:17:37
Yet, all that still wasn't enough to make Griffey a unanimous inclusion. In fairness, that fact is unlikely to dampen the atmosphere in the Griffey household.
While not as much of a shoo-in, Piazza was a likely bet for enshrinement in his fourth year on the ballot. He inched closer and closer with each successive year, beginning at 57.8 percent in 2013 and climbing to 69.9 percent in 2015, per Baseball-Reference.com.
Piazza wasn't as good a defensive catcher as Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk or Gary Carter, but he was in a class by himself as a hitter. Here's a look at where the 12-time All-Star ranked among players at his position, per FanGraphs:
|Mike Piazza—Greatest Offensive Catcher Ever|
|1,912||.308 (10th)||.377 (12th)||.545 (1st)||427 (1st)||1,335 (4th)||.237 (1st)||.390 (4th)||140 (2nd)|
Piazza was also ahead of his time in home run celebrations, as Rotoworld's D.J. Short highlighted:
D.J. Short @djshort
Mike Piazza appreciated the art of bat flipping: https://t.co/0X3etD8hwB2016-1-6 13:22:57
Bench saluted his fellow catcher:
Johnny Bench @JohnnyBench_5
Congrats to Mike Piazza! I love to have another catcher on board! @MLB @Mets2016-1-6 23:06:17
While he won't be remembered as the best player in franchise history, Piazza's arrival in the Big Apple in 1998 helped bring the New York Mets their most successful run since their 1986 World Series title. The Mets lost to the Atlanta Braves in six games in the 1999 National League Championship Series, and a year later, they claimed the NL pennant, ultimately losing to the New York Yankees in the World Series.
Piazza was also responsible for arguably the most memorable home run in Shea Stadium history, putting the Mets ahead in the eighth inning against the Braves in their first home game after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks:
"He gave so much credibility to the franchise," said Mets manager Bobby Valentine, per Mike Puma of the New York Post. "People were proud to wear Mike Piazza jerseys with 'Mets' on the front."
Just as the fact Griffey and Piazza got into the Hall of Fame is little surprise, few will be shocked those stars most often linked with performance-enhancing drugs failed to collect the requisite number of votes for enshrinement.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are the notable exclusions. Until the Baseball Hall of Fame takes a strong stance one way or the other regarding PEDs, voters will continue looking past most stars from the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Simply playing in the PED era is enough to help keep Jeff Bagwell and Jeff Kent out of the Hall of Fame, so Piazza getting in could be a sign of the changing times. USA Today's Bob Nightengale argued it could strengthen Bonds and Clemens' candidacy.
Looking ahead, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines and Curt Schilling continue moving closer to getting in, but they'll have to contend with newcomers Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez and Ivan Rodriguez in 2017. Raines still has a great chance of getting the call after being overlooked for a decade. Schilling and Mussina will likely have to wait another year and potentially longer in Mussina's case.
The 2016 induction ceremony will be on July 24, at which point Piazza and Griffey will officially enter the hallowed halls in Cooperstown, New York.