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Hall of Fame Voting, Once an Honor, Is Now Seen as a Hassle

  • January 24, 2021

One of the Hall of Fame’s voting rules states that a player’s character should be taken into account. That rule has existed since the 1940s, but for six decades there were essentially no players rejected because of character concerns, according to John Thorn, the official historian for Major League Baseball.

The character clause, as it has become known, gained relevance as steroid users, both admitted and suspected, began to appear on ballots. McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro never made the Hall. Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield and Manny Ramirez are still on the ballot but aren’t close to being voted in.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were selected on 64 percent of ballots last year — 75 percent is the threshold to make it — and seem unlikely to get the necessary votes this year.

By 2014, the dissonance of the Steroid Era became too much for Dan Le Batard, the Miami Herald columnist and ESPN host. He turned his ballot over to the readers of Deadspin, allowing them to vote on whom he should include.

Le Batard decried the “avalanche of sanctimony” that “swallowed” the voting process and what he saw as the hypocrisy of writers declining to vote for Bonds when some of them surely would have taken a “not-tested-for-in-their-workplace elixir if it made them better at their jobs.” He knew he would be stripped of his ballot in the future (he was) but hoped his protest would lead to change.

“In a climate without reform, my next 20 years of votes will be counted but not actually heard,” he wrote. “At least this gets it heard, for better or for worse.”

The Baseball Hall of Fame still believes writers are “the best electorate for Major League players’ inclusion in the Hall of Fame,” according to a statement from its chairman, Jane Forbes Clark. She added: “We would hope that B.B.W.A.A. voters would share any of their serious concerns with their leadership so that they can be brought to, and fully addressed by, the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors.”

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