Bonds and Clemens in, Sosa Out

The results of the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame election were announced last week and the controversy is still simmering. For just the eighth time since its inception in 1936 and the first time since 1996, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America did not elect a new member to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Not a single player received the required 75 percent of the votes to gain entrance into baseball’s most hallowed grounds.

This year’s election will be forever remembered as the first year all of the controversial “Steroid Era” names appeared on the ballot together. Unfortunately, all of the arguments over the Steroid Era’s legacy have shoved aside the players who have never been associated with steroids, like Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza. When these obviously deserving players are denied entrance, it brings up many questions about the system with which players are voted in. Should the voters ignore the steroids and vote for the best players or should they keep everyone from the era out? Should the BBWAA be the ones passing the final judgment? Why do some voters only vote for the “greatest” players on the first ballot?

While there is no perfect answer to this controversy, there are some viable solutions that would help appease both sides of the argument. For example, the writers could vote the deserving players in regardless of steroids and have the known facts of each player put onto their plaque in Hall of Fame. In that instance, guys like Bonds, McGwire,

Sosa and Palmeiro would have their past use of steroids noted under their picture in the Hall.

Another viable option would be to not vote anyone directly related to steroid use and instead put them in a special “steroid exhibit” at the Hall of Fame. This exhibit would explain that they did, in fact, cheat, but were also never directly punished by the league for it and helped bring mainstream interest back to baseball. As far as the BBWAA being the voters, I believe that they are the best people to do it. They have the most intimate knowledge of the game outside of the actual players and coaches. The system is slightly flawed, evidenced by the fact that someone voted for Aaron Sele this year and Babe Ruth wasn’t unanimously elected, but it’s our best option. Having said that, I still do not understand the voters who do not vote a player in for a few years and then all of the sudden decide that he is worthy later in his eligibility. I do not believe that only the best players should be voted in on their first appearance on the ballot. If someone is a Hall of Famer, they deserve to be in on their first ballot appearance.

Now, on to my personal ballot, which would be Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire. That means I would be leaving off a lot of famous players like Jeff Bagwell, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro.

Craig Biggio: It’s pretty mind boggling how Biggio was not voted in to the Hall of Fame. It is his first appearance on the ballot, but it should not matter. One of the things that should help him get elected is the fact that he not only played second base very well, but so many other positions too. Compared to the second basemen already in the Hall, Biggio is first in runs scored, second in home runs, third in hits and second all-time in hit by pitches.

Mike Piazza: Compared to the catchers already in the Hall of Fame, Piazza is first in slugging percentage, first in home runs and third in batting average, hits and RBI. He is also one of the top five in both on-base percentage and runs scored. The fact that he put up those kinds of offensive statistics while playing the most physically taxing position in the game is remarkable. He also won a Rookie of the Year Award and garnered 14 All-Star selections, as well as 12 Silver Slugger awards.

As for the likes of Clemens, Bonds and McGwire, their worthiness is pretty clear cut. Bonds is the only player to win seven MVPs and holds both the single season and career home run records. He has 14 All Star selections, 12 Silver Sluggers and eight Gold Gloves. The final reason he gets my vote over others is because he would have been a Hall of Famer before he got huge with steroids.

McGwire took the stand at the Congressional hearings and admitted his use with dignity and wanted to focus on the future of the game. He was also instrumental in bringing mainstream interest back to baseball with his pursuit of Roger Maris’ single season home run record. Roger Clemens is the only player to win seven Cy Young Awards. He is ninth all time in wins, third all time in strikeouts and has won a MVP award, in addition to winning his perjury case.

Sammy Sosa was defensive and scared at the Congressional meetings. He was caught using a corked bat in a game. Rafael Palmeiro, who is one of only four players in history with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, blatantly lied to Congress and tested positive for steroid use. There is no way that they should be in the Hall. In conclusion, Jeff Bagwell and Curt Schilling’s career numbers are simply not outstanding enough to put them into the Hall of Fame. They were very, very good players, but they are not Hall of Fame players.

Sosa, Bonds, Piazza All Belong

Last week, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America cast their votes as to who would be granted the prestigious honor of being named to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. On the ballot for the 2013 induction year were some of the most controversial names that Major League Baseball might ever see, headlined by the all-time home run leader Barry Bonds. After Bonds, players that are also mired with steroids scandals like Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens are on their first ballot, along with returnees like Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. Also on the ballot were a couple of shoe-ins: Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza. However, the BBWAA decided not to elect a single player this year.

Beginning with the most qualified and least controversial, Biggio, this year’s ballot was the most painful Hall of Fame vote for me. Biggio began and ended his 20-year career with the Houston Astros and joined the 3,000 hit club, which is a near guarantee for the Hall of Fame. There are only two other players with those criteria — Palmeiro and Pete Rose — and both are held out of the Hall for steroid use and a ban for gambling.

Biggio began his career as a catcher, then made the transition to second base and became a four-time Gold Glove Award winner from 1994-97, at his second position in his career, mind you. Afterwards, he became a starting outfielder for two years before returning to second base in 2005.

Biggio has the credentials, so it became a matter of whether or not he deserved to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I suppose some voters just thought he didn’t deserve it. First-ballot Hall of Famers are the best of the best of the best — the .280 career average is good, but not first-ballot material. I think he should be in now, but I can live with next year. However, Biggio is still the most likely to make the Hall of Fame at this point.

Another player absolutely deserving to be inducted is Piazza. This is a man that was drafted in round 62, picked No. 1,390. A long shot to say the least, Piazza is arguably the best-hitting catcher of all time. He has hit more home runs than any catcher in history. He hit 427 in his career and 396 of them came while playing backstop. He compiled a career .308 batting average and a .922 OPS, which is the best among all catchers as well. He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1993, was a 12 time All-Star and 10 time Silver Slugger. He is still going to make it, he just has to wait for the first ballot bologna to get in.

Now, I will just jump right into it and say Barry Bonds absolutely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and should have gotten in on the first ballot. Regardless of his steroid use, the man put up absolutely amazing numbers. Everyone has heard of the home runs, his 73 in a single season and 762 career homers, but he is the only player in MLB history with 500 career home runs and 500 career stolen bases. He is one of four players to steal 40 bases and hit 40 home runs in a single season. He is an eight-time Gold Glove Award winner as well. He was nearly a Hall of Fame candidate when he played with the Pirates, long before the steroid fiasco. Some seemingly impossible numbers are what make him a Hall of Famer. In 2004, he reached base more times than he recorded official at bats. He was walked so many times, he recorded only 373 at bats in a full season and reached base 376 times via walk or hit.

He is the only player to win seven MVP awards, which are voted on by the BBWAA as well. They deemed him worthy of four more MVPs than anyone else; why then is he not Hall material? Forget the steroid scandal and that means he should be in the Hall of Fame and should have been in with this first ballot.

The next best steroid-using slugger on the ballot, Sammy Sosa, should also be in the Hall of Fame. Sosa is the only player to have hit 60 home runs in one season three different times. Not even Bonds or McGwire did that. He tallied 609 career home runs, currently eighth all-time and drove in 1,667 runs in his career. He put up these numbers in four less seasons than most guys above him on the list. Bonds, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr. all played 22 seasons while Sosa played just 18. He is being held out for his connection to steroids, as well as a scandal that involved him using a corked bat, but whatever the argument against him, I believe a hitter of that quality deserves to be in.

As far as pitchers go, Roger Clemens has to be considered one of the best of all time. He ranks third for the most career strikeouts (4672) behind only Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson; he is ninth in career wins (354) and had a career 3.12 earned run average. Both the 3,000 strikeout club and the 300 win club are pitching standards of excellence, so those alone are qualifications enough, but Clemens also has had some unbelievable single-game performances. He has twice struck out 20 players in a single game and both times he did it before the steroid era really kicked in (1986 and 1996). Clemens was completely dominant. He won seven Cy Young Awards and even earned himself an MVP as a pitcher. He is first-ballot material, very much so.

The final player of my focus on this year’s ballot is Curt Schilling. I stand by the BBWAA with this vote. His years with the Arizona Diamondbacks were incredible. But, other than his 3,000 strikeouts, his career numbers just are not there. He won only 216 games and had a respectable 3.46 ERA, but those don’t compare to some of the tip-top pitchers in the Hall. He does have the three World Championships working for him, though, but he just did not have the numbers early in his career to get me thinking he was deserving of the Hall of Fame. He does have 14 more years on the ballot, however.

A version of this article appeared on page 10 of January 16, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.