Brace yourself for lots of posturing and moralizing about the eeeeevils of steroids and the general decline of society.
Suspected steroid users Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez are on baseball’s Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, joining Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar, both of whom fell just short in last year’s vote.
Former Most Valuable Players Jeff Bagwell and Larry Walker, and former Rookies of the Year Benito Santiago and Raul Mondesi also will be on the 33-man ballot, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America said Monday.
Mark McGwire, 10th on the career list with 583 homers, received 128 votes (23.7%) in totals announced last January following his fourth appearance of the ballot — well under the 75% needed for election. He admitted before last season to using steroids and human growth hormone during his playing days.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, both under indictment on charges related to their denials of steroids use, become eligible for the Hall ballot in two years.
Palmeiro is 12th on the career list with 569 home runs and had 3,020 hits, joining Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray as the only players in the 500-3,000 club. Palmeiro wagged his finger at Congress in 2005 while denying he used steroids, then tested positive a few months later and was suspended for 10 days.
He tested positive for stanozolol, a person with knowledge of the sport’s drug-testing program told The Associated Press at the time, speaking on condition of anonymity because the drug wasn’t announced. Palmeiro testified before a congressional panel that he “never used steroids.”
Jose Canseco claimed in his 2005 book that he used steroids with Gonzalez, who was 35 when he played his last major league game. Then-Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks said in 2007 that he had no knowledge that Gonzalez used steroids, but said he was suspicious the two-time AL MVP did because of his injuries and early retirement.
The complete ballot: Roberto Alomar, Carlos Baerga, Jeff Bagwell, Harold Baines, Bert Blyleven, Bret Boone, Kevin Brown, John Franco, Juan Gonzalez, Marquis Grissom, Lenny Harris, Bobby Higginson, Charles Johnson, Barry Larkin, Al Leiter, Edgar Martinez, Tino Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Raul Mondesi, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, John Olerud, Rafael Palmeiro, Dave Parker, Tim Raines, Kirk Rueter, Benito Santiago, Lee Smith, B.J. Surhoff, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker.
JuanGon doesn’t have a Hall of Fame case, so I’m not too worried about him. Palmeiro, on the other hand, is in a pretty exclusive club and would seem a lock were it not for the steroid thing. Given the climate, I’ll be surprised if he gets as many votes as McGwire has gotten.
I’m somewhat ambivalent about Palmeiro’s case for the Hall. I don’t care about the steroid thing. I’ve decided that if I had a vote, I’d completely ignore any steroid allegations and admissions on the grounds that there are plenty of other voters who will gladly reject entire classes of player based on whatever damn-fool thing they believe about the stuff, just to provide a little balance. Palmeiro’s raw numbers are certainly impressive, but he played in a great offensive context, and my gut reaction is that he’s a somewhat better version of Fred McGriff. I’d like to see how a guy like Jay Jaffe evaluates his case before I make a commitment. As such, I’d leave him off the ballot this year, but am prepared to change my mind.
Beyond that, my choices are: Alomar, Bagwell, Blyleven, Larkin, Raines, and Trammell. I’m also on the fence about Edgar Martinez and may reconsider that decision next year. Bagwell has better triple-slash stats than Palmeiro despite playing most of his career in the Astrodome, so he’s an easy choice. Who would you be voting for if you had a vote?
UPDATE: I agree completely with Linkmeister about the continued shameful omission of Marvin Miller.