On Wednesday, Ken Griffey Jr. will be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. There will be tributes to his swing, his charm, his talent, his promise, his fulfillment of that promise and the promise still unrealized, which helps illuminate just how absurd his talent was in the first place. Griffey was the kind of player who meant something, even to the casual fan, even to the kid whose baseball knowledge was limited to whatever the N64 would spit out, even to the parents who would drag the family to exactly one game every year. No, especially to the parents who would drag the family to exactly one game every year. And he meant even more to the people who were paying attention.
On Wednesday, Ken Griffey Jr. will not be a unanimous selection for the Hall of Fame. There will be at least one ballot, if not a dozen, without his name.
We go through this every damned year.
There's a little more hope for unanimous-ballot fetishists this year for a couple of reasons. The first is that all of the ballots tallied so far by the indefatigable Ryan Thibodaux have included Griffey. The second is that voting is now restricted to writers who have covered baseball within the last decade, presumably purging some out-of-touch writers who didn't think Griffey was so hot because all they remember are some injury-marred years in Cincinnati. The purge of the voter rolls is one of the reasons why Mike Piazza and Tim Raines seem to be gaining momentum. It's why Jeff Bagwell has a good shot to go in, finally.
And yet Griffey will not be a unanimous selection. We know this because of the recent past. Here are the last 10 inductees with more than 90 percent:
- Nolan Ryan, 98.8 percent
- Cal Ripken, 98.5 percent
- George Brett, 98.2 percent
- Tony Gwynn, 97.6 percent
- Randy Johnson, 97.3 percent
- Greg Maddux, 97.2 percent
- Mike Schmidt, 96.5 percent
- Rickey Henderson, 94.8 percent
- Wade Boggs 91.9 percent
- Pedro Martinez, 91.1 percent
Picture a room with 100 baseball writers. It would be like a rave, but with khakis and despair. All of these baseball writers could step forward and say this sentence: "I have written about baseball for a living, and did so for at least 10 years." In this room, there would be three people -- three living, functioning human beings -- who would either argue that Greg Maddux shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame, argue that he doesn't deserve the honor of being a first-ballot Hall of Famer, or fall out of the window while answering the question.
This is not a baseball issue. This is a sociological truth, masked as a baseball issue. There is always one person. This is just the example closest to your heart right now.
There is always one person.
There is always one person who doesn't believe in the moon landing
We're not talking about a baked college freshman after a six-hour YouTube binge, either. A smart person. An honest-to-goodness smart person, who can string sentences together with proper grammar, who absolutely nails there/their/they're every time, who knows how to make a supporting argument. Who knows how to obfuscate what needs to be obfuscated. Someone who is a master -- master! -- of ignoring all the available evidence and seizing on scraps of cognitive dissonance.
Any dumb theory you can think of, any dumb point or thought, has thousands and thousands of well-written-yet-inane words to support it. You stare at them all the time, blinking, unsure how to process the idea that a reasonably intelligent person is behind them.
And right now, there's someone who was smart enough to write for a living who can't get over that Ken Griffey wasn't very good or healthy in his 30s.
You can argue with them about every other point, but they'll stick on that point.
Them: Why does the flag wave if there's no wind?
Them: Magic bullet!
Them: Ken Griffey wasn't that goooooood!
Yeah, that's right. Ken Griffey Truthers. There aren't many of them, but there's one out of every 400 or so. And that's all it would take.
There will always be someone who screws everything up
There will always be one person who can't name the capital of the state he or she lives in. Maybe they can if you give them a second! If you just let them think. Ugh, if you stop pressuring them! They know the capital, they went there as a kid, just let them ... it's ... Ottawa City, no ... hold on.
This is a category filled with screw ups. Remember the poor fate of Corky Simpson, who spent 55 years of his life without the stupid Internet, only to become a Google autocomplete for "Corky Simpson Rickey Henderson." He has regrets. And, really, the idea that someone would leave Rickey Henderson off their ballot after not thinking about it enough annoys me only slightly more than the idea that someone would get SO INTERNET MAD about Henderson not being unanimous. He's still in on the first ballot.
/hands you pamphlet about Barry Bonds
I mean, if you want to have something to rally behind, there's no pressure, but the greatest hitter of at least the last 50 years isn't in the Hall of Fame.
Regardless, there's always going to be someone in the bank trying to endorse a check with their shoe. And eventually, we'll be able to laugh at it. But there's a serious screw up in every group of 400 people, the kind to not read Griffey's name on the ballot, think he's his dad, or not take the time to check the statistical evidence.
I'll count on at least one of these.
There will always be one person from the People's Front of Judea who spends their time figuring out ways to one-up the Judean People's Front
That is, there is someone who dug down into the esoterica of baseball history, then dug deeper. Then dug deeper. Then dug deeper. Then got tangled in an underground cable and kept digging.
These are the people who believe that since Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle weren't unanimous first-ballot Hall of Famers, that no one should be. They've taken the lore of the Hall of Fame and twisted it, becoming a splinter group that's absolutely hung up on the idea of a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
When Hall of Fame voting started, there wasn't any special honor associated with being a first-ballot Hall of Famer. It was implied, sure, but there was no reason for this faction to develop and perseverate on the idea of first ballots. It happened organically, and now they're the Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912, who offend everything the Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879 stand for.
Is that two references to religious jokes in the same section? Not a coincidence. The confidence and fervor is unflappable. In this section, you'll also have the people who submit blank ballots as a protest against something. The protest will not change a single thing about the Hall of Fame process, but it will have the effect of making someone say, "Aw, c'mon Bert, really? Jeez," which is almost the same thing as changing the process.
There will always be one person who wants you to look at them, please look at them
These were the sad kids in your school who would eat ladybugs for a quarter with the popular kids cheering them on and laughing. Why would they want that attention? Who wants that attention? Nobody should want that attention. Yet there they are, doing it without a smile for some reason, because they can't help themselves.
I'm not as confident that we'll get a member of this group, at least not one who releases his or her ballot. The possibility of Internet invective and scorn might overcome their desire to be seen. But they'll still get the chance to sit back and say, "I did this. I did this. Me. Everyone's talking about me."
And then they'll eat a ladybug, alone, just because.
In a group of 400-plus people, there will be at least one person who fits in the above group. In every election since the dawn of time, regardless of the player in question, there have been at least a couple of them. If you want some really strange votes, go back to the early days of the Hall of Fame, when players like Joe DiMaggio didn't get elected for several ballots. That's when the weirdness really started, from the very beginning. So maybe we're moving toward a world where universally acknowledged Hall of Famers are acknowledged universally.
That time isn't now. Griffey won't be the first unanimous player to be elected into the Hall of Fame. If I'm wrong, if all this is proven silly, then at least appreciate it for the sociological miracle it really is. It should be impossible for 400 people to agree on anything, even "Would you not like me to drop this anvil on your foot?"
Me? I don't mind the lack of unanimous players. It's like getting mad at geology. And I especially like when the voters speak up about why they didn't vote for obvious Hall of Famers.
I like to know where the weirdos are.
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SB Nation presents: The top baseball jerks left out of Cooperstown