Year Inducted: 2016 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 437/440)
It is mystifying that there still hasn’t been a single, solitary player that has been a unanimous selection for the Hall of Fame. That hurts the credibility of the BBWAA for some fans, as the writers don’t have to explain their choices (even though most of them do) and don’t need to disclose who they voted for to the general public. It would help the process in terms of transparency if the writers had to publish an apologia of their ballots not to be harassed for their opinions, but to explain them to the public that pays for the Hall of Fame. Whether it’s just due to the politics of the ballot (with only 10 spots some writers won’t vote for an obvious candidate to help one that might need the help more) or the distinction of being a first ballot player, the fans deserve to know why a player they admired is or isn’t getting recognition for the Hall of Fame. Perhaps, if something like this was implemented, Ken Griffey Jr may have gotten those missing three votes to be unanimous.
When Griffey came up, he was tagged as the player who would do everything. He was fast, he could hit for power, he could field, he had that killer smile and he was able to reach the younger generation. For 22 seasons, Ken Griffey Jr put on a show at the big league level on almost all sides of the game. He hit .284/.370/.538 with a wRC+ of 131. Junior was one of eight players to hit 600 homers in his career, finishing with a total of 630. Along with those homers, Griff hit 524 doubles and 38 triples among his 2781 career hits. Griffey was always in a position to drive in runs no matter the lineup he was in, and he cashed in by driving in 1836 runs. Early in his career, Griffey could run the bases well and ended his career with 184 swipes and scored 1662 runs.
Defensively, no one looked better in center field than Junior. He glided towards the ball and would snag a ball on a dive, or even better on a leap at the wall. While with the Mariners, Griffey accumulated 74 fielding runs while patrolling center field and becoming the face of baseball.
From the moment he stepped on a ballfield, Griffey was pegged for greatness. It seemed like wherever he went, the expectations were there that Griffey would be breaking all the records, especially Hank Aaron’s home run record. And, for a long time, it looked like he would. Then in Spring Training while with the Reds one year, Griffey tore his hamstring and from that point on he was never the same. Gone was the smooth fielding and running ability. Griffey still had his power, but for three years he could barely play and looked like a shell of his former self. After posting a very strong 2005 season, Griffey’s age and legs kept him from the heights he seemed destined for. That’s the only reason Griffey isn’t higher on this list, as the latter half of his career really hurt his overall numbers, especially his defense which went quickly with his leg injuries and ended up being a negative value overall.
Griffey was one of the best players of all-time, and the fact that three people out there who hold authority over the Hall of Fame inductees couldn’t accept that fact is equal parts interesting and infuriating. Sometimes greatness can be seen just as easily as it can be determined from a stat table. Griffey should have been unanimous, but definitely deserved his placement in the upper echelon of baseball players.
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