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Hall of Fame rejects Clemens, Bonds for now, robs Morris

The SportsXchange

No news was bad news on Tuesday.

For only the eighth time ever, the first time since 1996 and second time since 1971, the veteran members of the Baseball Writers Association of America failed to elect a retired player into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

It's a shame.

There was a backlash to the first-term eligibility of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who have Hall of Fame resumes but carry reputations tainted by allegations of PED usage. The magnitude of the feeling of betrayal was evident by the fact that Clemens was named on only 37.6 percent of the ballots cast and Bonds just 36.2 percent.

Bottom line, though, is Clemens, a six-time Cy Young winner, and Bonds, a seven-time MVP, are eventually going to get elected. They have 14 more shots. Now that the statement of disappointment has been made, there will be a steady influx of voters listing those two on the ballot in the next couple of years.

They got slapped in the first year of eligibility, but they won't have the door slammed shut.

The real victim is Jack Morris.

This was Morris' 14th year on the ballot. He finished second with 67.7 percent, just a one percent hike from a year ago, and second in this year's voting behind Craig Biggio, who was named on 68 percent of the ballots cast.

Biggio is in good shape. This was his first year of eligibility. Never has a player received support from 68 percent of the voters in the first year of eligibility and not eventually been enshrined. By comparison, among middle infielders eventually enshrined in recent years, Roberto Alomar received support from 73.7 percent of the voters his first year, Barry Larkin 51.6 percent and Ryne Sandberg 49.2 percent.

Seventy-nine percent of the players enshrined in Cooperstown were not elected in their first year on the ballot.

And historically, it should be pointed out that of those first-time eligible players back in 1996, three eventually were elected to the Hall of Fame -- Phil Niekro in 1997, Tony Perez in 1998 and Don Sutton in 2000. The only other years of no inductees were 1945, 1946, 1950, 1958, 1960 and 1971.

For Morris, the news isn't as promising.

He has only one year left on the ballot, and while he has shown an increase in support in 11 of his last 12 years on the ballot, next year isn't going to be a slam dunk for him. And that's too bad.

To begin with, there is a mother lode of candidates off this year's ballot who will be considered again next year, including the likes of Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, Curt Schilling and Alan Trammell in addition to Bonds, Clemens, Morris and Biggio.

And there's an impressive list of first-year candidates for 2014, starting with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina and Frank Thomas.

Morris, unfortunately, could get lost in the masses, which is why this year's election was so vital for him, and which is why it is sad that Morris was caught in the web of the PED controversy, even though he personally has never had his character questioned on any grounds.

And with so many strong candidates, consider that since the five inductees who were honored 1936, only twice has there been more than three players elected in a single year. In 1955, Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Harnett, Ted Lyons and Dazzy Vance were elected, and in 1947 the enshrines included Mickey Cochrane, Frankie Frisch, Lefty Grove and Carl Hubbell.

But then never before has there ever been such a controversy as the one over the suspected PED use by the prime first-year candidates this time.

Steroids have become such a lightning rod for members of the media. Could it be, in part, because there is a guilt feeling on the part of so many of the writers for ignoring the impact of steroids usage at the time and then having the problem exposed publicly, including in Congressional hearings?

Think about it.

For all the sudden complaints about steroids, the BBWAA voters never seem to have been concerned about segregation. They elected players who have been arrested on drug charges and some who were implicated with the cocaine scandal of 30 years ago. They didn't bat an eye about supporting pitchers who doctored baseballs.

With steroids, however, the masses seem to have suddenly found religion.

The fact that Clemens (37.6 percent) and Bonds (36.3) did receive support from more than a third of the voters does bode well for them long term, and it also underscores that despite the suspicions of their PED use, the voters are more willing to recognize their accomplishments than others also stained by steroids.

Sammy Sosa, also a first-time candidate, was on only 12.5 percent of the ballots. Mark McGwire was on only 16.9 percent of the ballots, his weakest support in his seven years on the ballot, and Rafael Palmeiro only 8.8 percent, his lowest total in three years on the ballot.

The question that only time will answer is whether those who wanted to make a statement about suspected PED users this year will ease their stance over time, and eventually reward the likes of Clemens and Bonds for what they accomplished on the field.
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