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Griffey, Piazza inducted into Hall of Fame

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Retired Seattle Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., left, and retired New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza gesture to each other after Griffey donned his cap backwards and Piazza put his on facing forward at a press conference announcing their election to baseball's Hall of Fame, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, in New York. Both men were inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday. Retired Seattle Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., left, and retired New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza gesture to each other after Griffey donned his cap backwards and Piazza put his on facing forward at a press conference announcing their election to baseball's Hall of Fame, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, in New York. Both men were inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Two more greats to grace the gallery at Cooperstown

It would seem that the voters for baseball's Hall of Fame have finally eased up the tight-fisted take on enshrinement that had hobbled the process for so long, with two more inductees made the grade this year. Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza will see their plaques go on the wall in Cooperstown this summer. That makes nine that have been elected in the past three years.

Expect even more progressiveness in terms of the voting process going forward. While the Hall has refused to raise the maximum number of players that can be voted for per ballot (currently 10), the streamlining of the voting corps will certainly help matters. Any voter who hadn't covered the sport in the last 10 years was removed from the rolls, making the group smaller and younger at the same time.

That's good, because there are a lot of big names Manny Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero next year; Chipper Jones and Jim Thome in 2018; not to mention holdovers like Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Trevor Hoffman coming up quickly.

The 2016 class might not be quite as massive a haul of Hall-of-Famers as the last couple of years, but it is one dynamic duo.

A lot of people who were baseball fans in the 1990s had two favorite players. One was their favorite player on their favorite team. The other was Ken Griffey Jr. Junior WAS baseball in the 90s, his sweet swing and sweeter grin ubiquitous across the game. Injuries cost him some time and production in the latter part of his career, but his final stat line is astonishing. He finished his career with 630 home runs, currently the sixth most in MLB history, and over 1,800 RBI.

Griffey was a 12-time All-Star and won nine Gold Gloves; he was the 1997 MVP and in the top-10 of the balloting another six times. He was also one of the few players to escape his era without even a whiff of PED scandal. Any fan of baseball loved Griffey and what he could do; it's no surprise that he set a new record for percentage of the ballot with 99.3 percent. Just three voters left the Kid off their ballots.

And those three should be ashamed of themselves.

Unlike Griffey, our other inductee had been here before. Mike Piazza made it in this, his fourth year on the ballot. He saw his support steadily rise he was just shy with 69.9 percent last year, so it's no surprise he made it, finishing at 83 percent, well over the 75 percent threshold. His case is simple he's the best offensive catcher of all time. Piazza had 427 career homers (396 as a catcher) and 1,335 RBI. His career line is .308/.377/.545 that's an All-Star season and those are his lifetime averages.

Piazza never won an MVP though he finished in the top-10 seven times. He was a 12-time All-Star. He was also considered to be a poor defensive catcher (though hindsight shows us that he wasn't nearly as bad as people thought) and was haunted by steroid whispers. Still, his massive bat more than made up for his flaws both real and insinuated.

As for the close-but-no-cigar contingent:

Bagwell was the closest of this year's just-missed, managing 71.6 percent of the vote. By some measures, the only post-WWII first baseman better than him is no-doubt Hall-of-Famer Albert Pujols. Next, in his ninth and penultimate year on the ballot, outfielder Tim Raines pulled just shy of 70 percent; his only crime is only being the second-best leadoff man in MLB history at the exact time that the best (Rickey Henderson) was playing. Next year will be his last chance; it'll be a travesty if he fails to get in. And in his first year on the ballot, closer Trevor Hoffman garnered an impressive 67.3 percent. That looks good for Hoffman he doesn't want to still be on the ballot when Mariano Rivera arrives in a couple of years.

In all, 11 players received support of at least 40 percent; it's another good sign that the electorate is starting to be a bit less stingy with enshrinement. And while there are some questions about the 2017 ballot newcomers, they are likely to receive significant support. Maybe not enough to get in on the first ballot, but plenty.

Regardless, judging from the results of this year's voting, it doesn't look like the gates are going to be locked anytime soon.

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