Ken Griffey Jr. Is One of the Strongest Hall of Fame Candidates Ever. So Why Did 3 Sportswriters Vote Against Him?

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Ken Griffey Jr.
Griffey appeared on 99.3 percent of ballots.Photo: Otto Greule Jr

Ken Griffey Jr. has long been widely considered a first-ballot Hall of Famer, so the only suspense for him yesterday had to do with whether he’d be the first player in history to receive 100 percent of the vote. After all, he was as much of a shoo-in as the hall has ever seen: a legendary slugger with one of the prettiest swings ever, a great defensive center fielder, popular, not tainted by steroid accusations, and so on. Indeed, when the voting results were announced yesterday, Griffey received the highest percentage of votes in the hall’s history, appearing on 437 of 440 ballots (or 99.3 percent). But that still means three writers left Ken Griffey Jr. off of their ballots, and many fans and media members today want to know who those three writers are.

None of the Griffey-less ballots have been made public, either on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America website, or on Ryan Thibodaux’s handy ballot tracker. In all, 261 ballots are public so far. And according to Thibodaux, it appears that no blank ballots were cast — something that’s been done in the past as a form of protest.

It’s hard to think of a reason someone would omit Griffey based on his credentials. (Some of the guesses we’ve heard: that a writer could refuse to vote for a player who went on strike, or that someone may choose not to vote for anyone at all from the sport’s so-called steroid era.) It’s also possible that someone left Griffey off their ballot out of a silly belief that if the likes of Babe Ruth and Willie Mays weren’t unanimous, then no one should be.

There’s also the possibility that someone left Griffey off for strategic reasons. This might be the least objectionable reason, as at least it isn’t rooted in the idea that Griffey isn’t deserving of the honor. Because writers can only vote for ten players, someone who would otherwise for 11 candidates could have left off Griffey knowing that he’d still get in easily, and instead give that vote to a player who needs it more. But as Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports points out, such voters tend to admit doing so, which no one, so far, has done.