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Hall of Fame voters let candidates twist in the wind

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff  January 9, 2013 03:03 PM

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There seemed to be a “let them twist in the wind” element to the Baseball Hall of Fame voting that resulted in no one being elected for the first time since 1996.

Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds got 37.6 and 36.2 percent of the vote, less than I thought they would get. Thought they’d receive close to 50 percent.

But how many voters decided that they would not vote for Clemens and Bonds on the first ballot as punishment, but will vote them in the future? We’ll see what happens next season when perceived “clean guys” like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Jeff Kent, and Mike Mussina go on the ballot for the first time.

Clemens, with seven Cy Youngs, and Bonds, with seven MVPS, were the ones busted for steroids, and Mike Piazza (57.6 percent) and Jeff Bagwell (56.9) were the suspected ones, and neither got in. It was Piazza’s first time on the ballot and Bagwell’s third. The leader of the non-elected pack was Craig Biggio, who came close at 68 percent, but even he couldn’t crack it with 3,000 hits on his resume.

So how do we interpret all this?

Many analysts will have differing opinions.

The fact is, Clemens and Bonds didn’t get the Mark McGwire treatment for a couple of reasons. One is that most realize that Bonds and Clemens are Hall of Fame players, but that voters exercised the “character, integrity, and sportsmanship” clause to keep the vote totals down and that McGwire, despite the big home run years, was a fairly one-dimensional player.

Secondly, it reflects a changing sentiment among voters.

If these players had been on the ballot even three or four years ago, they would have received probably half the votes they received. There’s definitely a change in the air in the way these players are perceived and how voters approach the steroid era.
While I thought the change would be a little further along, there are old-time voters, some of whom aren’t involved in covering baseball anymore, who will never vote for someone who took steroids.

They will never vote for them, but remember there are 14 more years of votes ahead.

There will be new voters coming in every year and this could change the electoral process over time.

There will also be more information on steroids and their use, and who did what, when.
This was an amazing ballot. There were players on it who SHOULD BE in the Hall of Fame based on their statistical prowess. Clemens, Bonds, Sosa (12.5 percent), Piazza and Biggio all meet the statistical standards we’ve set for Hall of Fame induction.

The sabermetric folks say nay to Jack Morris and that seems to have affected getting over the last hump.

Former Red Sox Curt Schilling, who is a borderline candidate, will be another player who will likely grow in stature over time. Yet he received slightly more votes than Clemens, so he too will have a long road.

What we should take from this ballot is that it was a tough one for voters.

This was the first major steroid-effected season because the biggest steroid names were involved. So many voters had no idea what to do with this vote. For some it was black and white, and for most it was a torturous process.

There are no conclusions to be drawn here other than voters didn’t want to reward steroid use or perceived steroid use. They disapproved of the steroid era, as great as Clemens and Bonds were. So we’ll see how this evolves. As I wrote, it’s evolved quite a bit from where it started. And the process will go on.

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