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Friday, December 13, 2002
Is Griffey a Hall of Famer?

SportsNation

When Ken Griffey Jr. was traded to the Reds three years ago, he was a good bet to break Hank Aaron's career home-run record.

But he's hit just 30 home runs over his past two injury-plagued seasons and Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa have soared past him as more likely choices to surpass Aaron.

Ken Griffey Jr.

Even Griffey's potential Hall of Fame status is a little cloudy these days. He has 468 home runs, an impressive total, but perhaps not enough to guarantee election.

Is Griffey done? If Griffey were to retire today or suffer through a couple more inconsequential seasons, would he make the Hall of Fame? SportsNation takes a quick look at both sides of the debate.

Griffey: Hall of Famer
1. Accomplishments. An MVP Award and four years in the top five, seven years of 40+ home runs and two of 56, four home-run crowns, 10 Gold Gloves, 11 All-Star Games, eight 100-RBI seasons (including four straight of 130+), a career .295 batting average, five years of a .600+ slugging percentage and a lifetime slugging mark of .562. Those marks, even in a short career, are too impressive to mean anything but automatic Hall of Fame election.

2. Comparable players. Who else has achieved similar totals through age 32? From baseball-reference.com, the most similar batters in Griffey's top 10 include seven Hall of Famers plus Bonds, Sosa and Juan Gonzalez. The two most comparable at Griffey's age are Frank Robinson and Mickey Mantle. This isn't Chick Hafey and Tony Perez we're talking about; this is the elite of the elite.

3. How viewed. There were several years when Griffey was widely hailed as the best player in the game. For most of the '90s, only Barry Bonds could match his all-around skills. One of the first questions that needs to be asked of a Hall of Fame candidate is: Was he viewed as the best player in the game or one of the best? Many Hall of Famers were never even the best at their position in their time. There is no doubt that Griffey spent many years as the best or among the very best players.

Griffey: Not a Hall of Famer
1. Accomplishments. In this era of pumped-up sluggers and pint-sized ballparks, 40-homer seasons are nothing to brag about. And Griffey hasn't even reached 500 career yet, so 468 won't mean automatic enshrinement. His 2,039 hits are hardly Hall-of-Fame caliber and he's not even in the top 100 all-time in hits or runs scored and ranks just 64th in RBI. He also scores less than the average Hall of Famer on the "Black Ink" test (league-leading performances) -- for instance, he's led his league just once each in RBI, runs and slugging and never in on-base percentage, OPS (on-base + slugging) or batting average.

2. Comparable players. Griffey may rank well through age 32, but his career totals right now produce another list of top-10 comparable players that includes Jose Canseco, Ellis Burks, Bob Johnson and Albert Belle. Fine players all, but not Hall of Famers.

3. How viewed. Griffey's perception may have always been a tad inflated; for instance, he really hasn't fared that well in the MVP voting (Bonds has five awards while Griffey finished in the top three just twice). Recent players like Jim Rice, Dale Murphy and Don Mattingly were once considered the best in the game, but their careers ended too abruptly to get enough Hall of Fame support.