During the 1990’s, Ken Griffey Jr. became one of the game’s more revered stars and few bright spots in an era marked by labor strife and performance enhancing drug use. His fabled 22-year career became legendary thanks to his sweet swing and stellar play in centerfield. On Monday, the National Baseball Hall of Fame made the first step towards cementing his name among the all-time greats by announcing his Cooperstown candidacy for 2016, along with 15 other first timers.
As a 13-time All-Star and a 10-time Gold Glove award winner for the Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, and Chicago White Sox, Griffey also amassed 83.6 WAR during his career and ranks sixth all-time with 630 career home runs. The most notable new face joining Griffey on this year’s ballot is longtime San Diego Padres’ closer Trevor Hoffman. Best remembered for his National League leading 53 saves in 1998, Hoffman emerged as a dominant closer during the mid-90’s after originally playing shortstop and third base in the minor leagues. Hoffman holds the National League record for career saves with 601, surpassed only by future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera for the major league record.
Notables from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, such as Randy Winn, Mark Grudzielanek, Jim Edmonds, Luis Castillo, Jason Kendall, Mike Lowell, Mike Sweeney, Garret Anderson, Troy Glaus, David Eckstein, Mike Hampton, Brad Ausmus, and Billy Wagner round out the list of first-time nominees to Cooperstown.
Mike Piazza, who fell 28 votes short of election in his second year on the ballot, headlines a returning list of candidates, which includes Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Curt Schilling, and Mike Mussina. With Craig Biggio, John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, and Randy Johnson each earning election in 2015, the ballot is open to previous candidates who missed the cut in recent years. The official announcement of the new inductees into baseball’s Hall of Fame will be held during the first week in January, with the induction ceremony taking place on July 24, 2016 in Cooperstown, New York.