The votes are in and nobody won. I’m sure the Republicans would have been satisfied by that verdict in that other recent election for the minor office of president, but the Baseball Writers’ Association of America took a close look at 37 names on the Hall of Fame ballot for the class of 2013 and didn’t endorse anyone.
This was not a shock–at least twice I mentioned that this could happen–but it is jarring. The last time the writers failed to elect a candidate was 1996 and this was only the second time in 41 years. It takes 75 percent of the vote, not simply a majority, to elect an individual to the Hall of Fame. Former Astros second baseman Craig Biggio led the way with 68.2 percent of the 569 votes cast. Pitcher Jack Morris, as he was last year, came in second at 67.7 percent. Morris will be on the ballot for the last time next year.
Just as has been in evidence across the country in national political campaigns, it is apparent that the electorate is very polarized. Some voters decided that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens produced such fantastic numbers that they deserved their vote while other voters concluded that Bonds and Clemens did not deserve their support because their names had been mentioned in connection with performance-enhancing drugs. Falling into that category, t0o, were Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro.
The Hall of Fame announced that five eligible voters turned in blank ballots. Surprisingly, one of them wrote about it and insisted it was not a protest. Don’t know what it was then. He was among some who admitted they consider a first-ballot election to be of special note. I have never felt that way. Either you’re good enough or not, but you’ve already waited five years to become eligible for the ballot, so what’s the big deal.
Under voting rules, players are eligible to remain on the ballot year to year for up to 15 years as long as they collect at least five percent of the vote each time. This was Dale Murphy‘s 15th and last appearance and he garnered 18.6 percent of the vote, so he is done. Many of the first-time eligibles received zero votes (no surprise) and they have been eliminated. That group includes Woody Williams, Rondell White, Todd Walker, Mike Stanton, Reggie Sanders, Jose Mesa, Ryan Klesko, Roberto Hernandez, Jeff Conine, Royce Clayton, and Jeff Cirillo. Aaron Sele got one vote. Shawn Green got two votes, Steve Finley got four votes. David Wells got five votes, Julio Franco got six votes, Sandy Alomar Jr. got 16 votes, and Kenny Lofton got 18 votes. I wonder if anyone voted for Aaron Sele and not Barry Bonds. Just asking
Former Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams was in his second year on the ballot, but did not reach the five percent threshold at 3.3 percent, so he has also been eliminated.
Clemens obtained 37.6 percent of the vote and Bonds received 36.2 percent.Given the way the wind was blowing, I am not surprised they were not elected, but I am a bit surprised they didn’t do a little better. Sosa, with 609 lifetime homers, garnered 12.5 percent. McGwire, 16.9 percent, and Palmeiro, 8.8 percent, remain on the ballot.
After Morris, Jeff Bagwell (59.6 percent), Mike Piazza (57.8), Tim Raines (52.2), Lee Smith (47.8), Curt Schilling (38.8), Edgar Martinez (35.9), Alan Trammell (33.6), Larry Walker (21.6), Fred McGriff (20.7), and Don Mattingly (13.2) all received enough votes to remain up for further consideration. I am pleased that none of those worthy players were exiled from the ballot. Some of them may yet be inducted into the Hall.
However, I think the numbers tell us that this is going to be a long war. The annual Hall of Fame vote is shaping up as a confrontation between different factions with unresolvable differences. Who ever thought that the issue of who should be enshrined would take on overtones of abortion vs. anti-abortion, gun control vs. gun crackdown? This is a much smaller electorate, but I am thinking that the sides chosen are intractable and that it will take a changing the composition of the voters over the next 15 years for certain players to be elected.