Clemens, Bonds Head Baseball’s Drug-Shadowed Hall of Fame Ballot
Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, whose record-setting Major League Baseball careers were shadowed by accusations of performance-enhancing drug use, are on the sport’s Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.
Clemens won a record seven Cy Young Awards as the best pitcher in his league and ranks ninth in major-league history with 354 wins. Bonds won a record seven Most Valuable Player awards and is baseball’s all-time home run leader with 762, while Sosa ranks eighth with 609 career homers.
Their eligibility will create one of the sport’s most highly debated Hall of Fame votes. Some baseball writers, fans, players and Hall of Fame members such as Reggie Jackson have argued that those tainted by performance-enhancing drug use should be kept out of the shrine in Cooperstown, New York, while others maintain the 1980s and 1990s was simply an era of widespread steroid use in baseball.
The ballot, with 24 new candidates and 13 holdovers, was released today. The results of the vote for the Hall of Fame class of 2013 will be announced Jan. 9, with nominees needing at least 75 percent approval for induction.
Former New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza is among the other first-year nominees, along with pitcher Curt Schilling and second baseman Craig Biggio.
Only one player has been voted into the hall by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in four of the past seven years, with former shortstop Barry Larkin, a 12-time All- Star and 1995 National League MVP, the only player inductee this year. Ex-pitcher Jack Morris is among the top holdovers, having received 67 percent of the vote in 2012.
Mark McGwire, who ranks 10th in major-league history with 583 homers, received 20 percent of the vote in 2012. McGwire, who in 2010 admitted using steroids and human growth hormone, has failed to get approval from more than 23.7 percent of voters in any of his six years on the ballot. Rafael Palmeiro, who had 569 home runs and 3,020 hits during a career that included a steroid suspension, has gotten 11 percent and 12.6 percent of the vote in his two years on the ballot.
The question now becomes whether the Hall of Fame opposition against McGwire and Palmeiro extends to candidates with unmatched baseball resumes such as Clemens and Bonds.
The ballot includes the sentence: “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
Clemens, 50, has denied using steroids and HGH since a Dec. 13, 2007, report by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell accused him of using the drugs in 1998, 2000 and 2001. In June, he was found not guilty of lying to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Clemens’s first prosecution ended in a mistrial in July 2011 after government lawyers showed jurors evidence the judge had excluded.
That may not sway some Hall of Fame voters, who have spent almost five years debating Clemens’s career since the release of the Mitchell report, which mentioned Clemens’s name 82 times.
“I just believe there’s enough smoke to say that he used performance-enhancing drugs,” Ken Rosenthal, a reporter for Foxsports.com who also works baseball games on News Corp.’s Fox network, said in an interview in June. “Do I have legal proof? No. Do I need legal proof to vote one way or another? No.”
Clemens, known as “the Rocket” for his fastball, pitched in the major leagues until he was 44. He left the game after the 2007 season with a 354-184 record, a 3.12 earned run average and 4,672 strikeouts, third in history behind Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson.
Bonds, 48, was convicted in April 2010 by a federal jury in San Francisco of obstructing a U.S. probe of steroid use by professional athletes. Jurors were unable to agree on whether Bonds lied when he told a grand jury in 2003 that he didn’t knowingly take steroids, didn’t take human growth hormone and didn’t receive injections from his trainer. A mistrial was declared on those counts.
Bonds was sentenced to two years’ probation and 30 days of house arrest, and appealed the ruling in December 2011.
Bonds, also identified by the Mitchell report as a steroid user, hit 73 home runs in 2001 to break McGwire’s single-season record. He finished his 22-year playing career with a .298 batting average, 1,996 runs batted in and 514 stolen bases while winning eight Gold Glove awards for his defense in the outfield.
Sosa, 44, tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, according to a 2009 New York Times report. He told a U.S. congressional committee in 2005 that he never used banned muscle-building substances.
In 1998, Sosa joined with McGwire in a two-man battle to break Roger Maris’s single-season home run record of 61. McGwire finished with 70 homers to Sosa’s 66 that year, and their chase helped draw fans back to a sport hurt by the strike that canceled the 1994 World Series.
Sosa won the NL MVP award in 1998 and is the only player in major-league history to hit more than 60 homers in a season three times. Over 18 major-league seasons, Sosa batted .273 with 609 homers and 1,667 RBI.
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