One of the perks of covering the Orioles is that we have easy access to Jim Palmer, a Hall of Fame pitcher who, unlike some other great players, has no problem speaking his mind.
I talked to Palmer on Wednesday after he deplaned in Southern California – he will be presented with the Professional Baseball Scouts' Foundation's lifetime achievement award on Saturday in Los Angeles – about the Baseball Writers' of America Association failing to induct anyone into this year's Hall of Fame class, including Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
As always, Palmer had plenty to say – and said it straight from the heart. Here's Palmer on various aspects of the voting
On no one getting in, including players not suspected of steroid use: "Obviously there are a lot of voters that didn't vote or didn't vote for them. … Just because you have a bunch of guys that are suspected of performance enhancing drugs doesn't mean you vote for guys that don't belong in the Hall of Fame."
On judging players beyond their statistics: "I love it -- character, sportsmanship and integrity. Do you think any of those guys when they rounded the bases looking like Popeye thought about sportsmanship, because they just made the pitcher feel bad? I don't think so. So I don't know if that has to be the criteria."
On Bonds' and Clemens' chances in the future: "I still think at some point, unless you are going to just talk about the morality and the fact that you had the choice between right and wrong and the way you chose if you're Clemens or Bonds, ultimately those guys are Hall of Famers before starting whatever they did."
On the money and culture of the Steroid Era: "Guys have always been trying to get an edge. But I think the point I am trying to make is that the union, they encouraged this because it was all about revenue. I'm listening to all the psychobabble today about let's not blame the players that didn't use them and all that. The question to me all the time, [is] if you really wanted to do the right thing and not just make the most money, why then, if it's only 10 percent or 15 percent [of players that are users] why didn't the other 75 or 85 percent of the players that weren't doing it, why didn't they say something? And the reason is that they liked the system. These guys hit the home runs, they get the big contracts, you have arbitration, your salary will be compared to this. This culture of baseball, of more revenue, more home runs, more people in the stands, blah, blah, blah, nobody was putting the ABS brakes on this. You have the union supporting it. They knew what was going on."
On the writers' statement Wednesday: "The guys that belong in the end are going to get in it. But to me it was a rather loud statement to the people that played in the Steroid Era, especially if you had enhancements or people felt that you did. 'You know what? We're not real happy with this. We're not putting up with this, at least not for now.' … This is a shot across the bow of the whole Steroid Era, when it was all about revenue, when it was all about making money. I'm not, just, because I am in the Hall of Fame, saying that being elected is the Holy Grail, but some writers feel that way."
On whether he thinks Bonds and Clemens are worthy (and Sosa): "I'm not happy guys didn't get in. I would have had no problem because of the resume of Clemens and Bonds from a strict standpoint of what they did on the field before they [were suspected PED users]. I wouldn't have had a problem at all. But Sammy Sosa?"
On how the Steroid Era affected others: "The problem is for a guy like Fred McGriff, who never had any kind of accusations and had almost 500 home runs, or Dale Murphy, their numbers pale [in comparison] and people forget how good they were. That's the tragedy. But again it's the tragedy of a culture that [union chief] Donald Fehr perpetuated from 1991 on. It wasn't like people didn't know what was going on. It wasn't like people didn't encourage it. They did. Now some people will step out and say it wasn't overtly done. But there are a lot of guys that I talked to that played in that era that say that wasn't the case. Maybe this is just a statement of what really went on. You really can't change it. But you can judge it and I think the Baseball Writers' [Association] of America have done that."
On Rafael Palmeiro, who lost 22 votes this year: "He's a victim of circumstance. He went to the congressional hearing, pointed his finger and said he never did it. And then he tested positive. Now, you know what, maybe it was a tainted [B-12 injection], who knows?"
On Bonds and other 'cheaters': "Bonds isn't going to get any more votes because he was a nice guy. Because he was a jerk. But he was a hell of a player. I'm not sure that should keep you out of the Hal of Fame. If it did, there'd be a lot of guys out. I pitched against [Hall of Fame spitballer] Gaylord Perry who left fingerprints on the ball. And the umpires just laughed. So everybody's kind of worked the system to some degree, but I think this is more of a statement of what the writers think of the whole culture."