Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Why Griffey got my Hall of Fame vote but Piazza didn't


Ken Griffey, Jr., who we know did it the right way, was voted into the Hall of Fame.

Mike Piazza, who may or may not have done it the right way, also was voted in.

Both had obvious Hall of Fame credentials. Griffey made it in on the first ballot. Piazza made it in on the fourth. The difference? A cloud of doubt over Piazza’s career as to whether he used performance-enhancing drugs.

For what it’s worth, I did not vote for Piazza. Nor did I vote for Jeff Bagwell. My view on candidates who are in what I perceive as a gray area of suspicion is that I am going to wait until their 10th (and final) year of eligibility before voting yes. That allows as much time as possible for evidence to surface. But the results of this year's voting suggest a thawing among the majority of the electorate regarding players suspected of PED use. Even Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, while falling well short of the needed 75 percent of votes, saw an increase in their totals.

There were 440 ballots posted this season, meaning a candidate needed to be named on at least 330 to get in.

Below are my view on selected candidates. The complete Hall of Fame voting results are at the bottom:

IN: Ken Griffey Jr. (437 votes, 99.3 percent): I voted yes. An obvious first-ballot Hall of Famer who’s as deserving of a unanimous vote as Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Tom Seaver, Greg Maddux and so many others – none of whom also weren’t unanimously selected for mysterious reasons. The three people who didn’t vote Griffey could have no acceptable reason. Again – no reason. He hit 630 home runs. His 22-career season included 13 All-Star seasons, 10 Gold Gloves, seven Silver Slugger Awards and won an American League MVP award. He also was as great an ambassador for the game as there ever was.

IN: Mike Piazza (365, 83.0): I voted no. He’s an obvious Hall of Famer from the standpoint of career achievement, which included 12 All-Star Games, 10 Silver Sluggers and the most home runs by a catcher in major league history. But there was enough suspicion about PED use that I chose to hold off on a yes vote until his final year of eligibility, letting as much time as possible pass for potential evidence to surface before voting him in. Piazza admitted using androstenedione early in his career, before the substance was banned by baseball, but he denies ever using steroids.

OUT: Jeff Bagwell (315, 71.6): I voted no. Like Piazza, there’s no question of his HOF credentials. But the Hall of Fame voting rules give me 10 years to decide and I plan to exercise that right. My guess is, however, that Bagwell will get in next year (his seventh year of eligibility), as he fell only 15 votes short this season.

OUT: Tim Raines (307, 69.8): I voted yes. I’ve been voting yes for 10 years and have never understood why others didn’t see him as Hall of Fame worthy (seven All-Star Games, four stolen base titles, fifth most stolen bases in history (808) seven seasons of hitting .300-plus, six seasons of 100-plus runs, rookie of the year and a National League batting title). But Raines fell only 23 votes short, moving up from 55 percent to nearly 70 percent. Next year is his 10th and final year of eligibility, my guess is he will get in.

OUT: Trevor Hoffman (296, 67.3), Lee Smith (150, 34.1), Billy Wagner (46, 10.5): I voted yes to all. I know, that seems strange. But I looked at the careers of all three closers and could not find such an overwhelming difference between the three that would move me to vote for one but not the other two, or two but not one. I’ve long felt closers have been overlooked by Hall voters and have been voting for Lee Smith for year. As great as Hoffman was, I’m a little surprised he garnered as many votes as he did, given this was his first year of eligibility. Clearly he’s on the track to Cooperstown.

OUT: Curt Schilling (230, 52.3): I voted no. I’ve waffled on him from year to year because while he was only a very good pitcher in the regular season (216-146, 3.46, six All-Star Games, no Cy Young Awards), he was a great pitcher in the post-season (11-2, 2.23, three World Series titles, World Series MVP, NLCS MVP). In fact, as a typed this, here I am waffling again. This is his fifth time on the ballot so I have plenty of time to change my mind again, and again, and again.

OUT: Roger Clemens (199, 45.2), Barry Bonds (195, 44.3), Mark McGwire 54 (12.3), Gary Sheffield 51 (11.6), Sammy Sosa (31, 7.0). I voted no to all. McGwire’s candidacy is dead, as this was his 10th season on the ballot. His only route into the Hall of Fame now is the Veterans Committee. Good luck with that. Clemens (fifth), Bonds (fifth) and Sheffield (third) have a while to go but aren’t close. All four players were strongly linked to PED use – so strong that I doubt if they’ll ever get in by a vote. Because I’m so convinced they juiced, the only way I would change my vote and/or consider their candidacy is off they came clean and provided clarity on the steroid era. Frankly, I’m not even sure McGwire or Sosa have HOF numbers without steroids, and I don’t think Sheffield is there either. So for me, this is really about Clemens and Bonds.

OUT: Edgar Martinez (191, 43.4) and Mike Mussina (189, 43.0). I voted no to both. Right now I would consider both of them to be in the Hall of Very Good. I might change my mind. This was Martinez’s seventh year on the ballot and Mussina’s third. Both will be given serious consideration moving forward.

OUT: Alan Trammell (180, 40.9): I voted yes. When I think of Hall of Famers, the first question I ask myself before even looking at numbers is, “Did I consider this player one of the greatest, and possibly the best, at his position during his era?” The answer with Trammell is yes, but obviously not enough others felt that way. Six All-Stars, seven .300-plus seasons, four Gold Gloves, a World Series MVP (when he batted .450), a 200-hit season. Unfortunately, this was his last year on the ballot.

COMPLETE VOTING RESULTS

Ken Griffey Jr. 437 (99.3), Mike Piazza 365 (83.0), Jeff Bagwell 315 (71.6), Tim Raines 307 (69.8), Trevor Hoffman 296 (67.3), Curt Schilling 230 (52.3), Roger Clemens 199 (45.2), Barry Bonds 195 (44.3), Edgar Martinez 191 (43.4), Mike Mussina 189 (43.0), Alan Trammell 180 (40.9), Lee Smith 150 (34.1), Fred McGriff 92 (20.9), Jeff Kent 73 (16.6), Larry Walker 68 (15.5), Mark McGwire 54 (12.3), Gary Sheffield 51 (11.6), Billy Wagner 46 (10.5), Sammy Sosa 31 (7.0), Jim Edmonds 11 (2.5), Nomar Garciaparra 8 (1.8), Mike Sweeney 3 (0.7), David Eckstein 2 (0.5), Jason Kendall 2 (0.5),  Garret Anderson 1 (0.2), Brad Ausmus 0, Luis Castillo 0, Troy Glaus 0, Mark Grudzielanek 0, Mike Hampton 0, Mike Lowell 0, Randy Winn 0.

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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.