After no Major League Baseball player was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for the first time since 1996, I’ve heard a lot of clamor that the vote should be taken away from sports writers. What? Then who is the vote supposed to go to. The fact no one got into the Hall this year is a testament to how hard it should be to get voted in, regardless who is voting.
Yes, Craig Biggio, who garnered 68.2 percent of the vote for the high this year (need 75 percent to be inducted), has the credentials – his 3,060 hits and 1,844 runs are definitely HOF-caliber. Biggio’s 668 doubles is fifth all-time behind HOFers Tris Speaker (792) Stan Musial (725) and Ty Cobb (724), and would-be HOFer Pete Rose, who is second all-time with 746 doubles. Of course, Rose, who is the all-time leader in hits (4,256), games (3562), plate appearances and at bats (a lot of each), would be in the HOF if not for him gambling on baseball. Rose was in violation ‘of Major League Rule 21, including but not limited to betting on Major League Baseball games in connection with which he had a duty to perform.’ Rose broke a clearly-defined rule.
Back to Biggio. His 1,175 RBI are very good for a guy that predominantly hit in the No. 1 or 2 spots in the batting order. I really think the thing that kept him out his first year of eligibility was the fact he didn’t surpass the 500 steals mark. His 414 steals is 86 less than that magical mark and I really do think he would have at least made up the 6.8 percent he needed to get in, if not surpass the 80-percent mark. That and the fact his .281 average and .363 on-base percentage are good, but not HOF numbers. Also, Biggio had only a .234 average and .295 OBP in his 40 postseason games. Not good.
Biggio will be a HOFer, but did anyone really ever consider him a HOFer throughout his career. I have to be honest, I sure didn’t. It really took me by surprise when he was close to retirement that he was anywhere close to 3,000 hits. He just really didn’t seem like a HOFer. Biggio is also second all-time in hit by pitches with 285. That would be impressive if it wasn’t the fact he had the left elbow guard, which I would assume took the brunt of those hit by pitches. Hey, maybe if it wasn’t for that elbow guard, Biggio would be in.
Anyway, back to Pete Rose, a definite first-ballot HOFer if not for the gambling. There were also some ‘definite’ first-balloters this year, too. Baseball’s all-time leader with 762 home runs, 2,558 walks and 688 intentional walks, Barry Bond’s only received 36.2 percent of the vote. He also had over 2,200 runs and was four shy of 2,000 RBI. He did surpass the 500-steal mark, had 601 doubles and 2,935 career hits. Oh yeah, not to mention his seven MVP awards.
Roger Clemens picked up a full 1.4 percent (37.6) more of the vote than Bonds received and had 354 career wins (.658 winning percentage), a 3.12 earned-run average, 4,672 strike outs and had seven Cy Young Awards. Clemens was also 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA in eight World Series starts, winning two with the New York Yankees.
Sammy Sosa picked up way less support from the previous two, getting 12.5 percent of the vote. That’s pretty tough considering he has HOF numbers with 609 home runs, 1,667 RBI and 1,475 runs. Those are first-ballot numbers.
So why weren’t these ‘first-ballot’ guys voted to the HOF? Because they probably took steroids or some sort of performance-enhancing drug. Even if the rules weren’t clearly defined, the three are implied to have failed drug tests in 2003, per the Mitchell Report, or were at least implicated by others. And this is after the 2002 Basic Agreement which said random tests would be taken in 2003. So this means the Major League Baseball Players Association knew there would be tests. So did they forget to tell the players? I’m betting the players knew, but with no disciplinary action coming from this ‘survey’ of tests, and the supposed discreetness players were expected where the tests weren’t supposed to be made public, didn’t scare many of the PED users from stopping.
Not that I’ve heard much support for Bonds, Clemens or Sosa to get in the Hall, but some may say that steroids weren’t illegal or banned in baseball until the 2002 Basic Agreement. The Mitchell Report pointed this out:
‘Many have asserted that steroids and other performance enhancing substances were not banned in Major League Baseball before the 2002 Basic Agreement. This is not accurate. Beginning in 1971 and continuing today, MLB’s drug policy has prohibited the use of any prescription medication without a valid prescription. By implication, this prohibition applied to steroids even before 1991, when Commissioner Fay Vincent first expressly included steroids in baseball’s drug policy. Steroids have been listed as a prohibited substance under the Major League Baseball drug policy since then, although no player was disciplined for steroid use before the prohibition was added to the collective bargaining agreement in 2002.’
So basically steroids have been banned in baseball since 1971, not to mention they were made illegal without a prescription in the United States in the early ‘90s. Major League Baseball just didn’t decide to do anything about them until 2002.
Do I think these three, or even admitted user Mark McGwire and his 583 home runs, or failed test taker Rafael Palmeiro and his first-ballot numbers – 3,020 hits, 569 home runs, 1,835 RBI, 1,663 runs – will eventually get in the Hall? Yes, in some form or fashion, they will get in, but when is a mystery.
The Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Hall of Fame election Rule 5 states: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played. Bonds, Clemens and Sosa’s playing ability are not in question. But the three have declined numerous interview requests about the subject of steroids, which raises suspicion and questions of character and integrity. And if these three did in fact take steroids, well where’s the sportsmanship there?
Besides, you won’t have to wait long for some first-balloters in next year’s Hall of Fame class when Greg Maddux and his four Cy Youngs and 18 Gold Gloves, and Frank Thomas and his two MVPs get the call. And maybe even Tom Glavine will get in his first try with his 305 wins. Those three don’t have the steroid cloud hanging over their heads.