For the eighth time ever, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America has pitched a shutout. The results of the annual Hall of Fame voting were released today and not a single eligible candidate received the 75% support necessary for enshrinement. So for the first time since 1996, induction ceremonies will only be held for those selected by the Veterans’ Committee.
The biggest question heading into this year’s vote, aside from whether anyone would be elected at all, was what the fates would be for the PED candidates. For Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the results could have been worse. With 36.2% and 37.6%, respectively, they each picked up votes from more than a third of the electorate. The writers’ reasons for not voting for the pair ranged from an outright dismissal of anyone associated with illegal substances to needing more time to consider their candidacies. All in all, it wasn’t a terrible first-ballot showing for them considering their circumstances. They’ll likely get more votes next year, though it will probably be several more years before they have a realistic chance at induction.
The results weren’t as promising for another first-time PED-linked candidate. Sammy Sosa, with his 609 career homeruns, was on only 12.5% of ballots. While the case could be made that Bonds and Clemens were Hall-worthy players prior to their suspected PED use, it’s tough to make the same case for Sosa. His career was successful due to his power, which may have primarily been the product of steroids. A very ominous sign for Sosa was that he finished behind Mark McGwire and his 16.9% this year. McGwire has already come to terms with the fact he will never be inducted due to his PED use and Sosa should draw the same conclusion based on today’s results.
There was much more positive news for other candidates, though. While it is probably a disappointing result for first-timer Craig Biggio, coming up just short with 68.2%, his Hall of Fame prospects look bright. The 3,000 Hit Club member was the leading vote-getter this year and will eventually get the extra 7% he needs to get in as the debate shifts away from the steroid players and back to whether other qualified candidates have the resumes to be elected. The same can probably be said for Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza. Bagwell, with 59.6%, and Piazza, with 57.8%, likely suffered because of the steroid cloud hanging over this ballot. Even though there is speculation, there is no real proof that either of them ever took illegal substances. Unless that changes, they could very well eventually end up in Cooperstown.
Another player who should feel encouraged about his future is Tim Raines. His 52.2% is his highest total in six years on the ballot and is more than twice as much as he received in his initial try in 2008. Support for him has steadily been building as writers have been taking a closer look at his career numbers in recent years. Curt Schilling may also see his numbers rise over time. His 38.8% hardly makes him a shoo-in, but he still finished much higher than Bruce Sutter did on his first ballot in 1993 when he garnered only 23.9%. 13 years later, he became a Hall of Famer. More of a case will probably be made for Schilling in the coming years like it was for Sutter. Only time will tell if he will pick up enough.
For several veterans on the ballot, the time may have come for them to realize that Cooperstown will never be calling. With several Hall-worthy players becoming eligible next year, this may have been Jack Morris’s last chance to get in. But his 14th try only brought more disappointment. With only 67.7%, he will have some work to do in his final year of eligibility. Dale Murphy won’t get another chance, though, as his 15-year run came to an end with just 16.8%. Meanwhile, Lee Smith (47.8%) in his 11th year, Alan Trammell (33.6%) in his 12th year, and Don Mattingly (13.2%) in his 13th year all continue to lose support and are running out of time to turn it around.
Several other players, who are still in the early years of their Hall attempts, remain stagnant with their lukewarm support. Edgar Martinez (35.9%) in his 4th year, Larry Walker (21.6%) in his 3rd year, Fred McGriff (20.7%) in his 4th year, and Rafael Palmeiro (8.8%) in his 3rd year will all need to begin picking up momentum within the next few years to have any chance at election down the road. But, they will at least have that opportunity. For Bernie Williams, Kenny Lofton, Sandy Alomar, Jr., Julio Franco, David Wells, Steve Finley, Shawn Green, Aaron Sele, Jeff Cirillo, Royce Clayton, Jeff Conine, Roberto Hernandez, Ryan Klesko, Jose Mesa, Reggie Sanders, Mike Stanton, Todd Walker, Rondell White, and Woody Williams, the run is over.
Even though the release of the voting results puts the debate about the 2013 class to bed, the controversy will continue. Twelve months from now, we’ll all be going through this again with the added issue of an even more crowded field. Tom Glavine, Jeff Kent, Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina, and Frank Thomas will all be making their ballot debuts, joining all of this year’s holdovers. The debate over the PED-linked players will continue, too, though it may subside a bit. But it will still be a long time before Hall of Fame voting becomes anything but a muddled mess.