We should've known that Ken Griffey Jr. was going to set the record for the highest vote percentage in Baseball Hall of Fame history.
Mr. Show called it years ago:
Griffey fell three votes short of unanimity, which has always been an overblown concept to me, more so recently. With the process dragged down by voting angst and the backlog of qualified candidates piling up, the idea of unanimous player seems kinda wasteful. I wouldn't want to be the guy that didn't vote for a surefire Hall of Famer, but I do respect the voters with a socialist streak who seek to redistribute the wealth to guys whose induction -- or even ballot existence -- is in jeopardy.
Even before then, though, I just didn't think it was that big of a deal. Hank Aaron wasn't unanimous. That doesn't mean that nobody should be unanimous, but does mean that it doesn't really matter.
That said, it's kinda cool to see Griffey set the new high. He wasn't the best player of his era, but he was the best at being a star, at least in his Seattle days. It's hard to overstate just how much hype preceded him -- he was the No. 1 pick, he debuted at age 19, and his Upper Deck rookie card fueled that industry's bubble, and somehow he exceeded all of that with all sorts of style.
He was his generation's most beautiful player, so it's fitting that his vote percentage is equally appealing. Good for him, and I look forward to seeing "Chicago, A.L. 2008" on his plaque.
Let's go through some of the other notable results from Wednesday, even if they didn't make history.
Tim Raines, 69.8 percent: He should get in next year because of the last-year bump (more on that in a bit), but these predictably slow climbs of guys like Raines and Jeff Bagwell (71.6 percent) are what gum up the process. As long as the selection process artificially limits voters to a 10-candidate max, anyway.
Part of the problem -- watching the ballots come in on Ryan Thibodaux's tracker, there's a weird faction of voters who make their choices based on who they think will be inducted. This is good for Raines next year, but why do these voters exist?
Also, there's now a 20 percent gap between his public and private vote percentages, so he's going to need a huge public margin to feel comfortable before Judgement Day.
Alan Trammell, 40.9 percent: Here's why Raines should feel good: Trammell jumped 15 percent in his last year. That boost is probably inflated by a couple of time-sensitive factors -- the culling of the electorate, as well as a four-player Class of 2015 that cleared open more spots (and brain space) than usual.
I have mixed feelings about this phenomenon. In our exercise, I considered dropping my steady vote for Trammell since it stood no chance of accomplishing anything immediate, as it might be better used on somebody who risked falling off the ballot.
However, a healthy showing in the voting, even if well short of the threshold, could help in the Veterans Committee process. That's why it's hard to knock voters for randomly jumping on the bandwagon well after it could've helped the most, even if it leads to situations like...
Jim Edmonds, 2.5 percent: There's really no good reason for a player as good as Edmonds to be dismissed from the conversation after one year. I consider him similar to Larry Walker -- two well-rounded outfielders who weren't as available as you'd like your best players to be, but when hard to top whenever they were on the field. That balance is the kind of stuff that deserves a rigorous open debate, but we won't get it here.
This continues a troubling trend of undervaluing up-the-middle defense, because Kenny Lofton was one-and-done as well. At least Walker is hanging around (15.5 percent).
Curt Schilling, 52.3 percent: A run of pitching Griffeys -- Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez -- overshadowed Schilling and Mike Mussina, but now that they're the best of the bunch, they're being treated like such. Schilling gained 13 percent in his fourth year, which puts him safely within striking distance of induction.
Mike Mussina, 43.0 percent: While he lags behind Schilling in overall percentage, he made the bigger jump, as he registered just 24.6 percent of votes last year.
Edgar Martinez, 43.4 percent: He had his own 16-percent surge. He should be able to maintain momentum for one more year, and he'll need to, because 2018 has Chipper Jones and Jim Thome.
Roger Clemens, 45.2 percent, and Barry Bonds, 44.3 percent: They both gained 8-9 percent, which is strangely reassuring. Mark McGwire apologized for his steroid use like people wanted him to, and his vote totals went the wrong way. Clemens and Bonds didn't, and they're steadily climbing toward consideration. I don't exactly know how that reward system works, but at least there's an equation behind it?
Trevor Hoffman, 67.3 percent. This one surprised the hell out of me. He was polling around 60 percent, and I figured he'd get the usual modern-player dip when all the votes were tabulated.
Instead, he's one or two years away from induction, which seems a little strong with so many deserving candidates, especially when Billy Wagner gets only 10.5 percent in the first year. If I had to choose between the two for my team's closer over a 10-year period, I'd pick Wagner easily.
I've been cool to Hoffman's case. He had the 601 saves, but he didn't really shine in big opportunities. I wouldn't expect him to be Mariano Rivera, but his postseason history is pedestrian, or worse if you lump in his collapse in Game 163 back in 2007. He struggled more in All-Star Games, which doesn't count, but doesn't help, either. When you stack that up against the load Wade Davis has shouldered the last two Octobers, I can't help feeling like Hoffman should've had more moments for that long of a career. Or at least something to offset that game in 2007.
Grant Brisbee had his own doubts, and his post is worth a read:
This is just my thought process. Every voter will have their own spirits in the cocktail, but the Golden Rule of closers in the Hall of Fame is what I'll always go back to. Don't weight longevity too much. The year after Trevor Hoffman retired, the Padres enjoyed a Hoffman-like season from Heath Bell. The year after that, they acquired Huston Street, who was Hoffman-like for years. If you're describing a Hall of Famer to me, you would hope their teams said, "What now?" frantically when they weren't around. It's hard for closers to make teams that reliant on them.
A Hall of Fame closer is probably someone rare and effective, someone distinctly better than his peers for over a decade or more. Closers should still get serious consideration for the Hall, as they're all an important part of their team, but if you're wondering why the standards are so high, it's because they should be. As the Era of the Closer gets longer and longer, expect this argument more and more.