The year is 2016. As a human race, we cannot be happy about anything. Seriously. Last night, Ken Griffey Jr. garnered the highest percentage of the Hall of Fame vote since the first ballots were cast in 1936. Left off only three ballots, The Kid got more votes than Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and obviously, anyone else who has entered Cooperstown.
That three people dared to leave Junior off their ballots has made most of us rational baseball fans very irrational. A Twitter witch hunt ensues. Pitchforks are sharpened and assumptions are made. Anyone who failed to check Griffey’s name off is obviously an attention-hungry dolt or an out-of-touch old fogey undeserving of a vote in the 2017 election.
Obviously, Griffey is a Hall of Famer. In recent years, there has been some sort of assumption that the best players need to go in with a 100% vote. It didn’t happen to Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn, Greg Maddux, or Randy Johnson. I’m not sure how angry everyone got back in 1982 when Aaron could not muster up all the votes; I was negative-seven years old. Somehow it’s a surprise when Griffey comes up a few votes short of reaching the mythical unanimous selection.
I don’t know who decided not to vote for Ken Griffey. For their sake, I hope they were not the ones to vote for Mike Sweeney, David Eckstein, or Jason Kendall. May the good lord in heaven have mercy on their soul if they were.
There is always going to be someone who has to be “that guy” when it comes time to cast the Hall vote. “That guy” eats your last slice of pizza even though he didn’t pay for it. He farts in the car while you’re stuck in traffic. He finishes a roll of toilet paper without replacing it. He plays Candy Crush on his phone with the sound all the way up. “That guy” also does not vote for Ken Freaking Griffey Jr. in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility and goes to sleep feeling good about himself. “I’ll show him,” he thinks to himself with a sly smile affixed to his face.
When you get 440 people together, it is extremely hard to get all of them to think exactly the same way. Ninety-nine-point-three percent is about as unanimous as you can possibly hope to get with that large a sample size. Yes, it’s silly not to vote for Griffey and cite past vote totals. Tom Seaver had led the way before Griffey. That hardly means he is the single greatest Hall of Famer in the history of baseball. Carl Yastrzemski beat Ted Williams by a full percentage point. That does not mean Yaz was the greatest outfielder in Boston Red Sox history. We get far too caught up in vote totals and percentages these days.
The outrage over Griffey’s three misplaced votes is good, but misguided. We want the Hall of Fame voting process revamped. That’s good. Being up in arms on a night when all we need to be doing is celebrating Junior and watching old highlights is another thing. Maybe someone will go in unanimously. Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter are the next two players due up for election who have a shot. They might get it, they might not. When the time comes, however, and “that guy” leaves Mo or Jeets off his ballot to prove some wildly misguided point, let’s keep the faux-outrage to a minimum.