Ken Griffey Jr. Elected To Major League Baseball Hall of Fame
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
The votes are in, and to no one's surprise, Ken Griffey Jr. made it into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. He got the nod from more than 99 percent of baseball writers. Who else made it? Who got snubbed? For that, we turn to Jonah Keri, who covers baseball for Sports Illustrated. Welcome back to the show.
JONAH KERI: Thanks for having me.
MCEVERS: And like we just said, Griffey got 99 percent of the vote. I mean, that means that three people didn't vote for him. What could possibly be their reasons for saying no?
KERI: I assume they all had lobotomies within the last couple of weeks.
KERI: That's the only logical explanation.
KERI: No, I mean, you know, some people turn in blank ballots as a result of protest or do these kind of look-at-me votes. It's really hard to say, but, I mean, Griffey was obviously deserving and certainly should've had 100 percent.
MCEVERS: I mean, Mike Piazza, who's regarded as the best-hitting catcher of all time finally made it into the Hall of Fame in his fourth year of eligibility. Why did it take so long?
KERI: Yeah, it's a great question. You know, there were some people that were making kind of veiled accusations that maybe he had used performance-enhancing drugs at some point - hard to say. But in terms of merit anyway, I mean, absolutely the best offensive catcher of all time, just a titan in his day - and a 62nd round draft pick, too. This is history in that Griffey is the highest draft pick ever to get in - he was number one overall - and Piazza's by far the lowest - I mean, by far. He's a great, great player and a deserving Hall of Famer, along with Griffey.
MCEVERS: Now let's talk about the snubs. What was the most egregious omission here?
KERI: Well, Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell certainly deserved to get in. They both came up a little bit short - Bagwell 71 percent and change, Raines just under 70 percent. But both of those guys made significant progress from last year - 15, 16, 17 percent jumps. That's a lot, and it bodes well for them both to get in next year. So I mean, if you view this thing as a process and you kind of need momentum and you have to change people's minds gradually, then you could say OK, these guys were snubbed, they're great candidates and I'm not happy about it. But you can turn around and say you know what? Next year looks good for both of them. So those would be two of the biggies. I guess the other one would be the PED guys, the performance-enhancing-drug guys. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens specifically on merit absolutely should be in the Hall of Fame, but there a lot of voters that draw a line in the sand and won't vote for guys that are widely believed to have used performance-enhancing drugs.
MCEVERS: I mean, do you think voters have softened their stance at all on this?
KERI: They have because we've seen Bonds and Clemens go up 7 percent each this year on the ballot, so we're seeing that. And part of that is also a reflection of the changing electorate. There were only 440 voters this year because they chopped a bunch of people off of the rolls -some of the older voters, especially people who hadn't been voting for a while. And we're also seeing new voters come in, and those voters tend to be younger and more progressive, and they also tend to vote for people like Barry Bonds.
MCEVERS: I mean, how big of a deal is it still to get voted into the Hall of Fame? I mean, do players still consider it a hallowed ground, like, as much as those sportswriters and fans?
KERI: Oh, absolutely. It's a very big deal to them. It's affirmation for them. You know, this is the highest honor that a baseball player can have. And I would add, by the way, that if you want to get really pragmatic about it, especially if it's somebody who played in the '70s or the '80s, this is a chance for them to get well financially. The value of their autographs goes up. It's just kind of an honor, and it's something that can help them. Quite frankly, you know, a lot of these people are not necessarily that well-off because they didn't make 15 or $20 million a year. So just for them and their families and their children and grandchildren, what have you, that's a nice little edge as well.
MCEVERS: That's Jonah Keri. He covers baseball for Sports Illustrated, talking about the newest members of baseball's Hall of Fame - Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza. Thanks so much.
KERI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.