I'm back from vacation and since the Hall of Fame announcement will come on Wednesday, let's do a couple of Hall-related posts to help pass the time as we wait to see where Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon, Chris Davis, Dexter Fowler (Nos. 4 through 8 on Keith Law's top 50 free agents) and others sign.
Ken Griffey Jr. will get elected, which won't be a surprise, but the intriguing news is that he has a chance to get elected with the highest percentage ever -- maybe even becoming the first unanimous Hall of Fame selection. Ryan Thibs keeps track of all publicly revealed ballots and so far all 143 have included Griffey. Even Murray Chass checked off Griffey, the only player he voted for.
(Others currently above the 75 percent threshold: Mike Piazza at 87 percent; Jeff Bagwell at 81 percent; and Tim Raines at 80 percent. Encouraging news for Bagwell and Raines, although voters who don't reveal their ballots usually vote for fewer candidates, so it's going to be very close for those two.)
As for Griffey, the chance he gets elected with 100 percent of the vote is extremely slim. After all, last year there were 15 writers who didn't vote for Randy Johnson (and 49 who didn't vote for Pedro Martinez) and in 2014 there were 16 voters who somehow found reason not to vote for Greg Maddux. A few of those "no" votes came from voters who left off those guys because they wanted to vote for more than the 10 players allowed and knew Johnson and Maddux were slam dunks and thus skipped over them to support another player. My guess is this may happen to Griffey as well. Some of the "no" votes may have been blank ballots protesting the steroid era. And some of those "no" votes simply came from voters who had no knowledge or sense of baseball history.
Working in Griffey's favor, however, is that the ranks of voters have been purged of those more likely to turn in oddball ballots or cranky curmudgeons who may dismiss everybody from the steroid era. The Hall of Fame board changed the eligibility rules of the BBWAA electorate last July, stipulating that "potential Hall of Fame voters meet requirements as active members covering the game, while providing a 10-year grace period for those no longer active."
This gives Griffey an excellent chance to break Tom Seaver's record of 98.8 percent. Seaver was named on 425 of 430 ballots -- 98.84 percent, or just ahead of Nolan Ryan's 98.79 percent (he was named on 491 of 497 ballots). Here are the top 10 highest vote percentages:
1. Tom Seaver: 98.8
2. Nolan Ryan: 98.8
3. Cal Ripken: 98.5
4. Ty Cobb: 98.2
5. George Brett: 98.2
6. Hank Aaron: 97.8
7. Tony Gwynn: 97.6
8. Randy Johnson: 97.3
9. Greg Maddux: 97.2
10. Mike Schmidt: 96.5
Yes, Willie Mays doesn't even have one of the 10 highest percentages. Twenty-three voters out of 432 didn't vote for him back in 1979. (Babe Ruth doesn't rank in the top 10 either, but his election came in the first year of balloting, when eligibility rules weren't necessarily clear.)
In November, Joe Posnanski wrote about the wacky history of the BBWAA's failure to elect any player unanimously. One Latin American voter didn't vote for Aaron because he voted only for Luis Aparicio. One voter didn't vote for Mike Schmidt because Schmidt didn't sign autographs for kids. Bill Conlin "wrote a belligerent column bragging about" why he didn't vote for Ryan.
So Seaver holds the percentage record. He won 311 games. He won three Cy Young Awards and a World Series with the Miracle Mets. At the time of his election, he was regarded as maybe the greatest pitcher of all time, or certainly the greatest of the modern era. Since then, he has been equaled or maybe surpassed by Johnson, Maddux and Roger Clemens, but in 1992 he was a no-brainer, even for those voters with extreme standards for Hall of Fame election. Plus, everybody respected and admired Tom Seaver. As Posnanski wrote, "There was no argument against him."
Yet five voters failed to check Seaver's name. What happened? For starters, 1992 would have been Pete Rose's first year on the ballot. Posnanski writes:
But for some voters, just writing in Pete Rose was not a strong enough message. Three writers sent in blank ballots as their own kind of weird protest.
In other words, three of the five people who did not vote for Seaver were those who sent in blank ballots to protest Pete Rose.
That leaves only two people who actually did not vote for Seaver. Well, get this: One of those people had open-heart surgery just before he filled out the ballot. He was still woozy -- apparently still in the hospital -- but he wanted to fill the thing out. He left off Seaver by mistake.
That leaves only one person who did not vote for Seaver. And you know why? Right: He was one of those kooky leftovers from the 1970s who still did not vote for first-ballot players.
In other words, it could have happened. Tom Seaver could have been voted in unanimously. And if that had happened, I feel certain that others would have gone in unanimously because the meme would have been destroyed. Maddux probably would have gone in unanimously. Ripken probably would have gone in unanimously. The Big Unit probably would have gone in unanimously.
There you go. If not for Rose protesters and open-heart surgery, Seaver still would have fallen one vote short of unanimous selection.
But maybe Griffey gets there. I hope so. Let's put it this way: If Griffey falls a vote or two short of 100 percent, I'd hate to be the writer on the wrong side of history.