The Baseball Hall of Fame will hold its induction ceremonies for the Class of 2013 as scheduled July 28, but most of the usual buzz in Cooperstown, N.Y., likely will be absent.
None of the 37 candidates on the writers’ ballot for the Hall of Fame received the 75 percent of votes required for induction in results announced Wednesday afternoon, just the third time since 1965 that no one has met the threshold.
First-time candidate Craig Biggio came the closest among modern candidates, garnering 68.2 percent of the votes from 569 ballots cast by an electorate divided by how to handle the influx of candidates from what has become known as baseball’s “Steroid Era.” Jack Morris was next at 67.7 percent in his penultimate year on the ballot, followed by Jeff Bagwell at 59.6 percent.
That means the only 2013 inductees will be previously announced selections by the Hall’s veterans’ committee: 19th-century standout Deacon White, umpire Hank O’Day and longtime Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, all of whom died in the 1930s.
Three key figures from the Steroid Era — all-time home run leader Barry Bonds, seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa, the only man to hit at least 60 homers in a season three times — appeared on the ballot for the first time this year. Clemens received 37.6 percent of the votes, Bonds 36.2 and Sosa 12.5 in voting conducted by 10-year members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
The performance-enhancing-drugs issue was unavoidable in the 2013 election, with some voters going so far as to submit blank ballots in protest. Most of the candidates this year played at least part of their careers during that period in the 1990s that at the time was celebrated for its thrilling home run races but now is seen as a dark spot in the game’s history. Of those on the ballot with a legitimate argument for induction, only Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for steroids while playing. He received 8.8 percent of the vote in his third year on the ballot.
“The standards for earning election to the Hall of Fame have been very high ever since the rules were created in 1936,” Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson told the BBWAA website. “We realize the challenges voters are faced with in this era. The Hall of Fame has always entrusted the exclusive voting privilege to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. We remain pleased with their role in evaluating candidates based on the criteria we provide.”
The BBWAA panel is comprised of those who spent at least 10 consecutive years as members of the association. Once that 10-year threshold is reached, though, a voter is permanently entitled to a ballot, so many of the current voters haven’t been active baseball writers for some time. (Disclosure: I am a Hall of Fame voter and my last season covering baseball full time was 2009.)
Players remain on the ballot for up to 15 years as long as they receive at least 5 percent of the vote in each election. This was former Atlanta Braves great Dale Murphy’s final shot at induction by the writers, and he fell short, as expected, with 18.6 percent.
Among those who fell off the ballot after failing to garner at least 5 percent this year were Bernie Williams, Kenny Lofton and Sandy Alomar Jr.
The last two times the BBWAA declined to elect any players, there wasn’t nearly as much controversy. In 1971, Yogi Berra topped all candidates with 67.2 percent in his first year on the ballot; he was elected the following year with 85.6 percent. In 1996, Phil Niekro led the way at 68.3 percent. He was the lone inductee in 1997 at 80.3 percent.
• Deputy Sports Editor Marc Lancaster is a Baseball Hall of Fame voter.