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Ken Griffey Jr. could set Hall of Fame vote record

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On Wednesday, the Baseball Hall of Fame is set to announce its newest members. One player is a lock while a few others are on the edge of admission.

Ken Griffey Jr. will receive the phone call telling him he is officially a member of the ultra-exclusive club, but one question remains. How many will not vote for him?

If anyone should be a unanimous selection, it should be the Windermere, Florida, resident. The statistics are mind-boggling.

In 22 seasons with Seattle, Cincinnati and the Chicago White Sox, he hit 630 home runs. Among those not linked with performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), that is fourth all-time, sixth overall. His 1,836 runs batted in are 15th. Defensively, he won 10 Gold Gloves.

There is not one member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), who selects the members, who thinks Griffey should not be in the Hall of Fame. Despite that, there will be some who won’t vote for him.

Some “unwritten rule” holds that no one gets into the Hall of Fame unanimously. Those voters believe no one should gain entry on the first ballot. That rule has held true since balloting began more than seven decades ago.

Not even Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb were elected unanimously. Among the most prominent Hall of Famers, nine BBWAA members did not vote for Hank Aaron; eight failed to cast a ballot for Cal Ripken Jr.; almost 7 percent of voters could not bring themselves to write “Ted Williams” on their ballot.

Therefore, there is no way Griffey will be the first to be unanimously elected. To be enshrined, a player must receive 75 percent of the 450-500 votes cast.

The record is 98.84 percent (425 of 430 ballots) held by Tom Seaver. The speculation centers on the possibility Griffey may beat that percentage.

And why not? Of all the remarkable statistics put below his name, one not listed stands out. Over 22 years, there was not even a good rumor of Griffey using PEDs. He earned his stature and his salary by performing at a high level and doing it the right way.

The voters take that into account when not voting for players like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa. Griffey put up the best Hall of Fame statistics of his generation without PEDs. That should count for something, too.

Among other players looking for a call is former Dodger and Met, Mike Piazza. No other catcher who ever played the game hit more homers, and he has Johnny Bench-like numbers in other categories.

In his fourth year of eligibility, Piazza is moving in the right direction. In 2013 he earned 58 percent, followed by 62 percent. Last year, he was listed on 70 percent of ballots. Piazza should be the second name called Wednesday.

Former Houston Astro Jeff Bagwell and former Montreal Expo Tim Raines of Sanford, Florida, have seen their percentages go up in recent years, but are not likely to gain admission this year.

Some from among those whose 15-year eligibility has expired can possibly be selected by the veterans committee and also announced on Wednesday.

Let’s hope those who don’t vote for Griffey will be identified for the purpose of dumping well-deserved scorn upon them.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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