The 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame writers’ vote is arguably the most fascinating and polarizing referendum in the history of the museum. This week, ahead of the results announcement on Jan. 25, Ken Davidoff of The Post will outline the many issues and debates at play before revealing his ballot.
Line 5 used to be the Baseball Hall of Fame equivalent of a Brood X cicada, popping up every 17 years or so to spark a discussion about a specific candidate and his weaknesses before disappearing again.
Now rule 5 is as ubiquitous as the mosquito. Thank you very much, steroids.
Rule 5, in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Election Rules, states: “Voting must be based on the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) in which the player played. ”
It’s that trio of “integrity, sportsmanship and character” (some overlap there) that has thrown the Hall into unprecedented chaos, with this 2022 writer’s vote to close some doors and open others. All those doors lead straight back to illicit performance-enhancing drugs, the problem that has defined this process since Mark McGwire came into consideration in 2007, with many of his critics claiming he lacked those three overlapping traits and shows no hope for abatement.
On the contrary, time has only clouded the case, the game’s changing rules about illegal performance-enhancing drugs create subclasses of suspects. Recall that a certain number of players — headlined by Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez — have overcome the whispers of illegal PED use due to a lack of evidence beyond the eye test (and the subsequent raised eyebrows) to gain the 75 percent support needed for election.
Let’s break down the other subclasses, none of which have reached that 75 percent threshold. Some players made enough hell to gain access to multiple groups; here they are assigned to the demographic that probably dooms them the most.
The pre-test guys
When McGwire joined the Cardinals’ coaching staff in 2010, he admitted to taking steroids during his record-breaking home run (70) season in 1998. Prior to that revelation, he wasn’t doing particularly well, having topped 23, 7 percent in ’10 (doubts loomed over both the authenticity of his achievements and their dignity) and fared even worse over the next six years, also small in a Today’s Game Era Committee count.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens came on board in 2013 and have seen their voices move virtually – bonds hit a new all-time high at 61.8 percent last year, Clemens at 61.6 percent – and for good reason: the two all-time greats both saw government agents imprison their alleged suppliers, though the FBI was nonetheless unable to convict either legend. This year is their last chance at the writers’ ballot box.
Sammy Sosa, also on his last shot, peaked at 17 percent last year, far from induction. He might have failed his 2003 investigative test, but it’s possible that his most incriminating moment came when he pretended not to speak English during the infamous 2005 congressional hearings on illegal PEDs in baseball.
Gary Sheffield said in 2004 that he had unknowingly used “the cream”, an illegal PED manufactured by BALCO and given to him by Bonds during the 2001-02 off-season. It rose to 40.6 percent last year and has three years to go.
Andy Pettitte confirmed the findings of the Mitchell Report that he had used human growth hormone in 2002 and later acknowledged that he had used it again in 2004, after which players were tested for steroids but not HGH. Last year he climbed to 13.7 percent, his third year on the list.
The failed tests
Rafael Palmeiro became the first high-profile victim of the testing era, which began in ’04, when a 2005 sample came back positive. He only lasted four years on the ballot, his 4.4 percent in 2014 showing below the 5 percent needed to stay on the ballot.
When Manny Ramirez failed a test in 2011, it marked his third skirmish with illegal PEDs, as he reportedly tested positive in the 2003 survey and pulled a suspension for a non-analytical positive in 2009. This will be his sixth round on the ballot.
The non-analytical positive
A non-analytical positive is a conviction with evidence not obtained from the actual drug test. That’s how Major League Baseball caught Alex Rodriguez in 2013, courtesy of the text messages between him and Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch that Bosch provided and verified. A-Rod also admitted to using illegal PEDs with the Rangers from 2001 to 2003 and reportedly failed the ’03 survey test. A-Rod is a novice at this dance and has about 40 percent of the public vote, according to Ryan Thibodaux.
2003 survey testing
David Ortiz spent most of his numbers in the testing era and never came back positive…except during that ’03 survey test, which was used as a baseline to determine whether discipline-infused testing was needed (it was) and assumed to be anonymous. The slugger has claimed his innocence, and Commissioner Rob Manfred has also defended Ortiz, saying his result could have been a false positive. Ortiz, who joins A-Rod as a freshman, is off to a strong start and could be elected on his first run, which would be an important milestone for those associated with illegal PEDs.