With the news earlier in the week that Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the news that at least three writers from the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) failed to include Griffey Jr. on their ballots, some wonder whether writers are the right people to hold the power of enshrinement at all.
Add to that the morality play surrounding the steroid era players in general, and it seems clear that some guidelines, rules and a culling of more voters might be warranted.
The BBWAA reduced the numbers of writers with a HoF vote last year when they mandated that a voter has to be an active member covering the game, while allowing a ten year grace period for those no longer active. In real numbers, approximately 20% of BBWAA voters were eliminated for the voting this year, from approximately 600 down to approximately 475.
But there's still more to do.
It's difficult to understand the morality play by some writers who refuse to elect players like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens to the Hall of Fame. The steroid issue continues to rear its head, and while that's understandable, there is no set process or guidelines for writers making a determiantion.
Bonds, Mark McGwire and Manny Ramirez, all accused of steroid usage (Rammirez served a 100 game suspension while with the Tampa Bay rays in 2011) are all employed in Major League Baseball. Bonds is the new Miami Marlins hitting coach, McGwire is the bench coach for San Diego after stints as hitting coach in St. Louis and with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Ramirez is a hitting consultant with the Chicago Cubs.
MLB has no issue with former PED users (or those accused of PED usage) being involved in the game, yet Bonds, probably the greatest player of his and many other generations, is kept out of the HoF by an aging group of writers for what has to be his PED reputation alone. There is no other reason to keep him or Clemens out.
McGwire's 10 years of eligibility ended with this past vote, a vote in which he was named on just 12% of the ballots. Ramirez becomes eligible next season and it will be interesting to see how voters react to his eligibility given his numbers equate to HoF-level numbers but that "100 games" might affect him more.
Bonds and Clemens each saw their vote rise with this vote from the new BBWAA. It wasn't a staggering number (Bonds 44.3% and Clemens 45.% with 75% required for induction) but it does give those players, each of who has six more years of eligibility) hope that a new wave of writers and thinking will carry them into the Hall.
The Hall of Fame and MLB need to come to a meeting o the minds over ths issue. Piazza himself was the subject of PED rumors, as have been many others (future enshriness Jeff Bagwell included). These are muddy waters for baseball and the Hall to walk. But in an era where usage and rumors of usage were impossible to distinguish, they need to take that walk with a clearly defined process of how the candidacy of players like Bonds, Clemens and Ramirez should be defined.
And then they should consider completely blowing up the process by which players are inducted today. Much like newspapers have become obsolete, newspaper writers voting which players should be enshrined based on their dealings and their own moral compasses has become obsolete as well.