On Wednesday, January 6, Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey, Jr. were elected to the 2016 class of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Notably, despite Purple Row staffers electing him in our internal vote, former Colorado Rockies outfielder Larry Walker was not elected.
Griffey was named on all but three ballots of the 440 cast, earning just over 99% of votes cast in his first year eligible for induction, while Walker was named on 15.5% of the 440 ballots. Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, who earned 71.6% and 69.8% of votes respectively, finished just short of induction with the third- and fourth-highest number of ballots cast.
Having not reached the 75% threshold it what are now their final years eligible for election, Mark McGwire (10th year on the ballot) and Alan Trammell (15th year) must now depend on the Veteran's Committee for election in the future. Garret Anderson, Jim Edmonds, Nomar Garciaparra, and Jason Kendall were among notable candidates who received less than 5% of the vote; they must now be removed from the ballot moving forward.
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Walker, in his sixth year on the ballot, spent ten seasons with the Rockies as part of a 17-year big league career, also playing for the Expos and Cardinals between 1989 and 2005. He slashed .334/.426/.618 as a member of the Rockies, with 258 home runs and 297 doubles across 4,795 plate appearances. For his entire career, Walker slashed .313/.400/.565 with 383 home runs and 473 doubles over 8,030 plate appearances.
He won batting titles in 1998, 1999, and 2001 with Colorado, but the best year of Walker's career came for the Rockies in 1997, when he slashed .366/.452/.720 with 46 doubles, 49 home runs, 78 walks and just 90 strikeouts across 664 plate appearances over 153 games. His work granted him the National League's Most Valuable Player nod that season, the only time he would win the award. Over his career, Walker won seven Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, and was named to five All-Star teams, four of which came with Colorado.
By virtue of the percentage of ballots cast in his favor, Walker will remain on the ballot and will be eligible for election again in 2017. Despite not being elected yet, there are compelling arguments to cast aside the perceived "Coors Field effect" on his statistics and grant the outfielder entrance to the Hall of Fame.
We'll see if that becomes a reality next winter. Assuming he continues to record votes from more than 5% of BBWAA members, Walker will have four more opportunities for election before his time runs out with the 2020 ballot.
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Griffey, Jr., in his first year on the ballot, played for the Mariners, Reds, and White Sox between 1989 and 2010. He finished his stellar career with 630 home runs, 524 doubles, 184 stolen bases, and 2,781 total hits. He slashed .284/.370/.538 over 11,304 plate appearances, predominantly over 13 seasons in Seattle and nine more in Cincinnati.
The outfielder was named to 13 All-Star teams, and won 10 Gold Glove and seven Silver Slugger Awards. He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in 1989, and finished in the top five in Most Valuable Player voting five times, including 1997, when he won the award playing for the Mariners. That season, he slashed .304/.382/.646 with 56 home runs, 147 RBI, and 125 runs scored; all three of those latter numbers led the American League that summer.
Despite spending more than half of his career in the A.L., Griffey still had lots of success against the Rockies over the years, slashing .313/.423/.742 with 10 doubles, 20 home runs, 33 walks and just 33 strikeouts over 54 games (222 plate appearances). At Coors Field specifically, Griffey slashed .289/.411/.737 with nine home runs in just 76 at-bats, good enough to log a 1.147 OPS.
Piazza, in his fourth year on the ballot, played for the Dodgers, Marlins, Mets, Padres, and Athletics across a 16-year big league career that lasted from 1992 to 2007. In 7,745 plate appearances, the catcher slashed .308/.377/.545 with 344 doubles and 427 home runs. A 12-time All-Star, Piazza also won Rookie of the Year in 1993 with the Dodgers, was a ten-time Silver Slugger winner, and finished in the top ten of MVP voting seven times, including nearly winning the award in both 1996 and 1997.
One of the best-hitting catchers of the last several decades — whom the Dodgers selected in the 62nd round of the 1988 MLB Draft — Piazza had arguably his best year in '97, when he slashed .362/.431/.638 with 40 home runs, 32 doubles, and 69 walks against just 77 strikeouts over 633 plate appearances. Only Walker's monstrous season was good enough to outdo Piazza as the best in the National League that summer.
Piazza demolished the Rockies in his career, slashing .337/.393/.602 over 127 games (524 plate appearances), with 24 doubles, 34 home runs, 121 RBI, and a .995 OPS. At Coors Field in his career, Piazza slashed .374/.421/.695 with a 1.115 OPS, 14 doubles, and 17 home runs over 51 games (221 plate appearances). He also added a .367/.436/.612 slash line with a 1.049 OPS in 12 games (55 plate appearances) at Mile High Stadium.
Congrats to those elected to the 2016 class of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.