The big news on Wednesday regarding the vote of the Baseball Writers Association of America for this year’s class of inductees for the Baseball Hall of Fame is that the writers have decided no one on the ballot was worthy of enshrinement.
This year’s ballot included, in no particular order:
–The sport’s all-time home-run leader, a player who was named Most Valuable Player seven times.
–A seven-time Cy Young Award winner with more wins than all but two pitchers whose careers were played exclusively in the live-ball era.
–The greatest hitting catcher who ever lived.
–The only player besides Hall of Famer Tris Speaker to have 50 doubles and 50 stolen bases in a single season, a player who excelled at three of the demanding up-the-middle positions (catcher, second base, center field).
–One of only four players ever to hit 500 home runs and collect 3,000 hits.
The players in question above, of course, are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio and Rafael Palmeiro.
Biggio was the closest to being elected with 68.2 percent of the vote. Jack Morris, in his penultimate year on the ballot, received 67.7 percent.
Clemens and Bonds received 37.6 percent and 36.2 percent of the vote, respectively; higher than any player previously associated with performance-enhancing drugs but halfway and less than halfway, respectively, from the needed total for enshrinement.
Piazza tallied 57.8 percent of the vote and Palmeiro a paltry 8.8 percent.
The difference between Palmeiro and every other player mentioned so far is that Palmeiro at least has a direct link to steroid use. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 games after failing a test for PEDs in 2005, his final season in the major leagues. Famously, the failed test came months after he famously pointed his finger at a congressional committee and declared, “I have never used steroids. Period.”
Clemens and Bonds wound up in court over their alleged steroid use, although the government was not able to secure a conviction against Clemens for lying to Congress about his use of PEDs and Bonds’ trial ended in a mistrial of all but one count against him, a guilty verdict on one count of obstruction of justice.
Jeff Bagwell apparently has been denied election for three straight years because he got too big, so obviously had to be taking something. Piazza fell into the same category in his first year on the ballot this year.
But it shouldn’t come as a shock that the writers who vote for the Hall of Fame have done this. Many of those voters have been railing about steroids in baseball … at least since it became cool to do so. While the so-called Steroid Era was in full effect through the 1980s, 1990s and early 21st century, though? Yeah, not so much with the feigned outrage.
The fact is that there are likely PED users already enshrined. The Mitchell Report, commissioned by Major League Baseball and released in 2007, cited the use of steroids in baseball as early as 1973.
There are those who have defended steroid use in baseball by claiming it wasn’t against the rules until 2004. Others fire back that steroids were nonetheless illegal in the U.S. long before that date.
Funny thing, though; when amphetamines were readily available in major-league clubhouses as early as the late 1940s, weren’t those against the law, too? Yet generations of players fueled by greenies and speed have made their way to the hallowed shrine of the sport in Cooperstown, N.Y.
The Steroid Era is a regrettable blight on the game of baseball. But is it any less egregious than the nearly a century the sport was segregated? Yet there are many players from baseball’s pre-integration years who have plaques on the walls in Cooperstown.
Let the game’s history reflect the game—warts and all. It makes more sense than simply pretending 30 years of the sport never happened.