By Ernie Palladino
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It may not happen on Wednesday. It may not happen next year. But soon, the cheaters and suspected cheaters will get in.
It is inevitable.
Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza all appeared on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot. Perhaps one, maybe none, will get the nod when word comes down from Cooperstown on Wednesday about who managers Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa — all put in by the veterans committee — will sit with on the induction-day podium.
Even if none of them get in, the fact remains that something will have to be done about these greats of the so-called steroid era. And some of the early polls seemed to indicate a softening from the voters. Until the official numbers are actually released on Wednesday, the evidence is simply anecdotal. But even the hardest of the hard-line, anti-PED writers have got to believe that one day, be it through a footnoted inscription on the Hall of Fame plaque, a separate room or simple inclusion, admitted and suspected cheaters are going to take their place along the walls of the upstate pantheon.
Chances are it won’t happen on Wednesday Too many bodies, too many worthy players. The ballot’s 36 names made it one of the largest ever, which would naturally cut down on the chances of anyone who fell short last year to make it this year. Certainly, the ice probably hasn’t thawed enough to boost Clemens and his 37.6 percent of 2013, or Bonds and his 36.2 percent to the 75-percent admission ticket.
But it will be interesting to see how they fare. If those numbers rise, it will represent a trend that will in all likelihood end with a Hall of Fame speech well before they reach their 15th and last year on the ballot.
The best chance for them will be a weak class; certainly not a monster ballot like this year’s. Greg Maddux and his eight Cy Young Awards, 355 wins and 3,000-plus strikeouts is a sure thing. Has to be. And not a smudge of PEDs around him.
Tom Glavine should make it because of his 305 wins, and the fact that he led the NL in wins five times. That’s not to mention his two Cy Youngs. And then there is Craig Biggio, who was an All-Star at three positions (catcher, second base, center field) and has the most doubles of any right-handed hitter in history. The fact that he finished first at 68.2 percent in a selection-less 2013 makes him a near guarantee to make it this year.
It is hard under any circumstances for more than three players to get in. But this year, Jack Morris — 2013’s second-place finisher — could sneak in on his final ballot before the veterans committee gets a hold of him.
So assume Clemens, et al, will remain on the outside looking in. But if the ballots of the New York Post’s writers serve as any indication, they won’t be out there for much longer. Six of the nine Hall of Fame votes on the Post checked off Clemens, and seven went for Bonds. Bagwell had four votes, with Palmeiro and Sosa garnering one each.
Piazza, who, like Bagwell, never failed a drug test nor was named in the Mitchell Report, appeared on eight ballots.
Even Mark McGwire, who essentially told the congressional hearing to stuff it, got a checkmark.
That is one news organization. Hundreds of ballots are cast every year, and each voter has an opinion. But the fact is, and always has been, that sooner or later the steroid era is going to have to be dealt with in some fashion.
Whether enough of the honorable members of the Baseball Writers Association of America have started that transition, which will eventually allow enshrinement for the Alex Rodriguezes of today, is the question.
The answer, probably, is “Not yet. But not never, either.”
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