The Baseball Writers corrected an injustice in 2011, finally electing Bery Blyleven to the Hall of Fame. They also continued to make a statement about steroid users on the ballot, refusing entry to Rafael Palmeiro, a member of the 3,000-hit club. Slugger Mark McGwire, who tearfully admitted to use of illegal substances during his career just a few years ago, also failed to be elected.
McGwire and Palmeiro are the two highest profile players eligible for the Hall of Fame who have been placed on the ballot. McGwire has received almost exactly the same number of votes in each of his four years on the ballot – about 23%, far below the required 75% needed for election.
Palmeiro reached two coveted baseball milestones, 3,000 hits and 500 homers. He’s one of only four players to reach both magical numbers, joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Eddie Murray, all of whom are enshrined in Cooperstown. But those achievements are apparently not going to sway the Baseball Writers, who are obviously punishing Palmeiro for his suspension in 2005 after MLB announced he had failed a drug test. The incident put a black mark on Palmeiro and served as an embarrassing final curtain call for the Cuban-born star, who retired just weeks after being outed.
Palmeiro claimed he was innocent of any wrongdoing, and pledged to fight the results of the test, but little he said or did mattered in the court of public opinion. His case was considerably damaged by the fact that during the highly publicized Congressional hearings on steroids in 2004, he had adamantly denied ever using steroids or an other performance-enhancing drug. Like George H.W. Bush’s infamous “read my lips” promise to not raise taxes, Palmeiro’s words came back to bite him.
Given that McGwire continues to languish far from the 75% level, Palmeiro’s chances to ever be honored in Cooperstown seem slim. In a few years other players shrouded in steroid suspicion, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, will find their names on the Hall of Fame ballot. Both of those players accomplished even more in their careers, but neither has ever been formally convicted of any wrongdoing.
How the Baseball Writers choose to deal with Bonds and Clemens will be interesting, and it will have a great impact on the Cooperstown chances of both McGwire and Palmeiro.