Griffey's case could test HOF ballot record
Junior's 22-season career ranks among all-time greats
CINCINNATI -- Even while he was playing and cementing his status as a baseball icon, Ken Griffey Jr. was viewed as destined for the Hall of Fame. With his name appearing for the first time on the Hall of Fame ballot, released Monday, it's not a question of if Griffey will get elected.
It should be of how close to unanimous Griffey's election will be.
During a 22-season career from 1989-2010 -- spent mostly with the Mariners and Reds -- Griffey batted .284/.370/.538. His 630 home runs are good for sixth all-time and his 1,836 RBIs rank 15th all-time. He hit 40 or more homers in five consecutive seasons, including a career-high 56 in both 1997 and '98.
The unanimous winner of the 1997 American League Most Valuable Player Award, Griffey was also a 13-time All-Star (and 1992 All-Star Game MVP), a seven-time Silver Slugger Award winner, a recipient of 10-consecutive Gold Gloves from 1990-99 and a member of the All-Century Team that was named in 1999 while his career was still 11 years from its end.
"Ken Griffey was one of the most exciting young players that I saw come into the game," Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan said in 2010. "It didn't matter if you were right-handed or left-handed; it was a real challenge to pitch to him."
A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers' Association of America to gain election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The record high for vote percentage belongs to former pitcher Tom Seaver, who was elected in 1992 with 98.84 percent of the vote.
The son of Big Red Machine member Ken Griffey Sr., Griffey was the No. 1 overall Draft pick of the Mariners in 1987 out of Cincinnati's Moeller High School. Two years later as a 19-year-old rookie, he began his odyssey as Seattle's most beloved ballplayer.
"It was just a wonderful, wonderful Hall of Fame career," said Lou Piniella in 2010. Piniella was Griffey's manager in Seattle from 1993-99.
Griffey, 45, will be the first player to go into Cooperstown with a Mariners logo on his Hall of Fame plaque. Former teammate Randy Johnson was also a Mariners great, but he was enshrined in 2015 as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Griffey spent 13 seasons with the Mariners, including his first 11. He returned to the Seattle for his final full season in 2009, and played 33 more games with the club in '10 before retiring.
On Feb. 10, 2000, the Mariners honored Griffey's request to be traded to his hometown Reds. During his nine seasons in Cincinnati from 2000-08, Griffey hit 210 home runs (seventh most in club history), and he celebrated career milestone homers Nos. 500 and 600 in a Reds uniform.
"I had a chance to wear the same uniform that my dad wore," Griffey said during an emotional 2014 speech for his induction into the Reds Hall of Fame. "And I think that's the most important thing."
Unlike his time in Seattle, Griffey's legacy in Cincinnati was defined largely by injuries and team struggles.
Between 2000-07, Griffey missed 453 games with various injuries, including a completely torn right hamstring that ruptured from the bone. The Reds only enjoyed one winning season, in his first year with Cincinnati.
Although Griffey missed a chance to rewrite some records because of the injuries, he was still appreciated by those that knew him on the Reds.
Before the 2008 Trade Deadline, Griffey was traded from the Reds to the White Sox for a chance to get back to the postseason. He played in the playoffs only three times during his great career and never reached the World Series. It's the lone accomplishment missing on Griffey's special resume.
Griffey was a star during what's become known as the "steroids era" of baseball, when offensive achievements became clouded by performance-enhancing drugs. Griffey was never among those accused of using and is widely viewed as having played clean.
"He played the game and played the game right," former Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Griffey in 2010. "You didn't hear anything about scandals or anything about Junior. That's a big tribute not only to him, but also his mom and dad and family as well, how he was raised and how he is."