Baseball writers tossed a steroid shutout Wednesday.
By PETE GRATHOFF
The Kansas City Star
For the first time since 1996, no player received enough votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America to be elected to the Hall of Fame. This summers Hall of Fame ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., will be the first in 53 years in which no living person will be enshrined.
To be elected, a player must be named on 75 percent of the ballots cast. Former Houston Astros second baseman Craig Biggio came closest. Biggio, who had 3,060 career hits, was named on 68.2 percent of the ballots, 39 votes shy of induction. There were 569 ballots cast.
Obviously, nobody in Cooperstown was rooting for a shutout, hall president Jeff Idelson said in a conference call after the announcement Wednesday. But at the same token, we have a great respect for the process. As Ive often said: when you talk about the BBWAA ballot and a snapshot in time, the snapshot of time in that exercise isnt one year, its 15.
Players who receive at least 5 percent of the vote remain on the ballot for 15 years, so first-timers this year will have many more opportunities for induction.
But what caused an uproar among some baseball fans is that some of this years first-timers reached significant historic milestones, ones that usually ensure enshrinement. Among the first-timers were Barry Bonds, who hit the most home runs in baseball history (762) and in a single season (73), Roger Clemens (354 career victories, seven Cy Young awards) and Sammy Sosa (660 career homers).
Rafael Palmeiro (3,020 hits, 569 homers) and Mark McGwire (583 homers) were among the returning players on the ballot.
However, all five players have been linked to steroid use, and none came close to making the cut. Clemens was named on 37.6 percent of the ballots, while Bonds received 36.2 percent of the vote. McGwire got 16.9 percent, Sosa received 12.5 percent and Palmeiro got 8.8 percent.
Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner was not happy.
Todays news that those members of the BBWAA afforded the privilege of casting ballots failed to elect even a single player to the Hall of Fame is unfortunate, if not sad, Weiner said in a statement. Those empowered to help the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum document the history of the game failed to recognize the contributions of several Hall of Fame worthy players.
To ignore the historic accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, for example, is hard to justify. Moreover, to penalize players exonerated in legal proceedings and others never even implicated is simply unfair. The Hall of Fame is supposed to be for the best players to have ever played the game. Several such players were denied access to the Hall today. Hopefully this will be rectified by future voting.
Despite the criticism from Weiner and others, Idelson said he was comfortable with the BBWAA process for electing players to the Hall.
Its a tough period for evaluation, thats what this chalks up to, Idelson said. Honestly, I think that any group you would put this to would have the same issue.
Jack OConnell, the BBWAAs secretary/treasurer who counts the ballots, called the steroids issue the 800-pound gorilla that writers had to grapple with.
Idelson said some of the anger about the Hall of Fame shutout was to be expected.
What that underscores is how emotional people are and how much they care about the game, the history and the Hall of Fame, which is important, Idelson said. There is always going to be discussion and concern about players who didnt get in.
Among the others who missed out on election were Jack Morris, who received the second-most votes (67.7 percent of the ballots). Jeff Bagwell (59.6 percent), Mike Piazza (57.8 percent) and Tim Raines (52.2 percent) round out the top five.
The last time no one was elected by the BBWAA was 1996, when the Veterans Committee chose former Orioles manager Earl Weaver and pitching great Jim Bunning for enshrinement.
In December, the pre-Integration Era Committee voted 19th Century catcher/third baseman Deacon White, former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and former umpire Hank ODay into the hall.
All three died in the 1930s, so the July 28 Hall of Fame ceremony will be the first since 1960 without a living inductee.
To reach Pete Grathoff, call 816-234-4330 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/pgrathoff