By Ross Newhan
It is clear that the steroid era impacted virtually every candidate on the Hall of Fame ballot, arguably the most controversial ever. No one was elected in the vote by eligible members of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America. What this means for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, easily the two most acclaimed players linked--authoritatively and circumstantially--to performance enhancing drugs, is difficult to decipher.
In their first year on the ballot and needing 75% of the more than 600 votes, Clemens, the only pitcher to win seven Cy Young Awards, received 37.6% .and Bonds, the only player to receive seven Most Valuable Player Awards, received 36.2%. In other words, two thirds of the electorate did not vote for either, but was that simply a first ballot statement by many voters or a telling and significant indication they will never receive 75%?
Both have a long climb and are eligible to remain on the ballot for 15 years as long as they receive at least 5% of the vote.
In other words, the Hall of Fame election is a process, and it is possible that some votes may have simply deferred possible support for Bonds and Clemens.
This was the eighth time in voting history that no one was elected by the BBWAA and the first time since 1996, when six players on that ballot ultimately climbed to 75%. It is also noteworthy that only 21% of all Hall of Fame members were elected on the first ballot. Even Joe DiMaggio had to wait.
Neither Bonds nor Clemens made my ballot and never will. The evidence of PED use by both is monumental, a shame given that it seems safe to say that both would be first ballot selections save for the cheating.
Yet, both did better in the voting than Sammy Sosa, a stalwart of the steroid era who hit 609 home runs, reportedly tested positive for a PED and received only 12.9% of the vote, leaving him with virtually no chance to be elected. Two other players once thought to have a chance but firmly associated with the era through admission or testing continued to slide towards the end of the ballot: Mark McGwire at 16.9% and Rafael Palmeiro at 8.8%
My ballot listed Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Jack Moris, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling and Lee Smith.
Biggio finished first in the voting at 68.2%, missing by only 39 votes. Morris, in his next to last year on the ballot, moved by up only 1% to 67.7, a disappointment.
Piazza and Bagwell, both victims of the rampant suspicions that clouded the steriod era, have a shot at the 75% in time.
Piazza, in his first year on the ballot, got 57.8%, and Bagwell, in his third year, received 59.6% .
Schilling, a 216 game winner whose post-season record is among the best in history and whose strikeout to walk ratio IS the best, got only 38.8%, and, like Morris, may have a tough time climbing significantly next year since Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina are among the pitchers eligible for the first time.
Only 10 players can be listed on a ballot and that impacts the procedure. For Bonds and Clemens, next year's percentages could be more telling in relation to their eventual shot at election.
The Cooperstown Museum may not be a Hall of Saints, but it is impossible for me to condone the cheating that twisted the statistics of an era and a sport's history.