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Two more for baseball's Hall of Fame

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Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza make up Class of 2016

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.

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.

We can probably expect 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), they have made an effort to streamline the voting corps itself. 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.

As for this year, it's an unsurprising pair.

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.

Griffey and Piazza are the ones that made the cut, but there were three others whose performance on this ballot likely ensures that they'll be getting measured for plaques of their own before long.

Jeff 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 Bagwell 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. He's got one year left; 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 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. 2017 ballot newcomers will include outfielders Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero and catcher Ivan Rodriguez, each with their own questions regarding their Hall worthiness. All three will face some struggles getting in on their first try.

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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