Steroids Era Sluggers Don’t Fare Too Well This Time

Sports Illustrated writer – and former “Sports Talk” guest – Joe Posnanski raised an interesting point in his blog post last night reacting to the Baseball Hall of Fame voting.

Mark McGwire
Will Mark McGwire ever make the Baseball Hall of Fame? I have my doubts. Associated Press

The bulk of the post is in regards to the election of Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar. But in the middle of the post, Posnanski wrote this:

The biggest story on Wednesday, I think, is that the opinion about steroid use seems to be hardening. Rafael Palmeiro, with 3,000 hits and 500 homers, got only 11% of the vote. Mark McGwire’s numbers went down. Kevin Brown actually fell off the ballot. Juan Gonzalez, despite a campaign that featured a full-color brochure, barely stayed on the ballot. All of them have been connected with steroids.

And I think they are the canaries in the coal mine, the ones that are telling us what is coming in two and three and four years. I guess I have believed that, in time, the steroid fury would settle down and that while it might hurt borderline cases, all-time greats like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens would still get in. I’m not sure I think that anymore. I think there was a powerful statement made on Wednesday. I’m not sure a strongly-suspected steroid user can get to 75%, no matter how good he was.

I’ve said plenty on the subject, and I’ll undoubtedly babble about it more over time so I don’t have anything else from a personal perspective to add here. But from a news perspective, well, before the announcement, I talked a bit with Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson. I was curious how the Hall of Fame views the voting and how they view the future. And I have to say the answers surprised me. Jeff said a few things that reiterated that surprising thought in my mind: Right now, from the way everything is pointing, I don’t think Barry Bonds is going to the Hall of Fame. I don’t think Roger Clemens is going to the Hall of Fame. I don’t think Sammy Sosa is going to the Hall of Fame. Not for a long time.

The Hall of Fame election in 2013 will be an interesting one. With Bonds, Clemens and Mike Piazza hitting the ballot, you got some pretty big-time suspected juicers there.

Let’s take a look at McGwire’s five years on the Hall ballot:

  • 2007: 23.5 percent
  • 2008: 23.6 percent
  • 2009: 21.9 percent
  • 2010: 23.7 percent
  • 2011: 19.8 percent

At best, McGwire has been treading water, at least up until this year. But despite there being more voters in 2011 than 2010, his vote total actually dropped from a year ago. That means some voters – for one reason or another – have turned on him. The obvious reason for that is McGwire’s admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs, which happened prior to him taking over as St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach this past year.

And it’s not just McGwire. Rafael Palmeiro is one of only four players in big league history with 3,000 hits and 500 homers, yet the former first baseman – who once failed a drug test – garnered just 11 percent of the vote. Juan Gonzalez received only 5.2 percent of the vote.

I’ve long wondered whether or not these guys will ever get in on the writers’ ballot. I mean, 75 percent of the vote … it can be hard to convince 75 percent of writers that using steroids to reach certain athletic achievements is OK. Look how long it took Blyleven, and as far as we can all tell, he never took performance-enhancing drugs.

Next year’s ballot – headlined by Bernie Williams – should be a bit of a dud. But the 2013 one will be one to watch.

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