Curt Schilling, who appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year and garnered 38.8 percent of the vote, probably summed it up the best from the players’ perspective.
“I think as a player, a group, this is one of the first times that we’ve been publicly called out,” said the former Red Sox righthander. “I think it’s fitting.
“If there was ever a ballot and a year to make a statement about what we didn’t do as players — which is, we didn’t actively push to get the game clean — this is it.”
When the voting results for the Baseball Hall of Fame were announced Wednesday, no player had been named on the 75 percent of ballots needed for induction. The Astros’ Craig Biggio received the most votes, but fell short at 68.2 percent.
The three highest-profile players who were tainted by allegations of steroid use — Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa — did not come close to 75 percent, even though they were the most dominant players of their era. And even players such as Jeff Bagwell (in his third year on the ballot) and Mike Piazza (first) seemingly could not escape suspicion, falling far short.
Bonds, the game’s all-time home run leader, received just 36.2 percent of the votes and Clemens 37.6 percent cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Sosa, who ranks eighth on the all-time home run list, got only 12.5 percent, while Bagwell (59.6 percent) and Piazza (57.8 percent) placed much higher.
“After what has been written and said over the last few years, I’m not overly surprised,” Clemens said in a Twitter post.
It marked the first time since 1996, and eighth time overall, that no players were elected to the Hall of Fame by the writers. For the first-timers on the ballot — including Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa — they will have up to 14 more years of eligibility and may see their totals rise, as some voters may simply be making a statement by leaving them off in the first year.
Biggio, who has 3,060 career hits, fell 39 votes shy on the 569 ballots cast.
Tigers great Jack Morris, in his 14th year of eligibility, appeared on 67.7 percent of the ballots, and next year will also be tough for Morris, who will compete with first-timers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina, and Jeff Kent.
Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson (who is from Newton) explained the shutout by saying, “It’s a tough period for evaluation; that’s what this chalks up to.
“Honestly, I think that any group you put this to would have the same issues. There’s always going to be discussion and concern about players who didn’t get in.
“But at the end of the day, it’s a process and, again, a snapshot in time isn’t one year, it’s 15 with this exercise.”
Commissioner Bud Selig, who was at the owners’ meetings in Arizona, did not think the vote was a black eye for the Hall of Fame.
“Next year, I think you’ll have a rather large class, and this year, for whatever reasons, you had a couple of guys come really close,” Selig said.
“This is not to be voted on to make sure that somebody gets in every year. It’s to be voted on to make sure that they’re deserving.
“I respect the writers as well as the Hall itself. This idea that this somehow diminishes the Hall of baseball is just ridiculous, in my opinion.”
While some players from an earlier era with borderline statistics have benefited by comparison to the steroid users, that was not the case for two-time NL MVP Dale Murphy, who received 18.6 percent in his 15th and final appearance on the ballot.
“To those who did take the time to look at the facts,” Clemens said, “we very much appreciate it.”
Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, called the vote “unfortunate, if not sad” in a statement.
“To ignore the historic accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, for example, is hard to justify,” said Weiner. “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.”
Clemens never failed a drug test and was acquitted of charges that he lied to Congress about steroid use. Bonds was convicted on one count of obstruction of justice in 2011. Sosa tested positive in a survey of players in 2003 — before an official policy was in place — according to a New York Times report in 2009.
“Perception in our world is absolutely reality,” said Schilling, now an ESPN analyst. “Everybody is linked to it.
“You’re either a suspected user or you didn’t do anything to actively stop it.
“I fall into the category of being one of the players who didn’t do anything to stop it. This is part of the price that we’re paying.”
Tim Kurkjian, another ESPN analyst and a BBWAA voter, said, “At some point, the credibility of the Hall of Fame is going to come into question when some of the greatest players are not elected.”Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.