First-time eligible players Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the biggest stars implicated in baseball’s steroid era, were turned away by voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, as was Braves icon Dale Murphy – in his final year on the ballot — and everyone else up for consideration.
For the first time since 1996 and the eighth time since voting began in 1936, no players were elected by voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Craig Biggio came closest, named on 68.2 percent of the 569 ballots in his first year of eligibility and falling 39 votes shy of the 75-percent election requirement.
Bonds had a record seven Most Valuable Player awards and broke Hank Aaron’s hallowed career home-run record, and Clemens finished with more than 300 wins and 4,000 strikeouts to go with a record seven Cy Young Awards. Without question, they would’ve been first-ballot Hall of Famers if not for links to steroids.
Each got only about half of the required votes, Bonds at 36.2 percent (206) and Clemens 37.6 percent (214).
Next year’s Hall of Fame class should have a strong Braves flavor, with 300-game winners Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine considered to be sure-fire selections in their first year on the ballot. Their retired former manager, Bobby Cox, has a good shot at being selected by the veterans committee next winter and inducted alongside two of his former aces.
Braves president John Schuerholz, the team’s longtime former general manager, could also be considered by the the veterans committee next winter, and Murphy figures to be discussed by the committe next winter or at some point in the not-too-distant future.
This was the 15th and final year of eligibility on the writers’ ballot for Murphy, named on 106 ballots (18.6 percent). It was the largest increase (4.1 percent) for any ballot holdover this year, but he still fell short of the personal-best 23.2 percent he received in 2000 in his second year on the ballot.
A two-time National League MVP with the Braves in 1982-1983, Murphy received fewer than 15 percent of the votes for 11 consecutive years prior to this one. Players can remain on the ballot for a maximum of 15 years, if they get at least 5 percent of the votes each year.
“I would love to be in the Hall of Fame, but I’m not sad,” said Murphy, 56, a part-time Braves broadcaster who’ll serve on the coaching staff for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic in March. “I’m very thankful and very happy and very blessed to have the memories and the fan support and the support of the people that I have. I’m very lucky.”
There was talk before Wednesday that Murphy might get a bigger spike in votes after some writers reasoned that rule No. 5 on the voting guidelines, regarding character and integrity, should work in Murphy’s favor if it was going to work against Bonds, Clemens and others sullied by steroid suspicions, including Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.
The clean-living Murphy has been known since his playing days as one of the nicest guys in the game, his reputation beyond reproach. He said Wednesday that he was disappointed not to have received more votes, but otherwise handled the news in his usual manner.
“I feel very thankful and very happy to have been on the ballot for the Hall of Fame,” he said, “to have been eligible for 15 years, to have had the career I had and to have started it out with the Braves. To have the memories I have and the family support that I have — I feel very happy and lucky to have been able to be a part of this whole thing.”
Fred McGriff, another former Braves slugger, was named on 118 ballots (20.7 percent) in his fourth year on the ballot. He was 13th among this year’s candidates, finishing between Larry Walker (21.6 percent) and Murphy.
McGwire, who admitted to using the steroid androstenedione during his 70-homer season with St. Louis in 1998, was named on 18.6 percent of the ballots, finishing one spot behind Murphy.
“Today’s news that those members of the BBWAA afforded the privilege of casting ballots failed to elect even a single player to the Hall of Fame is unfortunate, if not sad,” said Michael Weiner, executive director of the MLB Players Association, in a statement. “Those empowered to help the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum document the history of the game failed to recognize the contributions of several Hall of Fame worthy players. To ignore the historic accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, for example, is hard to justify. Moreover, to penalize players exonerated in legal proceedings — and others never even implicated — is simply unfair. The Hall of Fame is supposed to be for the best players to have ever played the game. Several such players were denied access to the Hall today. Hopefully this will be rectified by future voting.”
MLB also released a statement after Wednesday’s voting shutout, with a different tone: “Major League Baseball recognizes that election to the Hall of Fame is our game’s most extraordinary individual honor. Achieving enshrinement in Cooperstown is difficult, as it should be, and there have been seven other years when no one was elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. While this year did not produce an electee, there are many worthy candidates who will merit consideration in the future. We respect both the longstanding process that the Hall of Fame has in place and the role of the BBWAA, whose members have voted in the Hall of Fame’s elections since 1936.”
Jack Morris, whose pitching duel with Atlanta’s John Smoltz in Game 7 of the 1991 Twins-Braves World Series is considered one of the greatest in postseason history, fell short of HOF induction again in his 14th year on the ballot. He got 67.7 percent of the votes to finished second behind Biggio.
Biggio’s former Astros teammate Jeff Bagwell was third with 59.6 percent of the votes in his third year on the ballot, and former Mets and Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza was fourth with 57.8 percent in his first year of eligibility. Biggio, Bagwell and Piazza appear to be in good position for election in coming years.
Murphy was one of baseball’s elite players from 1980 through 1987, hitting 29 or more homers seven times in that eight-year span, including four consecutive seasons with at least 36 homers and 100 RBIs. He was a seven-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner, and he finished 12th or higher in the league MVP balloting six times.
Injuries contributed to the premature decline in Murphy’s career in his early 30s. After hitting .279 with 310 homers, a .362 OBP and .500 slugging percentage in his first 12 seasons through 1987, he hit .234 with 88 homers, a .307 OBP and .396 slugging percentage in his final six seasons.
Murphy and Bonds now have something in common: Among the 10 winners of multiple NL MVP awards who are eligible for the Hall of Fame, only Murphy and Bonds haven’t been elected.
Murphy could be considered with other expansion-era candidates on the veterans committee next winter. Expansion-era candidates are considered every third year, and the 2014 election (at the December 2013 Winter Meetings) happens to coincide with the first-year of ballot eligibility for Maddux and Glavine.
In 1996, the last time no player was elected by the writers, there were four inductees – managers Earl Weaver and Ned Hanlon, players Jim Bunning and Bill Foster – selected by the veterans committee, with Weaver and Bunning alive to make speeches at the weekend ceremony in Cooperstown. This year, there were no players elected by the writers or the veterans committee.
The only individuals to be enshrined at this year’s July 27-28 Induction weekend in Cooperstown will three veterans committee selection from the pre-integration era, — umpire Hank O’Day, New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and 19th-century player Deacon White — along with winners of the annual media awards, Philadelphia writer Paul Hagen and former Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster Tom Cheek, who died in 2005.