The vote for the candidates on the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot is without a doubt historical because of two salient and unavoidable facts: One is that this year's ballot is overstuffed with potential Hall of Fame candidates—presenting an even bigger logjam to entrance to the Hall—and the other is that this year's vote is an inescapable referendum on the stance toward the "Steroids Era" as even more players active during the period of the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s implicated with performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) are newly eligible.

Note: Part 1 of this two-part series goes into detail—considerable detail—to examine both the overstuffed ballot and, more comprehensively, the atmosphere of moral dudgeon surrounding the suspected and admitted usage of PEDs by players on previous ballots and especially by players eligible for the Hall for the first time this year. If you want only to read the players' evaluations, skip to Part 2.

Foremost among those newly eligible players are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who were not only among the most dominant players in Major League Baseball (MLB) during this period, but who both became embroiled in high-profile legal battles connected to PEDs-related issues. Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice in 2008 for his involvement during the investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO), while Clemens, indicted for lying to Congress in 2008, was acquitted of all charges in 2012 during his second trial (the first having ended in a mistrial).

Also prominent among the newly eligible is Sammy Sosa, whose name in 2009 was listed among 104 players who tested positive for PEDs in 2003 but who—unlike Alex Rodriguez, whose name was also on that list and who admitted to taking PEDs during his career—has stayed mum, insisting that his record is sufficient to gain him entrance to Cooperstown. Sosa did "testify" before the U.S. Congress in 2005—his attorney read a written statement on Sosa's behalf—about PEDs usage and denied using PEDs, which was later contradicted by the 2009 PEDs list; however, if Congress had wanted to investigate Sosa for perjury (as it had done to Clemens), it needed to have acted by 2010, before the statute of limitations expired, and it did not do so. Also tainted by the PEDs brush is Mike Piazza, who had admitted to using androstenedione ("andro," which Mark McGwire had admitted to using) briefly early in his career, but otherwise seems to be given the same guilt-by-appearance accorded to Jeff Bagwell.

Embarrassment of Riches: The Overstuffed Ballot

But regardless of which players might or might not have used PEDs—and we will examine this explosive issue soon enough—the fact is that the 2013 ballot has 37 candidates on it. That is 24 first-time candidates added this year joining the 13 still qualified to remain from the 2012 ballot. (A player must receive at least 5 percent of the vote to remain on the ballot; from last year, the only first-year-eligible player in 2012 to receive at least 5 percent of the vote was Bernie Williams.)

Last year, the voters of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) elected only one candidate to the Hall: Barry Larkin. To be elected to the Hall, a player must receive 75 percent of the vote. For 2012, there were 27 players on the ballot, 10 fewer than this year, and the voters elected one player. A voter can vote for a maximum of 10 players, and last year I thought there were eight qualified candidates, one of whom, Larkin, was elected, but this year's ballot with 37 candidates, including seven I thought should have been elected last year, spells one thing: logjam. This year's ballot is not only overstuffed with candidates, it is overstuffed with qualified candidates.

To make matters worse, the next few years will see more Hall of Fame-quality players added to the ballot including Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas in 2014; Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz in 2015; Ken Griffey, Jr., in 2016; Manny Ramirez and Ivan Rodriguez in 2017; and Chipper Jones in 2018. Those are only the players I think have the career records to qualify unreservedly for the Hall of Fame, leaving the PEDs factor neutral in the cases of Ramirez and Rodriguez; players such as Jim Edmonds, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina, Gary Sheffield, and Billy Wagner could have strong cases made for them; but unless the BBWAA begins to elect players to the Hall in big batches in the next few years, the logjam problem will remain for some years to come, and these seven players will fall far behind more likely candidates, if not off the ballot altogether.

Based on the historical record, that is unlikely to happen. The most the BBWAA has inducted in any one year is five players, and that was in the Hall's inaugural year of 1936. The writers have elected four in one year three times, in 1939, 1947, and 1955, and they have elected three in one year six times, most recently in 1999. However, since 1999, the BBWAA has elected only 21 players in those intervening 13 years, less than two per year. Despite this parsimony, the writers have, since 1999, elected a few candidates who are on the borderline, including Andre Dawson, Kirby Puckett, Jim Rice, and Bruce Sutter.

That will not be a problem this year. A voter could easily select the maximum of ten qualified candidates (leaving aside any question of PEDs association) and still omit a few qualified candidates.

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Last modified on Thursday, 22 March 2018 01:57

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