The Brotherhood/Sisterhood of Baseball Writers pitched a shutout — nobody on the 2013 ballot is going into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
And wherever Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are right now, they should be ashamed because it is because of them that festivities in Cooperstown this year will be a hollow, lonely event.
Without the spectre of steroids and performance enhancement drugs, both Bonds and Clemens would have been landslide first-ballot inductees. And anybody who believes Bonds and Clemens didn’t use has their heads buried so deeply into the sand that not even their feet show.
But the writers have spoken. There is no room in the Hall of Fame for cheaters. For enshrinement a candidate needs his name on 75 percent of the ballot. Clemens received 37.6 percent and Bonds received 36.2 percent.
That is a fairly solid statement — only one third of the votes for two players who were clear-cut Hall of Famers if they weren’t cheaters.
And that’s the operative word. They cheated. Hall of Famer Andre Dawson said it perfectly: “Steroid and PED users chose their legacy when they decided to use.”
There is no doubt that the writers, me included, did not do their due diligence in the 1990s, the Steroids Era. Instead of digging deep to see why statistics were rising at tsunami level, we idolized Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998 for their assault on Babe Ruth’s home run record. And we praised Bonds to a mythical level when he hit 73 home runs.
Now, though, we are getting it right. Cooperstown is a Hall of Fame AND a museum and the museum contains memorabilia belonging to Bonds, Clemens, McGwire and Sosa. But the Hall of Fame is a special place reserved for those who did it right.
The ballot states clearly that voters should consider, “Records, playing ability AND integrity.” INTEGRITY. Jeff Idelson, president of the Hall of Fame, make it clear that the integrity part does not necessarily include off-the-field activities, “But his intergrity as to respecting the game.”
Steroid users and PED users did not respect the game. They cheated to gain a personal edge. It was not fair to minor league players who were held back because a steroid/PED user was on the major-league roster. And there were bench players in the majors who couldn’t break into the lineup because there were those who stayed in the starting lineup with performance enhancing drugs.
In 1998, when McGwire and Sosa were assaulting Ruth’s home run standard, Ken Griffey Jr., who never sniffed steroids or PEDs, quietly hit 56 home runs in Seattle and was practically ignored.
McGwire has accepted his fate that he’ll never be in the Hall and I admire that he said, “I accept it and understand why and I have no arguments about it.”
So, are the writers punishing Bonds and Clemens for one year? Will they make it on future ballots? They only have one-third of the required votes. Can they get the other two-thirds?
Let’s hope not. My position always has been that if a guy doesn’t make it on the first ballot, why should he make it on the second, third, 10th or 15th ballot? His numbers don’t get any better over the years. If he isn’t a Hall of Famer on the first ballot, what makes him a Hall of Famer on future ballots. And I saw recently the Pete Rose agrees with me.
What does it all mean? The integrity of the game has been upheld by the writers, an integrity that should have been upheld by in the 1990s.
And it is sad for the Hall of Fame people — the eighth time writers have not voted anybody in since the process began in 1936 and the first time since 1996.
And it is sad for Craig Biggio, a first-timer on the ballot who received the most votes (68.2 percent) and it is sad for Jack Morris, a 14th-time on the ballot with one more year of eligibility (67.7 percent, second most).
It is sad for Dale Murphy, who received only 18.6 percent on his final year on the ballot. He was a back-to-back MVP for the Atlanta Braves, a seven-time All-Star and one of the classiest players ever to put on a uniform.
But the writers spoke loudly and clearly. The hallowed Hall has no room for cheaters.