Hall of Fame voters send message to Bonds, Clemens

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In the most resounding referendum yet on the legacy of steroids in baseball, voters for the Hall of Fame emphatically rejected the candidacies of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in balloting results announced Wednesday.

Mr. Bonds and Mr. Clemens, perhaps the most decorated hitter and pitcher in the game's history, fell far short of receiving the necessary 75 percent of votes from baseball writers in their first year on the ballot. Mr. Bonds, the career home runs leader who played his first seven seasons with the Pirates before signing with the San Francisco Giants as a free agent, received only 36.2 percent. Mr. Clemens, who played for four teams and won a record seven Cy Young awards, did slightly better, with 37.6 percent. It was the first election since 1996 in which the writers chose no new members.

"It takes time for history to sort itself out," said Jeff Idelson, the Hall of Fame's president. "I'm not surprised we had a shutout today. I wish we had an electee, but I'm not surprised given how volatile this era has been."

For a sport whose links to performance-enhancing drugs have forced it to endure numerous congressional hearings, public apologies from players, tell-all books and federal trials, Wednesday offered a particularly profound moment. Writers decreed that two of baseball's greatest players would not be officially recognized with the game's highest honor, at least for now and perhaps forever.

The Hall of Fame will still have its annual induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., this summer. But the three who will be honored -- umpire Hank O'Day, owner Jacob Ruppert and catcher Deacon White -- all died in the 1930s and were voted in by the veterans' committee in December rather than through the more prestigious route of being selected by the members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

As a result, it will be the first time since 1960 that the induction ceremony will include no new, living honorees, underscoring the lingering damage that the issue of drugs is inflicting on the sport.

Mr. Clemens, in a message posted to his Twitter account, said that "after what has been written and said over the last few years I'm not overly surprised." Mr. Bonds did not immediately comment but lamented in an interview with MLB.com in November that "it's tough when you have so many people out there who don't want to turn the page and want to be angry at you forever."

Every player on the 2013 ballot was active in the years before steroid testing, which began, with penalties, in 2004. Some have escaped suspicion, like the top two finishers in this election. Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros, who amassed 3,060 hits, debuted on the ballot at 68.2 percent, followed by former pitcher Jack Morris, who got 67.7 percent in his 14th year as a candidate.

Others, like former New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza and former Houston first baseman Jeff Bagwell, were muscle-bound sluggers in an era when many such players used steroids. They are viewed skeptically by some but have never been formally linked to performance enhancers, and both got more votes than Mr. Bonds and Mr. Clemens -- 59.6 percent for Mr. Bagwell and 57.8 percent for Mr. Piazza, who was also on the ballot for the first time.

Three others with more than 500 home runs and strong links to performance enhancers were essentially placed in a Cooperstown coffin in the latest voting. Mark McGwire, who has admitted his use of performance-enhancers, received just 16.9 percent support, the lowest figure in his seven years on the ballot. Rafael Palmeiro, who tested positive in 2005, dropped to 8.8 percent, the lowest result in his three-year candidacy. And Sammy Sosa, who was reported by The New York Times to have tested positive in 2003, debuted on the ballot with just 12.5 percent.

Voters can list up to 10 players on their ballot and are instructed to consider the integrity, sportsmanship and character of candidates, as well as their playing record. Jack O'Connell, the secretary/treasurer of the writers' association, said members did not have to follow those guidelines, but stressed their historical importance.

Considering a player's character, he said, "has been there since the very first election of 1936, and it is something that was emphasized by the Hall of Fame itself." Nevertheless, the Hall has long included any number of inductees with character issues, including, in particular, blatant acts of racism.

Former pitcher Curt Schilling, who made his debut on this year's ballot with 38.8 percent of the vote, wrote on Twitter that he would have voted for Mr. Bagwell, Mr. Biggio, Dale Murphy and Tim Raines. He did not mention Mr. Bonds or Mr. Clemens.

In a 2002 article in Sports Illustrated, Mr. Schilling told writer Tom Verducci that he had to be careful when patting fellow players on the backside because that was where they injected themselves with steroids. A decade later, Mr. Verducci is part of the voting bloc that will not support steroid users.

Candidates can stay on the writers' ballot for 15 years, as long as they maintain at least 5 percent of the vote.

At the owners' meetings in Arizona on Wednesday, Commissioner Bud Selig told reporters that he respected the writers' decision and expected a "rather large" class next year, when Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas will be eligible for the first time.

Support for Mr. Bonds and Mr. Clemens could grow over the next 14 years. But unlike with some inductees -- such as former Pirates pitcher Bert Blyleven, whose percentage rose as voters gradually came to appreciate his numbers -- Mr. Bonds' statistics are not in doubt. Nor are Mr. Clemens'. Both are indisputably Hall of Fame performers, meaning most voters are judging them on morality alone.

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