The 2013 ballot marked the first year of eligibility for several players who have been named in the probes of performance-enhancing drug use in the major leagues, including all-time home-run champ Barry Bonds and seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens.
It’s only the eighth time that no player received the 75% support needed to enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and several of the voters said the results reflected the Baseball Writers Association of America’s ambivalence about the sport’s “steroid era.”
“This is really a statement on an era, and it’s really a sad day for baseball,” BBWAA voter Jon Heyman told the sport’s in-house MLB Network. Heyman said he expected the writers who choose Hall members would “basically split” on Bonds and Clemens, “and we’re not split. It was two thirds to one third against.”
The concerns about players who were linked to steroids “has hurt some of the clean guys” as well, Heyman said.
One of the other top candidates on the 2013 ballot was longtime Houston Astros second baseman Craig Biggio, who racked up more than 3,000 hits in a two-decade career. Biggio received 68% of the vote, falling 39 votes short of election, Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson announced.
Clemens has denied using performance-enhancing drugs, and in 2012, a federal jury acquitted him of lying to Congress during an investigation of steroid use. Bonds, who topped Hank Aaron’s home-run mark in 2007, was sentenced to two years of probation and 30 days of house arrest for obstruction of justice in another federal probe; he also has denied using performance-enhancing drugs.
Other players on the ballot who were linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs over the past two decades included Mark McGwire, the St. Louis Cardinals slugger who broke the sport’s single-season home-run record in 1998; the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa, McGwire’s major rival in that season-long chase; and four-time All-Star Rafael Palmeiro.
In 2010, McGwire admitted to using steroids during his record-breaking season. Palmeiro was once slapped with a suspension after a positive drug test but denied using any banned substances. Sosa denied using steroids during a congressional hearing but did not respond to requests for an interview by staffers for former Sen. George Mitchell, who led a major league probe of steroid use in 2007.
Fans’ reactions were mixed.
“I think it’s utter nonsense,” said Darin McAuliffe, an Atlanta IT consultant. “I think if you’re going be paid tens of millions of dollars a year, you’re going to do what you need to do to stay at the top of your game. And the average Joe gets that. And their owners demand that.”
But Carl Bauer, who commented on the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Facebook page, said the voters got it right.
“I think people confuse the Hall of Fame and Museum with getting a plaque from the Baseball Writers (Association) of America,” he wrote. “All the steroid cheaters (specifically Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa and Palmeiro, etc.) have their accomplishments represented in the Hall of Fame. So the history of baseball, and their history in baseball, is represented. However, we do not need to honor these cheaters and lawbreakers with a plaque.”
Like Bonds and Clemens, Sosa is in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame. McGwire was on the ballot for a seventh time and Palmeiro, a third.
Former pitcher Jack Morris, who has been on the ballot for 14 years, received 67.7% of the vote.
Three people will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 28. In December a special panel that looks at people no longer eligible for the regular ballot voted in Jacob Ruppert, the New York Yankees owner who bought Babe Ruth in 1919; former umpire Hank O’Day; and Deacon White, a catcher in the 19th century.