Well, somehow the voters for the National Baseball Hall of Fame got it right.
Somehow, despite headlines like “Baseball’s broken Hall of Fame process” and “Hall of Fame PED hypocrisy must end,” baseball writers managed to elect four qualified Hall of Fame candidates.
The walls of Cooperstown didn’t come crashing down. No one is walking around wearing “I can’t vote” T-shirts.
Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio all received the required 75 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and will be on the stage next July with Frank Robinson, Tom Seaver, Cal Ripken and other Hall of Famers who will gladly welcome the new members.
Johnson was the leading vote-getter, with 97.3 percent of the vote. Martinez followed with 91.1 percent; Smoltz garnered 82.9 percent and Biggio received 82.7 percent. It was the first time on the ballot for Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz.
I voted for all of them. I didn’t vote for the Murderer’s Row of performance-enhancing drug users, banned in baseball since 1991, on the ballot — Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.
They’re not getting in. Bonds got just 36.8 percent of the vote and Clemens received 37.5 percent — right where they’ve been now for three years on the ballot. McGwire only received 10 percent of the vote, and Sosa hung on the ballot for another year with six percent. A candidate needs to get five percent of the vote to remain on the ballot.
Bonds is an admitted cheater, telling the grand jury that he took “The Cream and The Clear,” but claiming he didn’t know what he was using. McGwire, after refusing to answer questions in Congress about steroid use, has since come out and admitted using performance-enhancing substances. Sosa was reportedly on the 2003 list of players who tested positive for performance-enhancing substances. That report has never been refuted.
Clemens? If you read a column in USA Today, Clemens is a regular freedom fighter:
“We don’t vote for Roger Clemens, but accept at face value the accomplishments of other power pitchers in that era.
Oh, and even though Clemens spent millions in court to prove to prove he didn’t commit perjury when he says he didn’t use steroids, it’s OK to blatantly disregard the federal criminal justice system.”
Clemens the victim. This is rich.
Call me crazy, but I tend to believe the report by George Mitchell, the former U.S. Senator who brokered a peace agreement in Northern Ireland, and his lead investigator on the Mitchell Report — a former hard-nosed federal drug prosecutor in Baltimore — that named Clemens as a steroid user. I believe them more than I believe Clemens, who was hated by both rivals and teammates until he bathed in the glow of Joe Torre and the New York Yankees, and his hired mouthpiece, Rusty Hardin.
By the way, Clemens has also spent millions trying to avoid facing a defamation suit by his accuser and former trainer, Brian McNamee. But he has lost every step of the way to keep the lawsuit from being heard — including being forced to turn over, against his will, 6,000 pages of emails, to McNamee’s lawyers, according to the New York Daily News. That case is expected to be heard later this year. Let’s see how Clemens fares without his former teammates and friend — Andy Pettitte, another cheater who told Congress about Clemens PED use but suffered a memory loss in his perjury trial — to bail him out this time.
Several baseball writers declared a boycott of the ballot. You want to see a boycott, watch what current Hall of Famers do if Bonds or Clemens wind up with a plaque next to theirs.
You put Bonds and Clemens on that stage, and you’ll have empty seats. You put Bonds and Clemens on that stage, and then you will have a “broken Hall of Fame process.”
“Travesty” and “mockery” are words often used by The Cheated Generation — the fans, and, in this case, writers, who watched or chronicled the steroid era without sounding any alarms about the fraud that was being perpetuated.
They are angry now that all that is being invalidated with every Hall of Fame vote that passes by as long as Bonds, Clemens, McGwire and other cheaters are on the ballots. Thankfully, the Hall has reduced the length of time you can stay on the ballot from 15 years to 10, sparing us another five years of righteous indignation from weak-kneed voters.
The long-standing voting criteria for the Hall of Fame includes “integrity, sportsmanship and character.” I chose to value those criteria. Yes, there are those already enshrined in Cooperstown who don’t meet that criteria. I didn’t vote for them, and I’m not bound by votes that have taken place before me.
If other voters chose to ignore those criteria, fine. But don’t throw a temper-tantrum because 75 percent of your brethren don’t agree with you. Don’t start crying that you’re not going to vote until the rules are changed to agree with you.
“The truth is I don’t know for sure who did or did not use steroids, and rather than be judge and jury on the matter I’d rather not vote at all,” wrote a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. “At one time, I would have been more inclined to vote if the Hall of Fame’s board of directors removed the character clause because I do believe it’s wrong to make the baseball writers decide on this highly charged and impossible-to-define issue.”
Baseball writers are exactly the ones who should be making these decisions. We abdicated our responsibility when it was going on, not asking the right questions. Don’t beg off again because it’s too hard.
This notion that we don’t know for sure who did or did not use steroids is baffling — and wrong. We know that Bonds and McGwire used steroids. They admitted it. We know that Sosa did. He failed a drug test. And again, if you have more confidence in Mitchell’s credibility than Clemens, the proof is there.
What is true is we don’t know who else used steroids, so if you don’t know about everybody, you can’t judge anybody? Imagine how the wheels of justice would grind to a halt if we operated under this premise.
Come next July, baseball greats like Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Nolan Ryan and others will welcome Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz, and Biggio.
There won’t be an empty seat in the house.
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.