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Shutout! The Baseball Writers Association of America fails to elect anyone to the Hall of Fame

Jan 9, 2013, 2:02 PM EDT


It’s possible that this year’s Hall of Fame ballot was the most stacked in the history of the institution.  It contained the all-time home run leader. It contained a seven-time Cy Young award winner who may have been the best pitcher in baseball history since the deadball era. It contained the best hitting catcher of all time. It contained a middle infielder who got to 3,000 hits while flashing superior defense and power. It sported a 609-home run hitter a 583-home run hitter, the second best leadoff hitter in the history of the game and at least five others who, had they been inducted, would not be close to the worst players to make the Hall of Fame.

And none of them got in. Not a one. For the first time since 1996, all candidates on the ballot failed to receive the requisite 75% required for induction.  The leading vote getter was Craig Biggio, who received 68% of the vote. Jack Morris received 67.7%, Jeff Bagwell received 59.6% of the vote, Mike Piazza 57.8% and Tim Raines at 52.2%. No other player received more than 50% of the vote. Roger Clemens received 37.6% of the vote and Barry Bonds received 36.2%. Each of those last two received totals far below even the most pessimistic predictions. The full results can be seen here.

The biggest takeaway from all of this: the Baseball Writers Association of America has, for the first time, unequivocally decided that the use of performance enhancing drugs is a disqualifier for induction to the Hall of Fame. It was suspected that this was the case given Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro falling short in previous years, but there are some reasonable non-PED arguments against those fellows’ candidacies.  Not so with Bonds and Clemens. They were so good and so accomplished that, to paraphrase Bill James, you could cut them in half and have two hall of famers each. Maybe three, actually. Their exclusion is solely because a large portion of the electorate believes that one cannot take steroids and call Cooperstown home.

Which, while understandable, flies in the face of baseball history. There are almost certainly already steroids users in the Hall of Fame. Indeed, Hall of Fame voter and Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell said on camera, in Ken Burns’ “Tenth Inning” that he witnessed a current Hall of Famer taking steroids during his playing career. Maybe his fellow voters ignored him. Maybe, since that player’s induction, whoever he is, their attitudes have changed. Either way, there is certainly now a historical inconsistency baked into the Hall of Fame.  And in no event can anyone who applauds today’s voting results do so on the basis of the Hall of Fame maintaining its purity, for its purity is pure fantasy.

But just as the BBWAA has now clearly stated that drug users are not wanted in the Hall of Fame, it has apparently likewise erected a near-impossible hurdle for those not associated with PEDs to bound, regardless of their merits.

Craig Biggio had 3,000 hits. Tim Raines was one of the best players of the 1980s. Curt Schilling has three World Series rings, was dominant in the playoffs, and was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball for several years when being a pitcher in baseball was about as hard as it has ever been.  While I disagree that we should keep the PED players out, I at least understand the impulse. What’s the point of keeping out guys like Biggio, Raines and Schilling? What’s the point of the Hall of Fame if no one can get in in a year as talent-rich as this one?

But that’s where we are. Not one of the players on the ballot made it in. The induction ceremony in Cooperstown, New York this summer will honor three men — Hank O’Day, Jacob Ruppert, and Deacon White — who were elected by the Veterans Committee last month.  All three of those men have been dead since the 1930s, so I don’t presume it will be a joyful gathering of family and friends reminiscing about their storied pasts. It’ll be more like a memorial service.

Which is somewhat appropriate given that, with their votes, the current electorate is, in this writer’s view, hastening the Hall of Fame to its doom.

185 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. buffalomafia - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    Half of the sports writers probably never threw a baseball in there life & they vote to see who gets into the HOF?

    Who cares about steroids era! The fans loved it when Bonds,Sosa & Big Mac where pounding baseballs out of the park! At least baseball wasn’t boreing then!

    Bonds & Clemens belong on HOF along with Raines & The Crime Dog!

    • thereisaparty - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:22 PM

      What does throwing a baseball have to do with being a sportswriter? I abhor this argument.

      • cktai - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:37 PM

        Also I find it very unlikely that sports writers never throw baseballs.

      • thereisaparty - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:45 PM

        Yeah I would guess that near all of them played baseball as a child. It would be strange making a living dedicated to something you didn’t even have a passing interest in.

      • 18thstreet - Jan 9, 2013 at 3:58 PM

        I enjoy someone mocking the baseball writers’ skills as athletes while using the wrong form of their.


        You, sir, probably never conjugated an irregular verb in your life and have no business commenting on other writers’ skills.

    • iknowzeroaboutsports - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:54 PM

      After the ’94 strike, baseball had lost significant popularity. When McGwire and Sosa chased the homerun record in ’98, the sportswriters, the same ones who vote HoF today, knew very well the players were juicing. Players weren’t keeping this secret. Heck, Sportscenter even aired video of a steroid supplement in McGwire’s locker as he was changing. Yet where were the sportswriter protests then? Silent, because they wanted to see the sport they loved return to popularity. Yet now they sit in judgement of the same players they extolled? Can’t have it both ways.

      • snafie - Jan 10, 2013 at 3:50 PM

        Wow. Nail on the head. My Dad took me to my first game in 1968, at the old, OLD Yankee Stadium. I loved the game with a passion until ’94 and the strike. That strike (coupled with Jack Mc Dowell flipping the bird to the fans right in the middle of the greedy owner / greedy player shouting matches, a sight I’ll never forget) killed it for me.

        That is, until ’98 with McGwire, Sosa and that fantastic Yankee team. I was back.

        A year or two later, while steroids were starting to make news, MLB admitted they deliberately juiced the ball in ’98 to heighten fan interest. The sportswriters (and fans) responded with a collective “so what”. My response – why bother any more?

        Marketing the sport won out over the sport, so today it’s all entertainment for me, no more, no less.

  2. number42is1 - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    new book coming out its called
    HOF Vote 2013: “let those motherfuckers suffer”

    • cackalackyank - Jan 9, 2013 at 4:38 PM

      Maybe it should actually be “Let the whole sport of Baseball Suffer”

  3. bulldog12b - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    Screw the BBWAA!

  4. dohpey28 - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    What a cowardly vote.

  5. Walk - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    Acording to those votes the percent required to be elected should be dropped to roughly 35% of the vote. If you cant elect bonds and or clemens no one should be in.

  6. royhobbs39 - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    I have a source (for the sake of argument, let’s call him “Old Hoss”), that says prior to a base ball game in the year 1886 that he witnessed a Mister O’Day imbibing a jug of Permberton’s French Wine. During that game, he was observed as being more fleet of foot between the base bags. This travesty, much like the rest of the afternoon’s events was witnessed by the sportswriters in attendance. And although many of them are still voting members of the BBWAA, they have conveniently forgotten the actions of the “Reverend” O’Day. It is a travesty, they have chosen to honor this man that brought such dishonor to the game. Where is the outrage?!? How much longer will we sully the hallowed halls!

    • royhobbs39 - Jan 10, 2013 at 2:29 PM

      Thumbs down? Didn’t realize that there were that many Hank O’Day fans….

  7. Loose Changeup - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    Not that I think he’s a hall of famer, but I was kinda hoping that Julio Franco could hang around for another 10-15 years

  8. brewcrewfan54 - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    I’ve got a friend who thinks Jack Morris is a Hall of Famer and Pete Rose is overrated. I’m no proponent of Morris going to the Hall but am also no Rose backer but my initial thought was he’s insane. Since I’m not willing to do the researchanyone else know off the top of their heads or actually enjoys research wanna give me an answer.

    • jm91rs - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:33 PM

      Pete Rose had more hits than anyone in the history of baseball. There’s your answer. Put him in the hall and put a nice little note on his plaque about how he disgraced himself by betting.

      • brewcrewfan54 - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:48 PM

        Obviously I knew about the hit record. I just wasn’t sure if there was something big I was forgetting about. Like I said I’m lazy today when it comes to looking up stats.

  9. zimaman - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    This is so friggin stupid because you have PED users for sure in the HOF

    so the writers are trying to differentiate between those caught, those suspected and those that duped them and got by

    This pure unadulterated BS

    • kirkvanhouten - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:26 PM

      “so the writers are trying to differentiate between those caught, those suspected and those that duped them and got by”

      This is exactly the point! I think almost everyone acknowledges that a very substantial percentage of players used PEDs and that we only know the names of a fraction of them.

      So the punishment isn’t clean vs. dirty players
      It’s clean and dirty but not caught vs. dirty but caught.

      • kirkvanhouten - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:27 PM

        I should also ad “clean, but people assume were dirty cause they hit a lot of home runs”

  10. jonirocit - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    All the backlash should go on writers and I’m sick of the old timers running their mouths too . They did coke , beat their wife’s took greenies ….they were dirtbags too so just use the numbers and stop running out the old timers and giving them a forum to bash the guys now . We get it you were good years ago and you think you we’re better than anyone else . Now stop ruining our fun now and for Christ sakes stop letting idiot writers who hold grudges decide .

  11. logankivo - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    I’d like to know how many of the voters have ever even been to the place they’re trying so hard to protect

  12. kirkvanhouten - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    So, next year Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine go in…despite their being exactly the same amount of evidence that they used steroids as Jeff Bagwell*.

    Yet, for some explainable reason, despite the tons of words that showed a plethora of pitchers used steroids, and that everyone from scrappy Fernando Vina types to hulking Mark McGwire’s used PEDs, these two will be seen above suspicion for no reason other than the writers’ hunches.

    *Before we all shout “ridiculous”, let’s remember that of the Top 4 pitchers in WAR for the 1990s, two of them were Roger Clemens and Kevin Brown.*

    This is what people here are failing to grasp.
    1. There are steroid users in the Hall. Babe Ruth tried a 1920s version of it (bat corking and sheep testicles), Willie Mays used the 1960s version (amphetamines) and Barry Bonds used the 1990s version. It’s the history of the game, not a proud one, but it happened. What the BBWAA is doing is rewarding those who didn’t get caught.

    2. More steroid users will be elected strictly on the basis of not getting caught.

    3. Players who never used will be left out because they “fit the profile” of a steroid user. This, despite the fact the Mitchell report and 100 years of baseball history will tell you there really isn’t a profile.

    So, how do you actually fix this problem? I see a lot of bullshit moralizing that blatantly disregards the entire history of major league baseball, I see a lot of people ignoring the advice of the Mitchell Report to not retroactively seek punishment for PED use…but I haven’t heard a single person who is against letting Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire in the hall come up with a workable solution to get around the PED issue.

    • paperlions - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:48 PM

      There is also just plain ineptitude. There is no viable argument for not voting for Raines or Trammel. Not even tied to steroids in the slightest. Of course, Lou Whittaker failing to even get 5% of the vote was just as bad. The fact is that even if you ignore the PED effect on voting. There is no reason to think the voters, as a group, have any idea what a HOF ball player looked like. Jack Morris is getting far more votes than players than pitchers that were far better than he was. Lee Smith is getting more votes than players that were far better and more valuable than he was. The voting body doesn’t provide any evidence that they are sufficiently informed about the candidates they are voting for or against.

      • grumpyoleman - Jan 9, 2013 at 3:32 PM

        Raines and Trammel were very good players. The hall should be reserved for the truly great players.

      • paperlions - Jan 9, 2013 at 3:38 PM

        You are making the common mistake of thinking being good at everything is not as good as being great at one thing. Considering all aspects of baseball (offense, defense, base running), Trammel is easily a top 10 SS of all time. That isn’t good enough to be a HOFer for you? Raines is the 2nd best lead off man ever, a better player than Tony Gwynn because walking and then running the bases well is better than singling.

      • thereisaparty - Jan 9, 2013 at 4:17 PM

        And Kirby Puckett was barely even very good, yet was a first ballot HOFer. Raines’s and Trammell’s careers are better than or equal to the mean HOFer’s.

  13. gbar22 - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    Please bud selig before you go if its in your power reform the baseball Hall of Fame and take away the vote from writers who unfortunately use their own prejudices and personal feelings when voting. There must be a better way than using a bunch of gas bags.

    • Old Gator - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:42 PM

      Never ask Bud Light to “reform” anything. He can’t live forever (though one suspects that the owners would renew his contract for his corpse), and someone with a mind in his brain might succeed him. Bud would only institute changes that’d make things worse.

  14. jm91rs - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    Man, sure seems that a lot of people take personal offense at the Hall voters. Lots of hate here.

    Who is going to be the first person to break into the Hall after this year? Maybe if the idiots that submitted blank ballots simply abstain from voting the percentages will rise enough to get a few guys in.

    If I’m not mistaken there isn’t much on Piazza as a roider, yet he didn’t get in. What happens when Griffey is eligible? There isn’t a respectable baseball man alive that has even speculated that Ken Griffey Jr. was a juicer, yet I suspect he might not even get in on the first try because of the era in which he played.

  15. giant4life - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    The HOF is not heaven…IT IS A PLACE WE HONOR OUR BEST…..the hall is already made up of cheaters, dopers, racists, gamblers, misogynists, liars, alcoholics, thieves, murderers,……and have committed adultery ( for which you are put to death in some places with higher values than our own country) … fact the hall is more like the American Society that worship this great game…Shame on the hypocrites!…And once again refusing to acknowledge the role of MLB…and blaming players,

    • Old Gator - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:45 PM

      “Higher values” – right.

      Alex Rodriguez, Fritz Petersen, Mike Kekich and Wade Boggs were decapitated at home plate on opening day yesterday to kick off the 2013 baseball season. Allahu Akhbar!

      Bring extra popcorn for the kids, dad!

  16. butchhuskey - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:26 PM

    Maybe I’m crazy, but I fail to see how steroids destroyed the integrity of the game. I don’t necessarily condone steroid use, and if the game wants certain substances banned then that’s their prerogative. But I refuse to vilify or demonize players simply because they tried to improve their athletic performance and physical capabilities. In retrospect you can argue that they went about it the wrong way, but I don’t believe that players who used PEDs ruined the sport in any fashion. Absolutely NO ONE was complaining in 1998 when Sosa and McGwire electrified the nation. In fact, most sportswriters wrote glowing narratives about how that was the season that saved baseball after the 1994 strike. If the writers are so anti-PED use, then they should acknowledge that they wished 1998 never happened and renounce every positive thing they said about the home run chase that year. They made these players into heroes and glorified them, but now they renounce them for making themselves great- the definition of hypocrisy.

    Furthermore, let’s also acknowledge another fact – most “clean” players even today use some sort of supplement that they put into their body. Yes certain things are banned while others are not, but is a guy doing andro that much morally superior to a guy using HGH? Either way, I think it’s ridiculous to try to make steroid users some kind of stain on the history of baseball. If happened (and still does) and the game has taken measures to prevent it (which I see as a positive). But acting like the “steroid era” is any different from other eras where players attempted to gain competitive advantages is absolutely ridiculous. The game is still strong today, and while we may not like it when we discover that players used chemicals to help them play better, I don’t think that such revelations make the game any less meaningful or enjoyable.

    (I will now step off my soap box – thanks for listening)

  17. howsmyrash - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    This really is a joke. Now you have the all time hits leader and the all time homerun leader out of the HOF. That generation of baseball had well over half of the league using PED’s and no one came close to the numbers that Bonds and Clemens put up. When you have well over 50% of the players in your league finding a way to get an advantage, wouldn’t you feel obligated to do the same?

    Also, if you are going to refuse to vote for anyone who has ever used PED’s, how can you justify voting for anyone who benefited from their use of PED’s? You can not tell me that anyone playing in the same lineup with Barry Bonds didn’t benefit from doing so.

    The BBWAA have just put their very own asterisk on the game of baseball.

  18. steeler999 - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    So we now have a Hall of Fame that doesn’t include the all time hits leader, all time HR leader, a 7 time CY Young winner, and arguably the greatest hitting catcher ever. Like it or not these guys are a big part of baseball history & excluding them from the Hall of Fame doesn’t change that.

    • nbjays - Jan 10, 2013 at 8:52 AM

      Yes, these guys and their accomplishments ARE a big part of baseball history, and, as such, their names, numbers and accomplishments are very well documented and prominently displayed in the “Museum” portion of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. If guys like McGwire, Bonds, Palmeiro, Clemens and Sosa never get a bronze plaque on the wall of the Plaque Gallery, I won’t lose any sleep over it.

  19. iamthot - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    Hey Geo^^^ Eat A D**k and die!

  20. thebadguyswon - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    The Hall of Fame has rendered itself meaningless.

  21. Panda Claus - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    I have no problem with the writers that chose to cast “empty” ballots in order to prove a point they felt still needed proving.

    However, a ballot without choices should just simply be discarded as if not turned in at all. The protest method of voting like this usually just screws up the results for everyone else. It happens in politics and apparently with baseball hall of fame voting.

    It’s becoming much harder to tell the two apart isn’t it? At least in politics when people choose to throw their vote away, someone still gets elected.

  22. adambballn - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    I feel sorry for the city of Cooperstown. I can’t imagine the impact no Hall of Fame induction is going to have on that towns economy… this is probably their largest event year end year out.

  23. cktai - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens, Tim Glavine, Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Curt Schilling, Larry Walker, Frank Thomas, Craig Biggio, Alan Tremmell, Mike Piazza, Jeff Kent, Sammy Sosa, Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire, Rafael Pameiro, Frank McGriff…

    Welcome to the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot.

    • strosfan85 - Jan 9, 2013 at 7:45 PM

      and $20 says no one gets in again next year..

  24. jimw81 - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    BBWAA has sent their message about the PED use. if you aren’t going to allow pete rose into hof you cant let the PED users in as well.

    • ptfu - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:47 PM

      Pete Rose’s presence or absence has absolutely nothing to do with PED users.* Gambling on baseball has to do with perceptions of honest effort unswayed by outside monetary concerns. Using PEDs means you’re still trying just as hard as non-users, you’re just adding some illicit chemicals in an effort to improve yourself. Gambling and PEDs have nothing in common at all.

      Also, Rose agreed to be permanently banned from baseball, and the HOF honors that ban. No confessed or suspected PED users have been perma-banned. There is no equivalency.

      *Unless you’re saying that Pete Rose used PEDs, in which case please provide evidence.

  25. lionsplayoffs - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    I was hoping to see Jack Morris and Alan Trammell get in, but I can appreciate the arguments to the contrary.

    Don’t let the steroid frauds in…ever.

    • thereisaparty - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:47 PM

      And again I ask: which players were the steroid frauds?

      • thereisaparty - Jan 9, 2013 at 4:20 PM

        I’m curious as to what kind of mental gymnastics one must go thru to implicate Bagwell and Piazza, but not Biggio or McGriff, or Griffey Jr or Walker, etc.

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