At Home Plate: Steroid era impacts Hall voting

For just the eighth time since the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s inception in 1934, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America failed to elect a member to Cooperstown. Several marquee names highlighted this year’s ballot, but no one received the necessary 75 percent of the vote to be enshrined.

While a few borderline players like Craig Biggio, Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza were close, the notable names of baseball’s “Steroid Era” were far from the magic number. The results show that the borderline players may eventually receive the call, but the alleged steroid users may have a much more difficult time.

The above crop of players was certainly talented, but many classify them as borderline Hall of Famers because there is no Willie Mays or Ted Williams in the bunch.

Barry Bonds (Photo by Rob Corder, used under Creative Commons License)

Barry Bonds (Photo by Rob Corder, used under Creative Commons License)

However, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, based on production, are certainly in that category, but the conversations of steroid usage have clouded their stellar careers. Clemens received only 37.6 percent of the vote, while Bonds showed up on just 36.2 percent of the ballots.

Recently, players elected to the Hall of Fame have had to pay their dues before receiving the call, like Jim Rice and Andre Dawson. Respect for these players grew over time and resulted in their eventual enshrinement.

But in the case of Bonds and Clemens, the statistics are obviously there, but instead it’s an issue of integrity for the game. If a writer didn’t vote for one of these players this time around based on suspicion of steroids, there’s little chance that writer’s opinion will change next year.

Some writers are maybe punishing these two stars for only one year, since they don’t want to see these players be first-ballot Hall of Famers. But even so, it would be a huge jump to go from around 40 percent to 75 percent.

This year’s results would be telling for some closure to the “Steroid Era,” and the writers have spoken.

As for the borderline players, Biggio, who ranks 20th on the all-time hits list with 3,060, received the highest percentage of the vote with 68.2 percent. Morris’ name appeared on 67.7 percent of the ballots, while Bagwell and Piazza received 59.6 and 57.8 percent of the vote, respectively.

Normally, reaching 3,000 hits signifies an automatic enshrinement to Cooperstown on the first ballot. Such was the case for six players of the seven eligible for the Hall: Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Paul Molitor and Eddie Murray. The exception is of course Rafael Palmeiro, who tested positive for steroids in August 2005.

Biggio will have to wait at least one more year, but based on his voting percentage, all signs point to enshrinement in 2014. Some consider him a statistics compiler, but even so that relates to his productivity and longevity in the sport.

Morris will be on the ballot for the final time in 2014. He won 254 games in his career, which is shy of the magic number of 300. It looks like he will have one last chance next year.

As for Bagwell and Piazza, playing in the “Steroid Era” obviously held back the voters this time around. While neither player every tested positive or was named on the record in relation to steroids, the suspicion proved enough to keep them out of Cooperstown for now.

But with both players hovering around 60 percent, the future looks bright for both players’ chances of being elected. They’ll just have to be patient.

So in the end, the borderline players may someday receive the call, while the players connected to steroids appear doomed.

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