MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Why there will be no unanimous Hall of Famers

Why there will be no unanimous Hall of Famers

Look, no player is ever going to be a unanimous Hall of Famer. If we've learned anything about the voting of the Baseball Writers' Association of America these past 80 years, this is it.

For instance, George Herman Ruth.

Let's review Ruth's contributions to baseball: He wasn't just the greatest player in history. Someone would argue that point anyway. But he probably was the most important player.

Jackie Robinson should be mentioned in the same breath. But I digress. Ruth led baseball's resurrection after the 1919 Black Sox scandal. He hit 714 home runs.

OK, that's enough.

Unanimous? Nope.

Ruth was named on 95.13 percent of the ballots -- that's 215 of 226. His percentage is now only the 14th highest all time. Ruth is not just behind Ken Griffey Jr. He got a lower vote percentage than Tony Gwynn -- 97.61 percent.

Hey, I love Tony Gwynn as much as the next guy, but there's no way he should have gotten a higher percentage of the vote than Babe Ruth.

And there's Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. If Ruth isn't the greatest player of all time, then either Mays and Aaron almost certainly is. They weren't unanimous, either. Actually, Mays got a lower percentage of the vote than Ruth -- appearing on 409 of 432 ballots for 94.68 percent.

Let's face it, if Ruth and Mays weren't unanimous, there's not much hope for Mike Trout or Bryce Harper when their time comes.

As for Aaron, in 1982, he was named on 406 of 415 ballots. That's spectacular if you're talking about the Iowa Caucuses. For the guy who hit 755 home runs, well, that's a tad embarrassing.

And Aaron's teammates say those home runs overshadowed his greatness as a defender, a baserunner and an instinctively brilliant baseball player. Plenty of people believe he was better than anyone, better than Mays or Mickey Mantle or Ted Williams.

But nine people didn't check Aaron's name the first time he showed up on the Hall of Fame ballot. Through the years, some guys have said they don't like voting for any player on the first ballot.

Their rule of thumb ought to be this: 755 dingers gets you a vote even if your personal rule of thumb has to be broken.

Mays? Heck, he wasn't even close. In 1979, 409 voters checked Mays' name, 23 didn't. His 94.68 percent stands only 17th on the all-time list.

Rather than get all worked up, let's have a good laugh about it. In other words, get over it.

There's one in every crowd, etc. In the case of Junior Griffey, there were three. Yep, three of the 440 voters decided he didn't cut it as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Griffey's historic HOF election

Those three voters might want to take a second look at their standards. That said, Griffey's 99.3 percent is the highest of all time, slightly better than Tom Seaver's 98.84 percent.

In 1992, Seaver's name was checked on 425 of 430 ballots. Until Wednesday, that was the highest of all time. In the context of Griffey and Mays, of Aaron and Ruth, that's extraordinary.

So if you live in Cincinnati or Seattle and you're all worked up about the three people who didn't vote for Junior, don't sweat it. In the end, it doesn't matter. If you saw him play, you know that he oozed greatness.

Beyond the 630 home runs and 13 All-Star appearances, Griffey just had the look of greatness. He played the most effortless, beautiful center field of virtually anyone. His swing was a work of art.

So Griffey not getting three votes is a message to the very best players of this generation to not expect more than 99.3 percent.

Aaron on 2016 Hall of Fame class

As great as Buster Posey and Miguel Cabrera are, as terrific as Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter were, they're not going to be unanimous.

Someone will think that Cabrera should have won more than two American League MVP Awards and been in more than 10 All-Star Games. Seeing how he's just 32 years old, he probably will add to at least the latter total. But even if Cabrera never gets another hit, consider these numbers: 492 doubles, 408 home runs, .961 OPS.

Beyond that, those of us who've watched Cabrera play are convinced he hits the ball harder more consistently than virtually anyone on the planet.

Out there on the West Coast, all you people who think Posey is an all-time great are absolutely right. He has been the heart and soul of three World Series championship teams, and along the way, he became one of those quiet guys revered by opponents and teammates alike.

To play the most physically demanding position on the planet, catcher, and to already have a National League batting title, an NL Most Valuable Player Award, an NL Rookie of the Year Award and three rings is an impressive resume.

And Posey is all of 28 years old. He's one of the players in the game today who has future Hall of Famer written all over him.

Here's another: Ichiro Suzuki.

Truth be told, Ichiro probably deserves to be at the top of every list. To look at his career fairly, he might deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Aaron or Mays. By the time Ichiro made his Major League debut at 27, he was a legend in Japanese baseball with 1,278 hits and a .353 batting average.

We rolled our eyes when Ichiro came to America in 2001. "He doesn't hit home runs," we said. "He won't be an impact guy," we added.

Oh, brother, were we wrong. In 15 seasons, Ichiro has 2,935 hits and has led the AL in hits seven times. He has won an AL MVP Award and is a 10-time All-Star.

Ichiro is 42 years old and nearing the end. But he'll be back with the Marlins this season, and if he comes to a ballpark near you, go see him. It's your only chance to see a player with 4,213 hits. Watch how he prepares himself. Watch Ichiro's focus at home plate, how he fights off certain pitches, as if he has decided what he will and won't swing at.

As for the others, forget about it, boys. Sure, Trout has been one of the best players to put on a uniform. So are Clayton Kershaw and Albert Pujols and Harper. Just know that no matter how great they are, someone is going to find a reason to not vote for them.

Next up: Rivera. Three years from now, his name comes up. Will he make it on the first try? Absolutely. Slam dunk.

Rivera's buddy Jeter will follow a year later, eligible for election in 2020. Plenty of baseball fans can't wait to see him walk through the doors of Cooperstown. To a lot of them, Jeter was the closest thing there has been to the perfect baseball player.

We salute you once more, Captain. We appreciate all you did and look forward to you joining Bob Gibson and Frank Robinson and all those guys on the stage in Cooperstown.

They were almost perfect players, too. They didn't get all the Hall of Fame votes the year they were inducted, either. It's just not important anymore.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.