2016 BJOL HOF Results

January 6, 2016
 
This year, eight-one ballots were cast for the eighth BJOL HOF election. From a crowded ballot, one player was elected.
 
Name
Votes
Percentage
Ken Griffey Jr.
79
97.5%
 
Baseball experienced a generational shift at the start of the 1990’s, and no player represented that shift more than Junior Griffey.
 
I was a big baseball card collector around then, a Beckett subscriber who paid attention to the magazine’s monthly Hot/Cold lists. That magazine spent a lot of time trying to predict who the next stars were going to be. Gregg Jeffries was a big deal before he reached the majors. So was Todd Zeile. So were Phil Plantier and Kevin Maas and Chris Sabo and Matt Nokes and Mike Greenwell. Hell, I can remember Walt Weiss being on a ‘Hot’ list once or twice, because nothing gets card collectors fired up more than an all-glove shortstop with limited speed and no power. 
 
Ken Griffey Jr. was one guy everyone was convinced about, and he was the one guy all of us got right. No one ever traded away Griffey cards, and he rewarded our fidelity with a Hall-of-Fame career.
 
He was our player: he was the bright star of my generation. I was nine years old when Griffey reached the majors, and his would be the first great career I saw in its entirety. I remember all of the hand-wringing in the press about how he played the game. He was a show-off. He didn’t respect the game. He spent too much time negotiating with Nike, and not enough time in the batting cage. He wore his hat backwards. He probably listened to rap music. He probably drove a sports car.  
 
To people my age, all of that was great. Griffey was cool: at a moment when basketball and football started to eclipse baseball out as the national pastime, Griffey was the rare ballplayer who could hold his own with Michael Jordan or Emmitt Smith.
 
Looking back, what I think the change Griffey really represented was the change from being a ‘player’ to being a ‘professional.’ Griffey and Bonds grew up in the game, trailing their fathers into the clubhouses and learning the intricacies of how teams worked. They also learned that baseball was a career.
Baseball wasn’t game to their fathers: they did not come home from a hard day at the office, eager to have a catch in the back yard. Baseball was a career, a living. It was work.
 
We can flash forward a little bit and consider Griffey and Bonds in the context of Bryce Harper: a player who have been ‘working’ at baseball since before he was a teenager. Young player today don’t enter the game eager to ‘play two’: they are professionals who have been building their careers for years before they reach the majors, or even enter the draft. The work is called ‘amateur’, but it hardly seems an apt term anymore. Younger and younger kids are playing on traveling teams, or participating in tournments. They join summer teams, move to warm-weather states that have longer baseball seasons. Young players receive extensive training, extensive coaching. I’m not sure when Bryce Harper was first ‘scouted’, but he was already maneuvering his life towards the draft as a young teenager.
 
Griffey and Bonds were the start of this trend: baseball was their profession long before they were major league players. I think...and this is just speculation, but I’m allowed to speculate…I think that at least some of the resentment of the older generation was about that, instead of the backwards hat or the acrobatics. Griffey seemed like a joyous player, but we couldn’t know if it was sincere. Did he smile and wink because he recognized the great fortune of his life, or did he smile because that was a way to sell t-shirts and jerseys?
 
That is what Griffey represents, at least to me. He was the first star of a generation players that came into the game as professionals, the first generation of players who came into the game fully aware that baseball was a business first, a passion second.  
 
All that is in hindsight, of course. When he was a young player I liked Junior because he was so easy to like: he made baseball look fun and he made it look easy. I don’t know that I’ll see a player who seems so perfectly at ease in every facet of the game as Griffey seemed. He had a beautiful swing. He played an aggressive and acrobatic centerfield. He was a joy to watch, and he is an absolutely deserving of enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. Ours and the real one.
 
*             *             *
 
Griffey joins the following players, elected by the BJOL readers over the years:
 
          2016 – Ken Griffey, Jr.
          2015 – Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Curt Schilling
          2014 – Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina, Lou Whitaker
          2013 – Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens
          2012 – Edgar Martinez
          2011 – Jeff Bagwell
          2010 – Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Mark McGwire
          2009- Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, Bert Blyleven, Alan Trammell
 
After two big pitcher years, we’re coming back to a ballot crowded with offense for a while….offense and relief pitchers.
 
Here’s how the rest of the voting broke down:
 
Bobby Grich
55
67.9%
G. Sheffield
46
56.8%
Dwight Evans
41
50.6%
 
Our two most recent write-in candidates, Bobby Grich and Dwight Evans, each received 50% of the vote, as did the mercurial Gary Sheffield. The ballots are thinning out a bit, and a 67% showing in a player’s first year of eligibility seems a promising omen.
 
I’ve promised, for two years, to write about Dwight Evans, and I’ve failed both years. This isn’t for lack of trying: I’ve tried to write the article, but it spun out past any intention, and I wasn’t able to finish it. And I want to do it right. It’s not right yet, so I’ll keep plugging away on it. Next year, for sure.
 
And. Dawson
33
40.7%
Larry Walker
33
40.7%
Jeff Kent
30
37.0%
Fred McGriff
27
33.3%
Tr. Hoffman
25
30.9%
 
What will we do about Andre Dawson?  He continues to receive about 40% support from our readers, but hasn’t gained any real traction. The same holds for Walker, Kent, and McGriff. We’ll start knocking guys off after ten years, so McGriff and Dawson supporters should be getting nervous.
 
Jim Edmonds
23
28.4%
R.Palmeiro
20
24.7%
Lee Smith
20
24.7%
Kevin Brown
19
23.5%
Kenny Lofton
18
22.2%
 
Jim Edmonds and Kenny Lofton remain on our ballot: they are deserving candidates for consideration, though the ballot is a little crowded in the outfield. Raffy and Lee Smith hang on, but Kevin Brown didn’t show any significant gains in a year when he was the only serious starting pitching candidate on the ballot. That is a blow to his candidacy: I don’t think there’s much of a chance that he gets elected by the BJOL readers.
 
Ber. Williams
16
19.8%
Sammy Sosa
15
18.5%
Billy Wagner
13
16.0%
Dale Murphy
7
8.6%
 
Bernie and Sammy Sosa also hang on, though not getting to 20% is a bad sign for their future changes. Billy Wagner hangs on, so we have another year debating what a Hall-of-Fame worthy closer looks like. Mariano is a-comin’.
 
Dale Murphy lives to see another year. I always liked him, though I don’t think he’s getting elected.
 
Jason Kendall
2
2.5%
G. Anderson
0
0.0%
Luis Castillo
0
0.0%
Troy Glaus
0
0.0%
Grudzielanek
0
0.0%
Mike Lowell
0
0.0%
Randy Winn
0
0.0%
Brad Ausmus
0
0.0%
M. Sweeney
0
0.0%
M.Hampton
0
0.0%
D. Eckstein
0
0.0%
 
A couple folks voted for Jason Kendall, which is nice for him. No one voted for Dave Eckstein, which seems harsh. He was gritty.
 
*             *             *
 
The write-in votes were very spread out, and there is a case that we should change that process a little bit. Twenty-five separate players received at least one write-in vote, which suggests that the process needs a bit of re-jigging. Any suggestions are welcome.
 
For this year, we have to stick to a plurality of the vote, which means that our write-in candidate for next year’s ballot is Ted Simmons, who received eight write-in votes. Simmons finished a little ahead of Will Clark (six write-in votes) and Keith Hernandez (five). Bill Dahlen (4), Willie Randolph (3), Pete Rose (3), Minnie Minosa (3), Reggie Smith (2), Thurman Munson (2) and Graig Nettles (2) round out the multiple-vote getters. 
 
Ted Simmons is a logical addition to our ballot: he is another one of the big ‘saber’ candidates, and it’s not surprising that he was the top vote getter.
 
*             *             *
 
So that’s where things stands at the start of 2016. Happy New Year, everyone.
 
Dave Fleming is a writer living in Wellington, New Zealand. He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions here and at dfleming1986@yahoo.com.
 
 
 

COMMENTS (8 Comments, most recent shown first)

Tubbs44
Dave, it's too bad you didn't get a chance to finish the Dwight Evans article. He's eligible for the HOF via the Expansion Era Committee in December so he could definitely use the attention.

Thanks for putting this together, I'll be interested to see how Ted Simmons does next year and hope to see Evans and Grich elected

8:18 PM Jan 13th
 
steve161
Fun question: who was reaching the majors when I was about nine years old? Answer: Willie Mays and some lesser mortals.
2:01 PM Jan 7th
 
DaveFleming
Well...maybe the 'professional' thing needs a bit of unpacking. That point.

I remember the Wade Boggs/Margo Adams scandal. I had no idea what it really was about, but I understood the general gist of thing: a famous ballplayer got caught doing something with a lady who wasn't his wife.

At that moment, the wall between pro athletes and the average Joe was a bit porous. Ballplayers answered reporter questions in their underwear. Ballplayers occasionally tangled with us commoners....they occasionally got drunk at a local bar and made the papers. They were shielded in some ways, but in other ways they weren't shielded. We could see them a bit.

Griffey, and his generation of stars....those guys had another level of wall protecting them from our sight. We saw them on the field, and in formal interviews, but the muck of their lives happened out of the gaze of the cameras. Partially, this was related to the spike in salaries, but there was a sense, too, that being an athetele was a profession, a job you worked at all year long.

We've all heard the stories of Cobb maniacally training, of Hornsby avoiding the movies to protect his eyes. The reason we've all heard 'em is because those stories set Cobb or Hornsby apart from the majority. Most players didn't train in the offseason...they did work.

By the 1990's, and probably earlier, that had changed: players spent their offseason prepping for the next season. The game was their job.

With Griffey and Bonds, their sense of baseball as a profession ran a lot deeper than even their peers. They grew up the children of pros: they didn't learn the game in some little league, or by playing it in their backyard. They learned it by practicing on the pitching machines under the stadium, or by hanging out with Willie Mays and Joe Morgan.

Players in the 1990's still had affairs, but we didn't hear about them the way we did with Boggs. They still did sketchy things, but they were smarter about keeping those things secret. The drug problems in the 1980's were public: a lot of people knew who was doing coke. The drug issues of the 1990's, the PED stuff....that stuff happened off-screen. No one was seeing it: we just heard rumors.

I think, incidentally, the wall is coming down a bit: social media has opened up our access, and the generation that is following mine is a lot more comfortable living their lives in a public way than I am. You can follow Mike Trout on Twitter or Instagram and see what he does on his off-days. Brandon McCarthy tweets his very funny observations on an almost hourly basis.
3:36 PM Jan 6th
 
Gfletch
Good stuff, Dave, I always enjoy your writing.

I suspect you are wrong about when the majority of MLB players began preparing for professional careers. I am sure that you could at least date this trend back to the start of the amateur draft in 1965, and probably back to 1930, if not even earlier.

Your description of the young Griffey Jr was spot on. I remember the smile, the beautiful swing and some of the god damndest outfield plays I have ever seen. Compared to other athletes he made playing baseball seem like fun, not work.
11:39 AM Jan 6th
 
evanecurb
Dave:

The best part of the BJOL HOF process is your writing. Keep it coming.

I was 32 when Griffey Jr. reached the majors, so it's interesting to read the perspective of someone who sees him as a childhood hero. This got me to thinking: what players reached the majors when I was around 9 years old? That would have been 1966, so it was the beginning of the careers of a lot of the great seventies pitchers: Palmer, Carlton, Niekro, Sutton, Seaver, Jenkins, and Hunter all started around this time. I guess Seaver was the biggest star among these guys, but I don't think any of them were as big a star as Griffey.
9:32 AM Jan 6th
 
tangotiger
Dave: with respect to purging players, I'd suggest that anyone who finishes in the top 10 can never be purged from consideration. regardless as to how many years on the ballot.

I'd extend it to 20, but in the hopes of trying to keep it manageable for you, 10 will do the trick.
8:23 AM Jan 6th
 
tigerlily
Thanks for running this BJOL HOF Dave. Another good job!
3:27 AM Jan 6th
 
MarisFan61
Why do you and Tom Tango keep writing MinosA? :-)
2:42 AM Jan 6th
 
 
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