On Wednesday, the Baseball Writers Association of America voted to induct outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. and catcher Mike Piazza into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. They will be enshrined later this year.
Griffey, a fan favorite known for his athleticism and relaxed attitude, set the record for highest percentage of votes, garnering 99.3 percent of the vote. However, he was three votes short of the first unanimous election. Piazza appeared on 365 ballots in his fourth year of eligibility.
After being drafted by the Mariners with the No. 1 pick in the 1987 draft, Griffey made his major league debut two years later when he was 19 years old. A year later, he famously hit back-to-back home runs with his father. Over the course of a 22-year career with the Reds, White Sox and two stints with the Mariners, Griffey accumulated 630 home runs, placing him sixth all-time. He was the 1997 American League Most Valuable Player, won 10 Gold Gloves and was named to 13 All-Star teams.
Griffey was the face of Seattle baseball, and perhaps the league's biggest star, for more than a decade. He was the face of four baseball video games and led the league in home runs four times, including his last season with the Mariners. In a blockbuster trade, he was sent to Cincinnati prior to the 2000 season. While he was still productive now in his 30s, injuries, including frequent leg ailments, diminished his ability and led to lengthy stints on the disabled list.
In the final year of his contract, Griffey was on the trade block. There were rumors he would be headed to the postseason-bound Rays, but he instead played against them in the ALDS as a member of the White Sox. He then finished his career with parts of two seasons back in Seattle. He's now a special consultant with the Mariners.
On an interesting note, Piazza was at the other end of the spectrum. Drafted with the 1,390th pick in the 1988 draft, he becomes the lowest-drafted player elected to the Hall of Fame. In 16 seasons with the Dodgers, Marlins, Mets, Padres and Athletics, he was known for his offense behind the plate. He bashed 427 home runs, won NL Rookie of the Year in 1993 and reached 12 All-Star Games.
Piazza could be the most prolific offensive catcher of all-time. Not only was he an elite hitter at his position, he was elite compared to everyone else. In three seasons, he posted an OPS over 1.000. In a span of eight days in 1998, he was involved in two major trades, first going to the Marlins and then the Mets. He hit 33-plus home runs in his first four full seasons in New York before finishing his career with a year in both San Diego and Oakland.
To be inducted, players need to appear on 75 percent of the ballots, or 330 out of 440 this year. First baseman Jeff Bagwell fell 15 votes short, and outfielder Tim Raines missed by 23.
Bagwell was one of Houston's stars for 15 seasons after the Astros acquired him from the Red Sox for pitcher Larry Andersen in 1990. A year later, he won NL Rookie of the Year and was on his way to a career that included an MVP award, four All-Star Games, 449 home runs and a .948 OPS.
In six years on the ballot, Bagwell's vote share has steadily risen despite totally unsubstantiated rumors of steroid use.
Raines has also received more votes over the years, and he will appear on one more ballot. In a career spanning four decades with the Expos, White Sox, Yankees, A's, Orioles and Marlins, he became one of baseball's best leadoff hitters and eventually a fan favorite in the online community. He stole 808 bases and finished with a career .385 on-base percentage.
In addition to Bagwell, other players are caught up in the messy, so-called Steroid Era of the 90s and early-00s. Barry Bonds, one of the all-time greats who holds the single-season and career records for home runs, is widely suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs in his days with the Giants. He was on 44.3 percent of ballots in his fourth year of eligibility.
Also facing these obstacles is Roger Clemens, who received 45.2 percent of the vote in his fourth year on the ballot. He pitched for the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros in a 24-year career and piled up 4,672 strikeouts along with seven Cy Young awards and an MVP. However, drawn-out court battles featured evidence that he had been injected with human-growth hormone, along with admitted HGH user Andy Pettitte.
A pair of pitchers from the same era but not facing any accusations of wrong doing are righties Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling. Schilling, known on the field for his competitiveness and postseason heroics, received 52.3 percent of the votes. Although Mussina won 270 games for the Orioles and Yankees in 18 seasons in one of the toughest eras to pitch in, he never won a Cy Young and was named on 43 percent of ballots in his third year of eligibility.
Edgar Martinez, Seattle's longtime designated hitter, faces the apparent obstacle of having spent most of his career not playing the field. His offensive numbers, including 309 home runs, a .312 average, .418 OBP and .933 OPS, merit inclusion, along with his seven All-Star games and having an award named after him.
Aside from Griffey, two other first-year players received notable support, closers Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner. Hoffman, originally a shortstop, eventually became a top closer in an 18-year career, mostly for the Padres. His 601 saves held the all-time lead for roughly five minutes before Mariano Rivera stormed past him, and his career has become a flashpoint for old school v. new school baseball debates. His save total and seven All-Star teams look great on his resume, but detractors point to just 1,089 1/3 innings of work.
Wagner's 10.5 percent pales in comparison to Hoffman's 67.3%. However, the fireballing lefty arguably had a career just as good as Hoffman's. He was a star closer with the Astros, Phillies, Mets and Braves and also briefly pitched for the Red Sox. He struck out 1,196 batters in just 903 innings.
Tampa native, two-time Devil Ray and Hit Show member Fred McGriff appeard on 20.9 percent of ballots in his seventh year of eligibility. Another Tampa native, Gary Sheffield, was on 11.6% of ballots in his second year of voting. Former Devil Ray outfielder Randy Winn was not voted for in his first year on the ballot and will no longer appear.
To remain on the ballot, a player must appear on 5 percent of them, and he can remain up to 10 years. Other players that will be back for 2017 are closer Lee Smith, TV show contestant Jeff Kent, and outfielders Larry Walker and Sammy Sosa.
Infielders Alan Trammell and Mark McGwire will be removed from the ballot after appearing 15 times and 10 times, respectively. The BBWAA instituted a new and shorter limit for how many years a player can appear on the ballot in 2014.
In addition to Winn, 11 first-time players will not be back for a second ballot, including center fielder Jim Edmonds, who received just 2.5 percent of the votes despite being known for highlight-reel catches in a 17-season career to go along with 393 home runs. First baseman Mike Sweeney, catcher Jason Kendall, Fire Joe Morgan favorite David Eckstein and outfielder Garret Anderson also received votes, albeit not enough to stick around for another ballot.
In his second year of eligibility, infielder Nomar Garciaparra did not retain enough support for a third turn on the ballot.
Receiving no votes in their only chance on the ballot were infielders Luis Castillo, Mike Lowell, Troy Glaus, Mark Grudzielanek, catcher and manager Brad Ausmus, and pitcher Mike Hampton.