When it was announced that no candidate had received the 75 percent inclusion on ballots needed to be inducted into this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame class, I can’t say I was surprised.
I honestly thought Houston’s Craig Biggio might get in – he led all candidates with 68.2 percent of the vote – but wasn't shocked that he fell short. This was an exceptionally difficult year for voting, and there was a whole lot of sentiment toward making a statement.
The Baseball Writers' Association of America surely did that. And the response was all over the map.
My take is that I truly understand why more than 60 percent of my BBWAA brethren didn’t vote for Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds – it’s pretty apparent those players used performance enhancing drugs during their splendid careers. And that is, simply put, cheating.
Full disclosure, I am an eligible Hall of Fame voter but The Baltimore Sun’s policy is not to vote on any awards.
If I were to vote, I would have included Bonds and Clemens as well as probably six or seven others – including Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and, yes, Rafael Palmeiro.
So get your hate emails ready.
I get that steroid users were cheaters. And that they disgraced the game. I also know that cheating in baseball is not a new phenomenon. And I don’t think you can dismiss a player’s entire career because of use (or potential use) of steroids (or gambling for that matter or being caught in a fixing scandal).
We’re not perfect, baseball’s not perfect. Certainly, I’m not perfect. I covered the 2003 Orioles, who were at the epicenter of the steroid scandal and, though I consider myself a fairly solid reporter, I never once wrote about those guys using steroids.
Did I have my suspicions? Absolutely.
Did I ask questions about how guys suddenly put on 30 pounds of muscle in an offseason? Yep, and those guys had detailed answers about their new diet and workout regimens.
Did I have the smoking gun (or smoking needle) that could have fully proven it and allowed me to write it without prompting a potential libel suit? Nope. Not close.
So it went on. I’m not exactly proud of that reporting chapter of my life, but you need more than the eyeball test. And, trust me, I’m not the only one that had suspicions: Other players, medical staff, coaches, front office personnel, union reps and, of course, fans.
The Steroid Era was part of baseball. And I don’t think you can ignore all of those who played in it. My solution – and I’m sure you can find flaws here – is to devalue some of the power stats (take away some homers, RBIs and strikeouts for pitchers) and then re-evaluate those players’ resumes.
If they were all-around stars and not one-trick steroid ponies, I’d vote for them. That’s why Bonds and Clemens would get my votes, and Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire wouldn’t.
Yes, that’s exceptionally subjective. But so is this overall process. And I believe it should stay that way and stay in the hands of baseball writers, who, for the most part, put more time, research and phone calls into making their decisions than the public realizes.
I can’t say I’m particularly pleased that no one was voted in this year when, on merit alone, there are probably 10, and maybe 15, legitimate candidates.
But I do respect the process. And I do think the Hall of Fame should be an exclusive club and membership should not be easy.
That, for sure, was heard loud and clear Wednesday.