By Michelle Miller
---- — The votes have yet to be cast, but already there is a debate about the Class of 2013.
The steroids stigma hangs over some of the names on the list of eligible candidates.
Next Wednesday, the ball will be in the hands of the more than 600 voters as members of The Baseball Writers’ Association will determine who on the 2013 National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot will be enshrined in Cooperstown.
Among the first-timers with proven or suspected ties to performance-enhancing drugs are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. All have put up Hall-worthy numbers (Bonds is the all-time home run king; Clemens ranks third all time in strikeouts and ninth all time in wins; and Sosa is eighth all time in homers), but will that be enough to get them elected?
Not if the voters are using Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro as examples of intolerance to those tainted with their connection to using performance-enhancing drugs. McGwire has been turned away by the writers for six years, and Palmeiro since 2010.
Will a player get in on his initial ballot for the first time since Rickey Henderson did so in 2009? According to National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum President Jeff Idelson, it is very hard to get elected into the baseball shrine on the first attempt.
“Look at players like Joe DiMaggio. Even high-caliber players like him don’t always get elected right away,” Idelson said during a phone interview while in Dallas for the Baseball Winter Meetings last year.
Forty-four players have been elected in their first year of eligibility (11 pitchers, seven right-fielders, six left-fielders, four center-fielders, five shortstops, three second-basemen, four third-basemen, two first-basemen, one designated hitter and one catcher; position based on where electee played the majority of his big league games). In seven of the last 12 elections, at least one player has been elected in his first year of eligibility. Other than the inaugural Hall of Fame election, 1999 is the only year where as many as three first-year candidates were elected at once. It should be noted that Lou Gehrig (who received votes in 1936 while active and then was elected by acclamation in 1939) and Roberto Clemente (by special election in 1973) were each elected through a non-traditional process and are not counted in the 44.
How about those who have waited for years to be inducted? Will any of them finally break through?
Pitcher Jack Morris looks to have the best shot. In last year’s voting, Morris received 66.7 percent of the vote. The previous year, he was on 53.5 percent of ballots. Morris finished his 18-year Major League career with a 254-186 record in 549 appearances (527 starts). He pitched 14 seasons for the Detroit Tigers, one with the Minnesota Twins, two with the Toronto Blue Jays and one for the Cleveland Indians.
He’s a borderline case for induction, as he didn’t win 300 games and his 3.90 ERA is rather high compared to other Hall of Fame pitchers.
At 37 candidates, the 2013 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot is the largest since 1995, when 39 candidates were on the ballot. Candidates need 75 percent of the votes to be elected.
There are 24 newcomers on this year’s ballot. They are Sandy Alomar Jr., Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Jeff Cirillo, Royce Clayton, Roger Clemens, Jeff Conine, Steve Finley, Julio Franco, Shawn Green, Roberto Hernandez, Ryan Klesko, Kenny Lofton, Jose Mesa, Mike Piazza, Reggie Sanders, Curt Schilling, Aaron Sele, Sammy Sosa, Mike Stanton, Todd Walker, David Wells, Rondell White and Woody Williams.
Returning on the list is Jack Morris (14th time eligible, named on 66.7 percent of ballots last year); Jeff Bagwell (third, 56.0 percent); Lee Smith (11th, 50.6 percent); Tim Raines (sixth, 48.7 percent); Alan Trammell (12th, 36.8 percent); Edgar Martinez (fourth, 36.5 percent); Fred McGriff (fourth, 23.9 percent); Larry Walker (third, 22.9 percent); Mark McGwire (seventh, 19.5 percent); Don Mattingly (13th, 17.8 percent); Dale Murphy (15th, 14.5 percent); Rafael Palmeiro (third, 12.6 percent); and Bernie Williams (second, 9.6 percent).
The Hall of Fame is composed of 297 elected members. There are 64 living members. The induction ceremony is set for 1:30 p.m. July 28 at the Clark Sports Center. It is free and open to the public. It will also be broadcast on the MLB Network.