Griffey & Piazza make HOF, Clemens, Halladay, Raines

By Bob Elliott
We don’t remember who wrote the headline, but once again a Sun desker nailed it:


That’s what the April 28, 1989 head read after the Seattle Mariners edged the Toronto Blue Jays 7-6 at the Kingdome.

All the 19-year-old had done in his first-ever meeting with the Jays was hit a two-run single off Dave Stieb in the first, make an over the shoulder catch facing the wall, steal a base, go 4-for-4 and hit a game-winning homer off lefty David Wells in the seventh. 

And Wednesday that headline’s prediction -- along with about a million others -- rang true as Griffey was elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Griffey was named on 437 of 440 ballots, submitted by Baseball Writers Association of America voters with 10 or more consecutive years of service. 

That’s a record 99.32%, highest in Hall of Fame history, as he becomes the 51st player elected in his first year.

He surpassed Tom Seaver, named on 98.84% in 1992. And he will have company in Cooperstown come July as slugging catcher Mike Piazza was also elected.

Griffey played in the Hall of Fame game three times at Cooperstown yet never once went inside the Hall. He went hotel-bus-park-bus-hotel.

Now, he’ll have a plaque inside.

Piazza had 365 votes (83%) in his fourth year and will be honored , July 24 in Cooperstown.

He was the first catcher to record a 200 hit season in 1997 won the Silver Slugger award 10 times, most of any catcher in history. Of his 427 career home runs, 396 were as a catcher, tops in the majors. 

A 12-time all-star during a 16-year career he retired with a career .308 average and 1,335 RBIs with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets, San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics, 

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The son of former Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey, Griffey was known for:

_ His glove. He crashed ankles first into the wall at the Kingdome to steal a bases loaded drive off the bat of Ruben Sierra, 

_ Home runs. Going deep at the Kingdome in 1989 and again in 1999 the night that the place closed.

_ Home run derbies. His long, loose swing was perfect for getting in a groove at home run derbys. He won at in Pittsburgh in 1994, at Coors Field in Denver in 1998 and at Fenway Park in 1999.

_ His legs. He scored the game winner from first in the 11th inning in Game 5 of the 1995 American League Division Series. on a ball into the corner. 

_ His awards. He was the unanimous choice as the 1997 American League MVP hitting 56 homers with 147 RBIs, batting .304 with a 1.028 OPS. He won 10 gold gloves and a 13-time all-star.

_ And feasting on Toronto pitching. Griffey hit 42 homers against the Minnesota Twins, 38 against the Cleveland Indians, 36 facing the Yankees and 35 against the Jays with a .301 average 80 RBIs and a .974 OPS in 117 games (less than the three teams ahead of the Jays). He took Jays reliever Giovanni Carrara over the Hard Rock Cafe in 1996, after homering earlier against starter Paul Quantrill.


EXIT HERE: Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame Tracker tracked 213 votes made public before the results were announced. 

Griffey was batting 213-for-213, followed by Piazza at 86.3%, Bagwell at 77.4 and Raines at 75.5%.


SMALLER ELECTORATE: The Hall took the vote away from 109 writers who have not covered baseball in 10 years. It was thought Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens might make the biggest jump.

Mike Mussina went up 18.4% this year, while Raines climbed 14.8%.
Luis Aparicio had the highest bump ever in 1982 going from 41.9 up 25.5%.

The others with similar jumps Barry Larkin (2011. 24.3%), Gil Hodges (1969, 24.2%), Nellie Fox (1975, 23.8%), Hal Newhouser (1974, 22.8), Jim Rice (1999. 22.1%), Don Drysdale (1976, 22%), Early Wynn (1970, 20%) and Johnny Sain (1972, 20%).

Bonds received 34.7% in 2014 and 36.8% last year while Rogers Clemens had 35.4% and 37.5%. This year Clemens had 45.2% and Bonds 44.3%. 

Piazza faced performance-enhancing drug suspicion as much as Bonds or Clemens. Could the door be opening slightly.


DRAFT DAZE: The annual draft of high schoolers and collegians is 50 years of age. Griffey becomes the first selected No. 1 over all in North Ameria to make the Hall. Seattle chose him in 1987.

Piazza was a 62nd round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers selected 1,390th over-all in 1988 (or 43rd last), chosen as a favor to manager Tommy Lasorda. No one lower than a 22nd rounder has been elected to the Hall. 

So this class contains the highest and lowest ever drafted player elected.


VOTING: We filled out all 10 squares on our ballot last month. Besides Griffey, and Piazza, we voted for Bagwell and Raines, Bonds and Clemens, Larry Walker, Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff and Alan Trammell.


HALLADAY SPEAK: Roy Halladay was a September call up making two starts in 1998 for the Jays as Clemens won his first Cy Young award with the Blue Jays. They shared the same agency.

You can tell how strongly Halladay feels about performance-enhancing drugs when he tweeted this on Wednesday:

“When you use PEDs you admit your not good enough to compete fairly! Our nations past time should have higher standards! No Clemens no Bonds!”

In a statement Clemens responsed in a statement to a “former Blue Jays pitcher.”

“Just to enlighten him, he was accused of using amphetamines by the ‘strength coach,’” Clemens said in the statement. “You should be very careful when putting tweets out while not having your facts on the matter at hand.”


NUGGET FOR THE DAY: Walker has been knocked by voters for hitting so well at home compared to on the road. Walker had a .989 OPS at home and .780 on the road.

Hall of Famer Peter Gammons pointed out Walker beat Griffey on the road in average (.278-to-.272), on-base (.370-to-.355) and OPS (.865-to-.860).


FLASHBACK: It was fun watching the highlights from Raines’ early days with the Expos but then sad to see Charlie Lea, who died in 2011 and manager Jim Fanning who died last year. 



Bob ElliottComment