Voting process strikes out with Hall of Fame choices
No one was elected Wednesday to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the most emphatic verdict to date about baseball's steroid era by an odd group of electors.
Three rejected candidacies stand out. Barry Bonds, the only seven-time most valuable player, season and career home run leader, is widely suspected of having used performance enhancing drugs. Roger Clemens, the only seven-time Cy Young Award winner who is third on the all-time strike-out list and ninth in wins, also was widely suspected. Sammy Sosa, who hit 609 home runs, tested positive in 2003, according to a New York Times report in 2009.
Bonds received 36.2 percent of the vote; Clemens, 37.6 percent; and Sosa, 12.5 percent; 75 percent is required for election.
So the baseball writers have passed judgment on the steroid era. But, what if they already have voted a user into the Hall of Fame? Many former players say that they know of contemporaries who used substances from the 1980s into the early 2000s, so it's possible the writers missed someone.
Consider, as well, that in the cases of Bonds and Clemens, they could have retired before their suspected substance use and still had credentials worthy of inclusion in the Hall of Fame.
But election is an inexact science. This balloting just reinforces the need to reform the process.
Some members of the association don't cover baseball. And for those who do cover baseball, voting is an inherent conflict of interest; that's why the New York Times doesn't allow its writers to vote on the players they also cover as objective reporters. Many players, like Bonds, had lousy relationships with the sporting press, but that should be irrelevant when it's time to vote.
Since voting began in 1936, the baseball writers have been far from infallible. No player - not Babe Ruth, not Willie Mays, not Henry Aaron - ever has received a unanimous vote, for example. What does it take?
As baseball moves away from the steroid era, it also should move away from this voting process. It might have made sense when it was devised in 1936 but should be scrapped for a less conflicted method.