One year after they pitched a shutout, voters elected three new inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, and dealt perhaps a telling blow to the candidacies of players connected to the game’s steroid scandal.
The story was the election of three first-ballot Hall of Famers: Atlanta Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, and slugger Frank Thomas, who played most of his career with the Chicago White Sox, all of them most worthy inductees. But the major talking point coming out of the voting was the fact Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens saw their vote percentage decrease dramatically.
Watch: Hall of Fame 2014 discussion
Clemens was named on 202 of 571 total ballots (35.4 per cent), while Bonds – who, like Clemens, is in his second year of eligibility – was named on 34.71 per cent. Clemens received votes on 37.6 per cent of ballots cast in 2012; Bonds 36.2 per cent.
(Full disclosure: My ballot contained the names of both Bonds and Clemens, along with Thomas, Maddux, Glavine, Tim Raines, Jack Morris, Mike Piazza and Mark McGwire.)
There can be no debate about the three inductees. Next year, John Smoltz will join his former teammates, Maddux (who was named on 97.2 per cent of ballots) and Glavine (91.9 per cent). The three formed an Atlanta staff that defined an era of pitching both statistically and stylistically.
Thomas, nicknamed the Big Hurt, was a man mountain who batted .301 with 521 home runs and 1,704 runs batted in in 19 seasons. He played 2007 and part of 2008 with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Thomas was an early and loud critic of players he believed used steroids, in the process, costing him money. A former football player at Auburn University, he was aware that his massive size (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) never really silenced skeptics, and felt he needed to constantly pronounce himself as clean in order to keep them at bay.
Each member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America with a vote is allowed to list a maximum of 10 players on their ballot. Initially, it was believed that was enough so players such as Bonds and Clemens would gradually accrue the necessary percentage for admission.
But the next few years’ ballots are crowded, and the 2014 vote is an indication that, far from healing old wounds, time may in fact be picking them open.
An exception? Mike Piazza, who has been connected to steroids only through revelations from former player Jose Canseco and by suspicions based on his muscle growth, bumped his vote total to 355 (62.2 per cent) from 57.8 per cent in 2013. He and Craig Biggio, who, at 74.8 per cent just missed being selected in his second year, are poised to move up in 2014.
Aside from Thomas, the ballot did not contain positive news for players with ties to the Blue Jays and Montreal Expos.
In his 15th and final season of eligibility, Morris was named on just 61.5 per cent of ballots, down from 67.7 per cent.
Raines, who is a darling of the social media and numbers set, dropped to 46.1 per cent in his seventh year (he had 52.2 per cent in 2013), while Larry Walker of Maple Ridge, B.C., saw his chances continue to flicker at 10.2 per cent.
Maddux and Glavine made history with their induction.
Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson are the only other first-ballot pitchers to be elected together, and that was in the Hall’s 1936 inaugural class along with Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb – a time when pure numbers easily covered up a player’s blemishes. A simpler, easier time.
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