Griffey makes Hall on first ballot, Raines will...
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Jan 06, 2016  |  Vote 0    0

Griffey makes Hall on first ballot, Raines will have to wait for 10th: Griffin

The Expos outfielder was 23 votes shy of induction this year and is almost certain to reach the Hall when he is on the ballot for the last time

OurWindsor.Ca

The fact that Ken Griffey, Jr. was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday seemed inevitable. The bigger story is the number of ballots he was named on (437 of 440), which gave him the highest percentage (99.3) in the history of the BBWAA vote. And who were those three writers that omitted him?

Junior had been viewed as a future inductee from the moment he arrived in the big leagues. Each and every time I interviewed Griffey one-on-one in the years from 1999 to 2010, there was forever a feeling of being in the presence of a special player, a man confident in his own sublime talent. He understood his responsibilities to the sport, fulfilling them with style and a smile.

On Wednesday, a record percentage of eligible baseball writers spoke, clearly agreeing with that assessment. Previously, the top five inductees in terms of percentage had included Tom Seaver (98.8 per cent in 1992), Nolan Ryan (98.8 in 2002), Cal Ripken, Jr. (98.5 in 2007), Ty Cobb (98.2 in 1936) and George Brett (98.2 in 1999). The raw number of ballots cast in 2016 was the lowest total since 2003. The reason for the decrease was that, instead of a lifetime right to vote for retired writers, many BBWAA members that had not covered MLB in the past 10 years were eliminated from the voting roster.

Griffey will be joined in the Hall of Fame class of 2016 by slugging catcher Mike Piazza. The induction weekend is July 22-25.

Griffey and Piazza represent the opposite ends of the draft spectrum. Griffey was the first overall pick in 1987, chosen by the Mariners, becoming the first such player in the Hall. Piazza was chosen by the Dodgers in the 62nd round in 1988, the latest draft pick to gain entry to Cooperstown.

The 2016 voting results could be encouraging for some of the players stuck in the uncertainty surrounding the steroid era. Tainted candidates Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds finished seventh and eighth in the voting, with each enjoying about an eight per cent increase in support. Clemens is now at 45.2 per cent, Bonds at 44.3. They still have a long way to go but, with Piazza’s inclusion, there may be a shift in voter attitude.

Piazza has been connected to the steroid era by rumour and innuendo for years. There were whispered stories that he confided in certain friends and media members, admitting he had indeed used steroids. But he didn’t fail any tests as a player, was not included in the Mitchell Report and only admitted in his autobiography to using the supplement androstenedione, banned from the Olympics, now illegal in baseball. The big lesson here, with no evidence to the contrary, is that Piazza has questionable judgment in friends.

Among those forced to wait for another year are former Expos outfielder Tim Raines, who will be on the ballot for the last time next year, and first baseman Jeff Bagwell. Bagwell missed the Hall by 15 votes, while Raines finished 23 votes shy of the 75 per cent necessary. History suggests they both will make it in 2017. Raines will wear an Expos hat.

It was unrealistic to expect Raines make the 20-per-cent jump necessary from last year’s voting. Only 10 players in history had come from more than 20 per cent away to gain election the next year. But the support for Raines has steadily increased.

What has always helped Raines and his case for entry have been comparisons with the other great leadoff man of his era, Rickey Henderson. Both were elite base stealers with extra-base power and on-base ability that made their cases solid. Henderson has been a Hall member since 2009, his first year on the ballot. Raines spoke last spring of the Henderson comparisons and what it would mean to be ushered into the Hall alongside friend Andre Dawson.

“I kind of felt like if you talked about two leadoff guys in the history of the game, I felt like I was ranked among the top of all time,” Raines said. “There was Rickey and then there was me. For me the only thing that separated us, he stole more bases. He had more attempts. He took a lot of easy bases, you know, when games were out of hand. I never did that. For me, I never played the game for individual stats. I set goals. But I never set goals to want to be the best of all time.”

With a solid chance to finally gain induction, Raines spoke about what it would be like to stand on the stage on induction day and join the 70 living Hall of Famers.

“It would mean everything to me,” Raines said. “I never even thought in my wildest dreams . . . that I would get the opportunity where people would even be thinking about me, talking about me in that way. But (when you) spend 23 years as a major-league player, that’s the ultimate goal. I think sometimes guys reach a pinnacle that they never thought they would reach. I never dreamed about it. But again I never dreamed about being a major-league baseball player when I was a kid. It would mean so much because it’s something that as a kid I never thought would ever happen.”

Raines should take heart in the realization nobody ever asks how many years it took. You are simply recognized as a Hall of Famer. By the way, Joe DiMaggio made it in his fourth try.

Toronto Star

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