The votes were counted and released on January 14 to determine the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2017. This year’s class had three players receive at least 75% of the vote in order to be elected. Those names were first baseman Jeff Bagwell of Houston Astros fame (7th year on ballot), former Montreal Expos left fielder Tim Raines (10th year on ballot), and catcher Iván Rodriguez, who spent a majority of his career with the Texas Rangers (1st year on ballot). Great news for three deserving players in baseball history.
However, there was also bad news. The bad news was that known steroid users Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens had a ten percent increase in votes this year. The once sacred Baseball Hall of Fame is in danger of being tainted forever.
The process is that 442 baseball journalists are each given a ballot of candidates, where the journalist is allowed to vote for 10 nominees. The Hall of Fame committee then tallies the votes, and the candidates that receive at least 75% of the votes are named to the Hall of Fame. What is also important to mention is that each candidate is allowed ten years on the ballot. If the candidate does not receive the sufficient amount of votes in that time frame, they are permanently removed from the ballot.
This year, Bagwell (86.2%), Raines (86.0%), and Rodriguez (76.0%) received enough of the total votes to be entered into baseball immortality. However, Bonds (53.8%) and Clemens (54.1%), are getting that much closer to being enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
It is scary to think that many journalists are voting in Bonds and Clemens, both who have appeared in front of a federal court in regards of using steroids during their playing careers.
Bonds was the main focal point of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) grand jury investigation in 2003. This investigation came to be when federal investigators raided the house of Bonds’ childhood friend Greg Anderson, finding documents that showed Bonds was using banned drugs. Not only that, but Anderson admitted to giving steroids to several other MLB players, including then-Yankees players Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi. Victor Conte, founder of BALCO, and James Valente, VP of BALCO, each plead guilty to conspiracy to distribute steroids and money laundering. Conte served four months in prison, Valente was given three years’ probation, and Anderson was sentenced to three months in prison.
In 2007, it only continued for Bonds, as he was indicted on four counts of perjury and one count of obstructions of justice in regards to the BALCO case. After numerous delays, Bonds was found guilty on one count for obstruction of justice, while the perjury charges were dropped. However, Bonds appealed this case and later won, mostly in part to the jury not being able to use Bonds’ previous statements, where he gave, “a rambling, non-responsive answer to a simple question,” as, “insufficient evidence.” Yes, charges were dropped, but Bonds history is very sketchy, with steroid use being the elephant in the room.
Clemens was the primary antagonist in the Mitchell Report in 2007, an independent investigation from Maine Senator George J. Mitchell. Mitchell received evidence by Clemens’ former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, who told Mitchell that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormones in 1998, 2000, and 2001. Clemens denied McNamee’s claims on 60 Minutes, even filing a defamation suit against McNamee. McNamee even goes on the record saying that he injected Clemens’ wife, Debbie, with HGH, while he was present. McNamee sued Clemens in New York State Supreme Court for libel, slander, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence.
On August 19, 2010, a federal grand jury indicted Clemens on one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements to Congress, and two counts of perjury. After a mistrial and retrial, Clemens was found not guilty, due to prosecutorial conduct after showing prejudicial evidence to the jury that they were told not to show. Although Clemens came off unscathed in this trial, Clemens reputation is forever damaged with the steroid and HGH use hanging over Clemens’ head.
The voting system, to say the least, is flawed. Murray Chass submitted a blank ballot this year. Submitting a blank ballot seriously affects the percentages of the votes. He doesn’t do this to not allow players linked to performance enhancing drugs, he did it for a more selfish reason. He does this to spite other voters, who he has personal resentment for.
“I am making an impact by voting,” said Chass. “If I send in a blank ballot, that makes it more difficult for people who shouldn’t be in to get in.”
Chass’ intentions are good, but he comes off as a disgruntled writer with a personal vendetta, thus casting a bad image upon himself.
There is a cloud on this year’s Hall of Fame class as well. Bagwell admitted in 1998 that he did take androstenedione, a testosterone booster, which was still legal in MLB until 2004. Ivan Rodriguez was accused by known steroid abuser Jose Canseco of taking steroids. Canseco, who you should take his accusations with a grain of salt, wrote in his book, “Juiced,” that he personally injected Rodriguez with steroids in 1993-1994 when both were members of the Texas Rangers. Canseco’s book did not come off as a “facts-checklist,” it came off as a man who cheated throughout his MLB career, trying to throw other people under the bus.
The one thing that separates Bagwell/Rodriguez from Bonds/Clemens is that Bagwell and Rodriguez were never listed on the Mitchell report. However, with the doubts surrounding Bagwell and Rodriguez, you have to believe that this is giving journalists more reason to vote for Bonds and Clemens.
With this spike in votes for Bonds and Clemens, it will only be a matter of time until they get elected. Yes, they have the stats that make them Hall of Famers, but they come with a big asterisk next to their name. It’s like in any situation that if you cheat, you should be punished. You cheat in college, you get kicked out. The logic is simple. If you cheat in baseball, then you should be automatically taken off considerations into the Hall of Fame.