The electorate of the Baseball Writers' Association of America sent a clear message to tainted superstars Wednesday: If you were suspected of taking performance enhancing drugs, you don’t belong in the Hall of Fame. At least not in 2013.
No players were voted in by the writers this year — the first time that has happened since 1996 and the eighth time in the Hall’s history.
Outfielder Barry Bonds, the sport’s all-time home run leader and a seven-time MVP, and right-hander Roger Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, both failed to get close to the 75 percent vote threshold needed to get elected.
Bonds was named on 36.2 percent of the 569 ballots cast by eligible members of the BBWAA and Clemens 37.6 percent. Former Orioles Sammy Sosa (12.5 percent) and Rafael Palmeiro (8.8) also failed to gain support as part of the steroid controversy.
“This is a shot across the bow of the whole Steroid Era, when it was all about revenue, when it was all about making money,” said Hall of Fame former Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, who noted that he feels character, sportsmanship and integrity should be considered in the voting process. “Do you think any of those guys when they rounded the bases looking like Popeye thought about sportsmanship, because they just made the pitcher feel bad? I don’t think so.”
Palmeiro, the only candidate who failed a drug test, received 72 of 573 votes last year (12.6), meaning he dropped by 22 votes this time around. Because he was named on at least 5 percent of ballots, Palmeiro will remain eligible in 2014.
"I am concerned that now, next year, with the guys that are coming up, some of my votes may be taken off and given to other guys," said Palmeiro, one of four players in baseball history with more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. "But I don't think there's anything you can do.
"I always go back to the same thing. That some of these guys that have me on the fence can look back at my whole career and not just look at what happened at the end of my career and base their decision on that."
A Sosa representative said her client's only comment was that “it was an honor to be nominated” and he would be doing no interviews Wednesday.
Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Houston Astros and amassed 3,060 hits, received the most support in this year’s voting. A first-time candidate, Biggio was named on 68.2 percent of the ballots.
Biggio was followed by Jack Morris (67.7 percent), Jeff Bagwell (59.6), Mike Piazza (57.8) and former Oriole Tim Raines (52.2). No other candidate was named on at least half the ballots.
"Obviously, no one in Cooperstown was rooting for a shutout, but we have a great respect for the process," Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said.
Michael Weiner, executive director of the players association, called the results of the balloting “unfortunate, if not sad” in a statement.
Of other former Orioles on the ballot, Lee Smith earned 47.8 percent of the vote; Curt Schilling 38.8; David Wells .09; Steve Finley .07; Jeff Conine 0; Jose Mesa 0.
Palmer, now an analyst for MASN, said he feels Bonds and Clemens “are Hall of Famers before starting whatever they did.” But he said but it’s possible other players could be ultimately punished because of the numbers players put up under the influence of PEDs.
“The problem is for a guy like Fred McGriff, who never had any kind of accusations and had almost 500 home runs, or Dale Murphy, their numbers pale [in comparison] and people forget how good they were,” Palmer said. “That’s the tragedy. But again it’s the tragedy of a culture that [players union chief] Donald Fehr perpetuated from 1991 on. It wasn’t like people didn’t know what was going on. It wasn’t like people didn’t encourage it. They did. Now some people will step out and say it wasn’t overtly done. But there are a lot of guys that I talked to that played in that era that say that wasn’t the case. Maybe this is just a statement of what really went on. You really can’t change it. But you can judge it and I think the baseball writers of America have done that. ...
“[Cal Ripken Sr.] always said, ‘there are no such things as shortcuts.’ Well, the shortcuts caught up with guys. The tragic thing to me is that if you didn’t do it, but you played in that era, there’s somewhat of an indictment. And that goes back to what the players’ union wanted. They wanted this. So there you go.”
As a policy, Baltimore Sun writers don't vote for the Hall or Fame or postseason awards.
Tribune news services contributed to this article.