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Clemens, Bonds Rejected in Steroid-Stained Hall of Fame Vote

January 09, 2013

Clemens, Bonds Rejected in Steroid-Stained Hall of Fame Vote

Former all-star baseball pitcher Roger Clemens becomes emotional while talking to the news media after he was found not guilty on 13 counts of perjury and obstruction outside the Prettyman U.S. Court House on June 18, 2012 in Washington. Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were snubbed in voting for baseball’s Hall of Fame, adding the game’s two most-decorated players to the list of retired stars bypassed because of links to performance-enhancing drugs.

Each received about half of the vote percentage needed for induction.

“After what has been written and said over the last few years, I’m not overly surprised,” Clemens said in a statement as reported by the MLB Network.

None of the 37 candidates on this year’s ballot received the necessary 75 percent of the vote, the first time since 1996 that the Baseball Writers Association of America didn’t elect anyone. It’s the eighth time since voting began in 1936 that no candidates earned induction.

It also means that this year’s induction class won’t have any living members, the first time that’s happened since 1965, when Pud Galvin was inducted posthumously in front of 22 of the 30 living Hall of Famers.

Longtime umpire Hank O’Day, former New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and 19th-century player Deacon White -- all of whom died in the 1930s -- will be inducted at this year’s ceremony on July 28. They were chosen last year by a special panel that reviewed baseball’s pre-integration era.

First-time candidate Craig Biggio came the closest to making the Hall of Fame of those on this year’s BBWAA ballot, receiving 68.2 percent of the vote. Biggio, one of 28 players in the sport’s history to reach the 3,000-hit milestone, fell 39 votes short of induction.

Ballot Debate

Clemens and Bonds were also among 24 former players on the ballot for the first time and their eligibility created one of the sport’s most highly debated and scrutinized votes.

Some baseball writers, fans, players and Hall of Fame members such as Reggie Jackson have argued that those tainted by performance-enhancing drug use should be kept out of the shrine in Cooperstown, New York, while others maintain the 1980s and 1990s was simply an era of widespread steroid use in baseball.

“There’s a very strong sentiment in that fraternity that integrity, credibility, sportsmanship is a big part of being a Hall of Famer,” Barry Larkin, the only player inducted last year, said on ESPN. “These guys feel very strongly about integrity of the Hall of Fame members. It would be devastating and traumatic to the institution if there is a divide among the Hall of Famers.”

Most Honored

Clemens won a record seven Cy Young Awards as the best pitcher in his league and ranks ninth in major-league history with 354 wins with the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Yankees and Houston Astros. Bonds won a record seven Most Valuable Player awards and is baseball’s all-time home-run leader with 762 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants.

Their unmatched on-field accomplishments weren’t enough to earn them a spot among the 44 first-ballot Hall of Fame members, the last being Rickey Henderson in 2009. Clemens, 50, received 37.6 percent of the vote, while Bonds, 48, was named on 36.2 percent of ballots from the BBWAA.

Michael Weiner, executive director of the MLB Players Association, said failing to elect anyone to the Hall was “unfortunate, if not sad.”

‘Denied Access’

“To ignore the historic accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, for example, is hard to justify,” Weiner said in a statement. “Moreover, to penalize players exonerated in legal proceedings -- and others never even implicated -- is simply unfair.”

Sammy Sosa, who ranks eighth in major-league history with 609 career homers, also fell well short of election in his debut on the ballot at 12.5 percent. The New York Times reported that Sosa failed a drug test.

Former pitcher Jack Morris, who received 67 percent of the vote in 2012, again fell short at 67.7 percent this year, his 14th on the ballot. Jeff Bagwell earned 59.6 percent of the vote in his third time on the ballot, while former New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza -- another first-time candidate -- got 57.8 percent. Tim Raines was the only other former player named on more than 50 percent of ballots.

‘Rightful Place’

“We hope in the not too distant future that Mike Piazza will take his rightful place in the Baseball Hall of Fame,” Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon said in a statement. “The statistics he compiled during his career as a catcher were unmatched by anyone in the history of the game.”

Phil Niekro, Tony Perez and Don Sutton were the top three- vote getters the last time the writers’ vote didn’t produce a Hall of Famer in 1996. All three were subsequently elected; Niekro in 1997, Sutton in 1998 and Perez in 2000.

The other BBWAA elections without a Hall of Fame member were in 1945, 1946, 1950, 1958, 1960 and 1971.

Voters previously kept out candidates such as Mark McGwire, who admitted using steroids, and Rafael Palmeiro, who failed a drug test. They’ve now done the same with Clemens, Bonds and Sosa, who all have denied drug use. McGwire got 16.9 percent of the vote this year, with Palmeiro at 8.8 percent.

The BBWAA ballot includes the sentence: “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

Strong Opinions

“The legends of the game of baseball, they have some very strong opinions about guys who cheated,” Larkin said. “The problem is we don’t know if they cheated.”

A Dec. 13, 2007, report by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell accused Clemens of using steroids and human growth hormone in 1998, 2000 and 2001. Clemens’s name was mentioned in the Mitchell report 82 times.

In June 2012, he was acquitted of lying to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Clemens’s first prosecution ended in a mistrial in July 2011 after government lawyers showed jurors evidence the judge had excluded.

Bonds, also identified by the Mitchell Report as a steroid user, was convicted in April 2010 by a federal jury in San Francisco of obstructing a U.S. probe of drug use by professional athletes. Jurors couldn’t agree whether Bonds lied when he told a grand jury in 2003 that he didn’t knowingly take steroids, didn’t take human growth hormone and didn’t receive injections from his trainer. A mistrial was declared on those counts.

Bonds’ Probation

Bonds was sentenced to two years’ probation and 30 days of house arrest, and appealed the ruling in December 2011.

Sosa, 44, tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, according to a 2009 Times report. He told a U.S. congressional committee in 2005 that he never used banned muscle-building substances.

Clemens and Bonds are the most accomplished players to fail to gain election to the Baseball Hall of Fame since the Mitchell Report’s release.

Clemens, known as “the Rocket” for his fastball, pitched in the major leagues until he was 44. He left the game after the 2007 season with a 354-184 record, a 3.12 earned run average and 4,672 strikeouts, third in history behind Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson.

Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001 to break McGwire’s single- season record. He finished his 22-year career with a .298 batting average, 1,996 runs batted in and 514 stolen bases while winning eight Gold Glove awards for his defense in the outfield.

Four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux, who had 355 wins, heads the players who will be eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time next year. Other first-time candidates next year will include two-time MVP Frank Thomas and two-time Cy Young winner Tom Glavine.

Players remain on the BBWAA ballot for 15 years as long as they receive at least 5 percent of the vote each year. Among players failing to reach that level this year were former Yankees Bernie Williams and David Wells.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net


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