The electorate of the Baseball Writers' Association of America sent a clear message to tainted superstars Wednesday: If you were suspected of taking performance enhancing drugs, you don't belong in the Hall of Fame. At least not in 2013.
No players were voted in by the writers this year — the first time that has happened since 1996 and the eighth time in the Hall's history.
Outfielder Barry Bonds, the sport's all-time home run leader and a seven-time MVP, and right-hander Roger Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, both failed to get close to the 75 percent vote threshold needed to get elected.
Bonds was named on 36.2 percent of the 569 ballots cast by eligible members of the BBWAA and Clemens 37.6 percent. Former Orioles Sammy Sosa (12.5 percent) and Rafael Palmeiro (8.8) also failed to gain support as part of the steroid controversy.
"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," said Hall of Fame former Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, who noted that he feels character, sportsmanship and integrity should be considered in the voting process. "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."
Palmeiro, the only candidate who failed a drug test, received 72 of 573 votes last year (12.6), meaning he dropped by 22 votes this time around. Because he was named on at least 5 percent of ballots, Palmeiro will remain eligible in 2014.
"I am concerned that now, next year, with the guys that are coming up, some of my votes may be taken off and given to other guys," said Palmeiro, one of four players in baseball history with more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. "But I don't think there's anything you can do.
"I always go back to the same thing. That some of these guys that have me on the fence can look back at my whole career and not just look at what happened at the end of my career and base their decision on that."
A Sosa representative said her client's only comment was that "it was an honor to be nominated" and he would be doing no interviews Wednesday.
Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Houston Astros and amassed 3,060 hits, received the most support in this year's voting. A first-time candidate, Biggio was named on 68.2 percent of the ballots.
Biggio was followed by Jack Morris (67.7 percent), Jeff Bagwell (59.6), Mike Piazza (57.8) and former Oriole Tim Raines (52.2). No other candidate was named on at least half the ballots.