The 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot gives sports writers their first chance to vote on the careers of Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.
The three members of baseball's “Steroids Era” join Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire, who are on their third and seventh respective ballots.
This could be the start of a long voting cycle that may keep alleged steroids users out of the Hall of Fame.
[sidebar title="Don Larsen: A Baseball Icon" width="630" align="right"]Don Larsen isn't in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he pitched the only perfect game in World Series history. Bill Littlefield spoke with Larsen, who is auctioning off his New York Yankees uniform from Game 5 of the 1956 Series for his grandchildren.[/sidebar]“I do think this is where things start to get especially messy,” Rob Neyer, National Baseball Editor for SB Nation, told Bill Littlefield. “You could make the argument that Sosa is not one of the all-time greats despite all the home runs. But certainly Clemens and Bonds...Clemens had a case as the best pitcher of all time, Bonds has the case as the best player. With them on the ballot—they’re not going to be elected. It’s going to help create this incredible backlog of fantastic players on the ballot this year and in coming years.”
Neyer said many voters see an easy argument to keep suspected steroids users out of the Hall, he finds it even easier to make the case for their induction.
“We know they were great players before steroids became an issue in baseball, certainly before steroids were prohibited by the collective bargaining agreement. If it’s simply about using drugs to be a better baseball player, that goes back decades and decades. Illegal amphetamine use was rampant in baseball going back to at least the 1970s. A great number of Hall of Famers, guys who are in the Hall of Fame right now, used illegal amphetamines for significant portions of their careers. In my mind, many of the voters have yet not been able to draw that line somewhere it makes sense, so they just don’t bother. They don’t even bring it up.”
Neyers isn't yet a voting member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, but if he had a vote to give, Bonds and Clemens would get it.
“There are some younger voters who think we should just ignore the issue completely,” he said. “I’m not quite there yet. There are so many qualified players on the ballot right now that I think it’s fair to make some distinctions. I think in the case of Bonds and Clemens, it’s not even close, and to suggest that these guys don't belong in the Hall of Fame because they did what many other players were doing at exactly the same time, I just can’t go that far.”
That same rationale could apply to former Houston Astros star Jeff Bagwell, who is on his third ballot. Throughout his career, Bagwell hit 449 runs and had a 2.97 batting average, but some have said that he is being omitted because of unconfirmed suspicions about performance enhancing drugs.
“I think he’s certainly lost votes because of it, there's no question about that. We don’t know how many. Some voters have certainly written columns in which they’ve said, 'I can’t vote for Jeff Bagwell because I think he may have cheated.' There is no proof. His name hasn’t appeared in any reports that we know about.”
There's still hope for players like Bagwell, but Neyer believes entry willl be tough for almost all of the players from baseball's "Steroids Era"s.
“A guy like Greg Maddux for example—he’s going to make it, because there's just no way they're going to keep him out. But anyone who somebody can make an argument against is going to have a very tough time making it over the next 10-15 years.”
This segment aired on December 1, 2012.