By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
In a sad commentary on both baseball’s steroid scandal, and the sportswriters who are trying to pretend it never happened, the Baseball Hall of Fame’s annual ballot produced no winners this year. In his first year of eligibility, former Mets catcher Mike Piazza was named on 57.8% of all ballots, short of the threshold of 75% for election. Piazza will almost certainly be elected to the Hall in the next few seasons, even though the voters passed on his .308 average, 427 career home runs, and 12 All-Star selections this year.
Of the players in their first year of eligibility, only Houston Astros second baseman Craig Biggio got more votes than Piazza. Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds all fared worse than Piazza, each getting 35-40%. Piazza’s election was thwarted in part by an extremely strong ballot, and in part by rumors of steroid use.
Ex-Yankees Bernie Williams, David Wells, and Mike Stanton did not receive enough votes to remain on the ballot for 2014. Don Mattingly’s Hall of Fame candidacy remains barely alive, as he received 13.2% of the vote.
The 2014 ballot will feature several notable first-timers: pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Mike Mussina; second baseman Jeff Kent, and 1B/DH Frank Thomas. Detroit Tigers pitcher Jack Morris, who won 254 career games, and pitched a 10-inning shutout to win the seventh game of the 1991 World Series for Minnesota, will enter his last year of eligibility after falling 42 votes short this year.
The Hall of Fame already contains some glaring omissions, of which all-time hit leader Pete Rose is the most egregious. I don’t see how the Hall of Fame means much anymore when it’s used to whitewash criminals and cheaters from the game after the fact, and worthy players like Bert Blyleven have to sweat out the full 15 ballots because they never pitched in large-market cities for strong teams. Players like Piazza, the best offensive catcher to ever play the game, and Jeff Bagwell, are being judged for having put up big hitting numbers during the steroid years, with no conclusive proof that they ever used.
As for the confirmed steroid users, I don’t see how you can have a Hall of Fame without Barry Bonds, the single-season and all-time home run leader, or a pitcher as dominant as Roger Clemens. To borrow a suggestion from Bill James, just write a little footnote at the bottom of their plaques: “Caught using steroids.” Problem solved.
At least the Veterans’ Committee did their job correctly. They elected three people to the Hall– 19th century third baseman and two-time batting champion Deacon White; umpire Hank O’Day; and former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert.