I tried to come up with a different headline because I thought I had too much self-respect for click-bait, but this column is about the reasons I wish Ken Griffey Jr. had gotten fewer Hall of Fame votes, so anything else would have been dishonest.
Here are two reasons I wish Griffey had gotten fewer votes:
1) Because a Hall of Fame election should be a time for celebration, not a time for outrage
Do I think Griffey is a deserving Hall of Famer? Of course I do. So do the three people who didn’t vote for him. No one thinks Griffey is unworthy any more than the two people who voted for David Eckstein actually think he is worthy.
But there’s no extra credit for being unanimous (which no one ever has been in a normal election). There’s no extra credit for having the highest percentage of the vote ever (which Griffey did). Junior’s plaque will look just like everyone else’s, even the poor schlubs who only got 91 percent of the vote like Pedro Martinez or the talentless hacks who only got 82 percent like Joe Morgan or the hopeless losers who weren’t good enough to get elected in their first year of eligibility like Joe DiMaggio and Roy Campanella and Yogi Berra and Cy Young.
Being a member of the Hall of Fame is not gradable. You can’t be “kind of” a Hall of Famer. It is binary. You’re in or you’re out. Griffey’s dad is out; Griffey is in. Mike Piazza was out, but now he’s in. You can be a little cold or very cold; you can be kind of happy or deliriously happy. But Piazza (83 percent) and Griffey (99.3 percent) and Don Drysdale (elected in his tenth year of eligibility) and Ron Santo (elected by the Veteran’s Committee after his death) are all exactly the same amount of Hall of Famer.
It just seems silly to me that we’re upset that Griffey, who we can all agree was not the best player in baseball history, “only” got the highest percentage of the vote ever. And to be honest, I think the outrage would be less if 20 or 40 people had left him off the ballot. Last year, 49 voters left Pedro off their ballots and 15 left off Randy Johnson. The year before that, 16 left off Greg Maddux. And guess what? Everyone survived, and the outrage was short and sweet.
It’s just because Griffey got so tantalizingly close to being unanimous, especially with Ryan Thibodaux’s ballot tracker showing him unanimous among all public ballots, that people are so upset. For a brief moment, people thought there was a chance that we might see our first unanimous election. I mean, not me specifically, but people. And to have that hope pulled away makes people mad. So for that reason, I wish Griffey had sailed in with 94 percent of the vote so we could all just be happy for him.
2) Because some other people needed the votes more
If 11 people who voted for Griffey had instead voted for Edmonds, Griffey would be in the Hall of Fame with 96.8 percent of the vote and Edmonds would still be on the ballot for more consideration. If another 40 of them had voted for Edgar instead, Griffey would have sailed in with 87.7 percent and Martinez would have 52.5 percent of the vote and more momentum going into his final three years. Tim Raines, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling — all three are worthy of the Hall of Fame and would have benefited much more from those votes than Griffey did.
Of course, if I were a voter, I wouldn’t play that game, and I am not saying voters should have. I’m saying I wish they had, in retrospect. And maybe taking votes from Griffey is not the right way to go about it. Maybe the 54 votes Mark McGwire got in his final year of eligibility with no chance at election are the ones we should be looking at. Or the 330 votes tallied by the combination of Alan Trammell and Lee Smith in their last and second-to-last times on the ballot, respectively. Sure, maybe you believe Trammell or Smith should be a Hall of Famer, but at some point a lost cause is a lost cause.
Call me a voting socialist if you like, but it seems silly to focus on the three votes Griffey didn’t get instead of the 107 that he did get but didn’t need.
I’m glad Griffey is in the Hall of Fame, and he undoubtedly deserved it. I just wish he (and a few others) had gotten a lot fewer votes.