Accused steroids users Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, as well as controversial conservative Curt Schilling, were all passed over for induction into Cooperstown on Tuesday as the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) opted against enshrining a single player for just the seventh time in the history of the Hall of Fame.
Candidates need support from 75 percent of BBWAA voters - around 400 credentialed baseball reporters who are allowed to name as many as 10 players on their respective ballots.
Players who are not approved after 10 years on the main BBWAA ballot will be considered by the Era Committees (also known as the veteran's committee), which is really three separate committees that have the power to enshrine candidates who are no longer eligible to be voted on by the writers. However, with the Hall of Fame's Era Committees postponing their scheduled elections until next offseason because of the pandemic, there won't be a 2021 Hall class.
In spite of that, there should be an induction ceremony in Cooperstown sometime this year, pandemic permitting, after Yankees legend Derek Jeter and former Expos outfielder Larry Walker's enshrinement was postponed due to COVID-19 in 2020. That ceremony is tentatively scheduled for July 25, but like many things during the pandemic, it is subject to change.
Schilling, an ace right-hander and two-time World Series winner, led all recipients, falling just 16 votes shy of induction. His on-field accomplishments face little dispute, but Schilling has ostracized himself in retirement by directing hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, journalists and others. Most recently, he voiced support for the mob that stormed the US Capitol on January 6
Schilling recently voiced his support for the rioters who stormed the US Capitol on January 6
Admitted steroids user Jose Canseco said inducting Schilling would be a 'disgrace' to the Hall of Fame, which the former Red Sox and Diamondbacks pitcher apparently objected to
Like Schilling, Bonds has a year of eligibility remaining in order to be inducted by the BBWAA
Schilling, an ace right-hander and two-time World Series winner, led all recipients, falling just 16 votes shy of induction. He, Bonds, and Clemens will be on the ballot for a 10th and final time next year.
His on-field accomplishments face little dispute, but Schilling has ostracized himself in retirement by directing hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, journalists and others. Most recently, he voiced support for the mob that stormed the US Capitol on January 6.
To be clear, character is a consideration for voters. According to the Baseball Writers Association of American, '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.'
And character has clearly been weighted more heavily by voters in recent years.
Bonds (61.8 percent) and Clemens (61.6 percent) joined Schilling in falling short on their ninth tries on the ballot. Both face strong PED suspicions, but Bonds has also been accused of domestic violence and Clemens of maintaining a decade-long relationship with a singer who was 15 when they met.
Schilling, Clemens and Bonds will be joined on next year's ballot by sluggers Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz. Rodriguez was suspended for all of the 2014 season for violating MLB's PED policy and collective bargaining agreement, and Ortiz's name allegedly appeared on a list of players who tested positive in 2003.
Manny Ramirez is another accused steroids user who was denied induction into Cooperstown
Omar Vizquel, an 11-time Gold Glove winner, dropped from 52.6 percent last year to 49.1 percent after his wife accused him of repeated domestic abuse in December. Braves star Andruw Jones, arrested in 2012 on a domestic violence charge, got 33.9 percent in his fourth year. Rockies slugger Todd Helton, who pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and was sentenced to two days in jail last year, got 44.9 percent in his third time on the ballot.
Some players missed out over old-fashioned baseball disagreements, too. Slick-fielding third baseman Scott Rolen moved from 35.3 percent to 52.9 percent and hard-throwing closer Billy Wagner from 31.7 percent to 46.4 percent.
With Schilling's candidacy now front and center — and Bonds and Clemens still on the ballot as well — voters have had to consider how much a player's off-field behavior should affect his Hall of Fame chances.
For years, suspicions of performance-enhancing drug use have played a significant role in the voting. Now, some writers are reassessing other concerns about some of the game's biggest stars — from Schilling's incendiary social media presence to domestic violence allegations against Bonds and others.
Omar Vizquel, an 11-time Gold Glove winner, dropped from 52.6 percent last year to 49.1 percent after his wife accused him of repeated domestic abuse in December
The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal began a recent column this way: 'I hate my Hall of Fame ballot. It might be my last.'
The top returning vote-getter on this year's ballot is Schilling, who a year ago came within 20 votes of being elected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. His support now seems to have stalled.
As of early Saturday, Schilling had received 75.3 percent approval on ballots tallied at Ryan Thibodaux's tracker, but that pace probably isn't good enough. A player needs 75 percent for induction — and in the past, Schilling has fared far worse on private, unreleased ballots that aren't part of Thibodaux's tracker.
Gary Sheffield was also denied by the BBWAA
Schilling has turned off voters with his post-career behavior. ESPN suspended him from the Little League World Series a few years ago over a tweet in which he compared Muslim extremists to Nazi-era Germans. He was later fired by the network for Facebook comments about transgender people.
'You cowards sat on your hands, did nothing while liberal trash looted rioted and burned for air Jordan's and big screens, sit back .... and watch folks start a confrontation for (expletive) that matters like rights, democracy and the end of govt corruption.'
That tweet was a few days after Hall of Fame ballots were due, but The Athletic's C. Trent Rosecrans had already decided not to support Schilling — even though he'd voted for him in the past.
'It would have been much easier for me to stick where I was and to check that box, like I have every other time I've voted, but I just don't know if I would have been true to myself,' said Rosecrans, the BBWAA's president. 'Had I done that, I may have felt better where I put it on that day. I don't know if I would have felt better on January 6th.'
Sammy Sosa failed to get the requisite 75 percent support among BBWAA voters on Tuesday
Bonds and Clemens are polling just behind Schilling on Thibodaux's tracker, but their candidacies now face scrutiny that goes beyond longstanding suspicion of PED use. Multiple players on this year's ballot have been accused of domestic violence, and Bonds is one of them. In 1995, his ex-wife testified during divorce proceedings that he beat and kicked her. Bonds said he never physically abused her but once kicked her after she kicked him.
In 2008, the New York Daily News reported that Clemens had a decade-long relationship with country singer Mindy McCready that began when she was 15 and he was a star for the Boston Red Sox.
In 2008, the New York Daily News reported that Clemens had a decade-long relationship with country singer Mindy McCready that began when she was 15 and he was a star for the Boston Red Sox
Clemens apologized for unspecified mistakes in his personal life and denied having an affair with a 15-year-old. McCready later told 'Inside Edition' she met Clemens when she was 16 and that the relationship didn't turn sexual until several years later.
Rosenthal acknowledged the domestic abuse allegations that have been made against Bonds, Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel, as well as the questions about Clemens and McCready. He ended up voting for those four players along with Schilling, and his 10-man ballot also included Todd Helton, who in recent years pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and served 48 hours in jail.
Rosenthal called it his 'sick-to-my-stomach ballot' and said he's reevaluating whether he wants to vote at all in the future.
Last January, ESPN's Christina Kahrl said she'd looked at the questions surrounding Clemens and McCready. 'Should he ultimately get elected, it will have to be without my support,' she wrote then.
Rosecrans acknowledges he could be accused of inconsistency after voting against Schilling but in favor of people like Bonds and Jones. His main concern is the platform a Hall inductee receives — the ceremony and the speech, for example.
'We have seen what Curt Schilling does with a platform, and it has been chilling,' Rosecrans said.
Some players missed out over old-fashioned baseball disagreements, too. Slick-fielding third baseman Scott Rolen (pictured) moved from 35.3 percent to 52.9 percent and hard-throwing closer Billy Wagner from 31.7 percent to 46.4 percent
At a time when social justice movements are pushing for a broader reckoning on sexual misconduct and racial inequality, the BBWAA recently voted overwhelmingly to remove the name and imprint of former Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis from MVP plaques. Landis became commissioner in 1920, and there were no Black players in the majors during his more than two decades in charge.
The Hall of Fame, meanwhile, has sought to clarify the role of its plaque gallery and its museum. The plaques recognize members' baseball accomplishments, while the rest of the museum might address other aspects of their careers.
Braves star Andruw Jones, arrested in 2012 on a domestic violence charge, got 33.9 percent in his fourth year. Rockies slugger Todd Helton, who pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and was sentenced to two days in jail last year, got 44.9 percent in his third time on the ballot
For example, Cap Anson's plaque describes him as the greatest hitter and greatest National League player-manager of the 19th century, but language exploring his role in baseball's segregation has been installed in the museum's 'Ideals and Injustices' exhibit.
'Given the importance of racial issues in the summer of 2020, our board decided we needed to tell a fuller story and explore issues surrounding race that involved several of our members,' Hall spokesman Jon Shestakofsky said. 'With our baseball-focused mission, we are cautious about getting into other issues, given the fact that once you go down that path, reasonable people will disagree about what is and is not relevant and worthy of display in a baseball museum.'
So it remains up to the voters to decide how they'll weigh off-field issues when evaluating Hall of Fame candidates. The Hall instructs voters to take into account 'the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.'
Clearly, there's room to consider a player's off-field conduct.
But the Hall is still primarily a baseball honor. Right now, the sport's career leaders in home runs (Bonds) and hits (Pete Rose) are not enshrined. Neither is Clemens, with his seven Cy Young Awards, or Schilling, with his dazzling postseason resume.
If too many of the top players are left out — particularly if it's for non-baseball reasons — could the Hall lose credibility as a baseball shrine?
Lynn Henning, a former columnist for the Detroit News, understands what makes some of these candidates objectionable — but he doesn't think the Hall of Fame vote is the right forum for holding them accountable.
'I believe there is a separate realm in which we can and must discuss all of those points, but I don't think it should be adjudicated on a Hall of Fame ballot,' Henning said.
In one 2016 tweet, former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling sparked outrage by tweeting his support for a t-shirt that read: 'Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required'