Everyone knew that this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame vote would be an interesting one. Accused performance enhancing (PED) drug users Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa were on the ballot for the first time, as were anti-PED self appointed spokesman Curt Schilling, and perennial All-Star Craig Biggio. Holdovers from past ballots, such as Jack Morris, were expected to have a greater chance to get in with players from the Steroid Era expected to be ignored by most of the voters.
It turns out everyone was ignored to a point. The accumulated votes of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) did not elevate a single player to the 75% minimum tally necessary to gain entrance to Cooperstown.
It’s the first time since 1976 that the BBWAA did not elect at least one player. Biggio, who spent 20 years as a catcher and second baseman for the Houston Astros, came the closest with 68% of the vote.1 Morris received 66.7% in 2012, but was only able to attain one more percentage point (67.7%) this time around.
I can totally understand and respect any writer’s opinion that players that fall into the Bonds/Clemens/Sosa category should not be allowed in the Hall, but voters who left deserving, “clean” players off their ballots did a poor job with the power that wield.
Opinions differed among the writer’s when it came to the handling of the Steroid Era group. Moss Klein, who covered the Yankees for the Star Ledger from 1976 – 1992, included Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa on his ballot because they were the best of the “tainted era”.2 Klein felt that cheating was widespread and so you either needed to eliminate the entire era or elect who was the best of that period. He chose the latter when he filled out his ballot.
16 writers that work for MLB.com had votes this year and 87.5% of them felt Biggio should gain entry. But some did not include them on their ballots. Whether it is the usual bias of making sure no one gets a unanimous vote or the reluctancy to vote a player in on his first shot, it’s ridiculous that Biggio was left off so many ballots. Two of the ballots belonged to MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick and Marty Noble, who both only voted for Morris.3
Jeff Bagwell gained a few percentage points from last year’s vote, but his ability to garner the necessary percentage is iffy due to the (unfounded thus far) suspicion that he was a cheater. Earlier today ESPN Radio reported that Mike Piazza, one the best offensive catchers in the game, could also be prevented from entrance due to whispers of PED use. He received 57.8% of the vote in his first year of eligibility and, to me, was deserving of induction his first time through the process.
There still will be a Hall of Fame induction ceremony this summer, but will there really be an interest? Large crowds normally gather to cheer on their favorites as they are inducted. One would imagine the turn out on Sunday, July 28 at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y will not be a large one. The 2013 class is former umpire Hank O’Day, former New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and 19th century player Deacon White, all of whom were elected by the Pre-Integration Committee.4
The Baseball Hall of Fame is not for everyone, – there are already players in there that many feel don’t belong (Kirby Puckett’s name is often mentioned) – it is for the very best of the best. But it’s disappointing that no one was elected by the BBWAA. You will not convince the fans that not one of the players on the 2013 ballot deserved enshrinement, whether they are cheaters or not.
My feeling is that eventually those with tarnished reputations will be inducted when the BBWAA is comprised of younger voters, ones that were not in their formative years during the Steroid Era. It would seem the average baseball fan doesn’t care about steroids any more. They would just like to see their favorite players, warts and all, inducted. Guys like Craig Biggio.
1 – ESPN.com
2 – NJ.com
3 – MLB.com
4 – The Sporting News