The Baseball Writers Association of America committed an error. They failed to elect anyone to the Hall of Fame for the first time since Bill Clinton’s first term. There is no justification for their perfidy. Their aversion to suspected steroid users is understandable. However, their ignorance toward other quality candidates is perplexing. Essentially, their arrogance is three-fold. They punished real or suspected steroid users, are trapped in a ridiculous mindset regarding the first ballot, and ignored qualified candidates from earlier eras.
The writers correctly refuse to induct alleged steroid users. Rafael Palmeiro received 8.8%, Sammy Sosa 12.5% Mark McGwire 16.9%, Barry Bonds 36.2%, and Roger Clemens 37.6%. These players may never reach the 75% necessary for election. There appear to be enough writers that will never vote for steroid users to block entrance. This is amazing considering Palmeiro finished with 569 home runs and 3020 hits, Sosa had 609 home runs, McGwire hit 583 long balls, Bonds is the all-time home run king and seven-time MVP, and Clemens won 354 games while collecting seven Cy Young Awards.
Voters should punish steroid users, but not the victims of whisper campaigns. There is no evidence Jeff Bagwell or Mike Piazza used. However, some voters refuse to vote for “suspected” users. Bagwell is one of the greats of generation. Piazza is the greatest hitting catcher in history. Yet, they received 59.6% and 57.8% of the vote.
Rumors and first ballot prejudice hurt Piazza. Only 44 men have been elected on the first ballot. Some writers refuse to vote for first timers. If a player is a Hall of Famer on the second ballot, then he is a Hall of Famer on the first. In addition to Piazza, Bonds, and Clemens, freshman candidate Craig Biggio received 68.2% of the vote despite 3,000 hits and playing three positions over 20 years. Curt Schilling was the greatest postseason pitcher of his generation and struck out over 3,000 batters. However, Schilling could not top 40% his first try.
Schilling performed better on his first ballot than the greatest big game pitcher of the previous generation. Jack Morris garnered 22.2% of the vote in 2000. On his 14th try, his total reached 67.7%. Morris has increased his support every vote from 2007. There is a prejudice against Morris’ 3.90 ERA, which ballooned at the end of his career. However, Red Ruffing is in the Hall of Fame with a 3.80 ERA. Tom Gage of the Detroit News ran the numbers. Morris has more wins than 40 Hall of Famers and, would be 18th in strikeouts. He won 254 games, had three 20-win seasons, was the ace of three World Championships, pitched a 10-inning 1-0 shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, started 14 Opening Days, made 515 consecutive starts, won more games than any other pitcher in the eighties, won the 1991 World Series MVP, the 1984 and 1991 Babe Ruth Award, and 1981 Sporting News Pitcher of the Year. He never won a Cy Young Award, but could have won in six different seasons. To date, no American League pitcher that played his entire career in the DH era has ever been elected to the Hall of Fame. Morris is the poster child for voter ignorance. However, cases can be made for Tim Raines, Lee Smith, Fred McGriff, and others.
The baseball writers committed an error this vote. Although they did the right thing with regards to steroid users, they extended that punishment to those they thought might possibly have committed this crime against baseball. At the same time, they continued the long standing tradition of slighting first ballot players. Lastly, they ignored worthy candidates that are beginning to run out of time. It is unlikely the writers will blunder again next year. Biggio will serve his time in purgatory while Tom Glavine and Greg Maddox will make their debuts. Will this hurt Morris, Raines, and others? Will they continue to punish non-steroid users because they played in the steroid era? What will become of Bonds and Clemens?