With Griffey’s election assured, the only drama surrounding Wednesday’s announcement is the percentage of votes he will receive. Former Mariners teammate Edgar Martinez is on the ballot but is expected to fall short in the voting.
Ken Griffey Jr. will be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
The announcement will air on MLB Network at 3 p.m. Seattle time and streamed live on MLB.com.
Though the honor is voted on by approximately 475 eligible members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, and a player must receive 75 percent of the vote for induction, there is no doubt the former Mariners center fielder will receive more than the requisite number of votes in his first year of eligibility.
It was certain from the day Griffey became eligible for the game’s highest career honor — five years after abruptly retiring on June 2, 2010, leaving Seattle and returning home to Florida amid a frustrating final major-league season.
It was certain in the twilight of his career when injuries had ravaged his body, robbing him of grace and athleticism and slowing that majestic swing that had pushed him from greatness to legendary.
And to many in the Mariners organization and around baseball, it was certain in the early years of his career. Griffey burst onto the major-league scene in 1989 — cap backward and smile on his face — blasting home runs and crashing into walls to rob them while changing the perception of baseball in Seattle.
With Griffey’s election assured, the only drama surrounding Wednesday’s announcement is the percentage of votes he will receive.
No player has been a unanimous selection. The player with the highest percentage of votes is Tom Seaver, who received 98.84 percent in 1992. Fellow pitcher Nolan Ryan was slightly behind him at 98.79 percent in 1999. Former Mariners pitcher Randy Johnson received 97.3 percent last season.
Given the history of the voting, it seems unlikely that Griffey will be a unanimous vote. At least one voter likely will leave him off the ballot for some reason — logical or not.
But Griffey could set a record.
The past few years, Ryan Thibodaux has been tracking Hall of Fame votes from writers who make their selections public, logging them into a spreadsheet and showing voting trends. As of Tuesday, Thibodaux had logged 166 Hall of Fame ballots, and Griffey appeared on 100 percent of them.
Still, that’s only about a third of the eligible voters. That elusive ballot or ballots without Griffey’s name seem inevitable.
Griffey’s accomplishments in 22 big-league seasons were beyond Hall of Fame worthy.
In 2,617 career games — the majority in a Seattle uniform — Griffey had 2,781 hits, 630 homers (sixth-most in MLB history), 1,662 runs, 1,836 RBI and a .907 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).
From an honors standpoint, he appeared in 13 All-Star Games (voted a starter in all 13), earned 10 Gold Gloves, seven Silver Slugger awards and was voted to Major League Baseball’s All-Century team at age 29. He was the unanimous American League MVP in 1997 and led the AL in homers four times (1994, 1997-99).
If not for a series of injuries with Seattle and later Cincinnati, those numbers and honors would be even more impressive.
“He was one of those rare guys that seem to play the game at a completely different level than everyone else,’’ Mariners teammate Jay Buhner said. “A select few are able to slow the game down and seem to play at a different pace, so easy, so effortless. … He had all five tools. There wasn’t a weakness to his game.”
Griffey also helped save baseball in Seattle, leading the Mariners to the 1995 American League Division Series where he hit five homers and scored the series-clinching run over the Yankees. It ended the possibility of the team leaving for Tampa Bay and helped lead to the construction of Safeco Field.
“Even the young guys we have right now, they still come up and ask, ‘Who is the best player you ever saw?’ ” said Kansas City Royals coach Rusty Kuntz, who was a coach with the Mariners in Griffey’s early years. “I say, ‘There’s only one, dude. Ken Griffey Jr., man. He’s the best player I’ve ever seen.’ ”
For a generation of fans, Griffey was the player everyone wanted to be. They turned their cap backward, they tried to emulate that upright batting stance — back elbow up, back cocked, slight shimmy to stay loose. He made baseball cool.
“When I think of Ken Griffey Jr., I think of the smile, and the passion, and someone who absolutely loved baseball and made us as players remember why we played the game,” former teammate Scott Bradley said.
Though he played 945 games with the Reds in his hometown of Cincinnati, Griffey has indicated privately that he plans to wear a Mariners cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. He will be the first Mariners player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Griffey’s former teammate, Johnson, went in with an Arizona Diamondbacks cap.
Of course, in typical Griffey fashion, he has been adamant in not discussing the Hall of Fame and his pending induction, even with his closest friends.
“Why would I talk about something that hasn’t happened?” he asked last spring, eschewing Hall of Fame questions.
He loathed talking about his personal accomplishments during his playing days, and it hasn’t changed since his retirement. It makes him uncomfortable.
He admitted as much when he was inducted into the Mariners’ Hall of Fame in 2013.
“Am I nervous?” he said. “Yes. I was nervous three weeks ago. I was nervous a month ago. I was nervous two months ago when they told me. I grew up in a household where it was a lot easier to talk about somebody else than talk about yourself.”
Perhaps that induction will help prepare him for his upcoming induction.
In a perfect world for Griffey, former teammate Edgar Martinez also would be inducted this year so they could be together like their glory days in the middle of the Mariners lineup.
Martinez’s induction into Cooperstown is anything but certain. And he likely won’t join Griffey this year. Martinez has watched his percentage fall well short of the necessary 75 percent since becoming eligible in 2010. But there are some hints of hope for Martinez and Mariners fans.
Per Thibodaux’s tracking, Martinez had received votes on 78 of the 166 votes as of Tuesday — 49.8 percent. Last year, his sixth on the ballot, he received 148 votes (27 percent). It was a slight uptick from the 25.2 percent he received in 2014 but well short of the 36.5 percent he garnered in 2012.
The early polling seems to indicate Martinez is on the rise and could receive more than 40 percent of the vote. That increase could bode well as voters slowly begin to realize how much of an offensive force he was despite playing the bulk of his games at designated hitter. Martinez has three more years remaining on his 10 years of Hall of Fame eligibility.
|Baseball Hall leading vote-getters|
|Former Mariners center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. could set a record for Hall of Fame voting, which will be announced Wednesday:|
|Tom Seaver, pitcher||1992||425-430||98.84|
|Nolan Ryan, pitcher||1999||491-497||98.79|
|Cal Ripken Jr., shortstop/3B||2007||537-545||98.53|
|Ty Cobb, center fielder||1936||222-226||98.23|
|George Brett, third baseman||1999||488-497||98.19|
|Hank Aaron, outfielder||1982||406-415||97.83|
|Tony Gwynn, outfielder||2007||532-545||97.61|
|Randy Johnson, pitcher||2015||534-549||97.27|
|Greg Maddux, pitcher||2014||555-571||97.20|
|Mike Schmidt, third baseman||1995||444-460||96.52|