Whether they knew it when they cast their ballots or not, the 569 voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame ostensibly colluded to protect the sanctity of Cooperstown—and their own voting process—by electing exactly no one on this year's Hall of Fame ballot.
In a star-studded class of candidates, the voters made a clear statement about their thoughts on the steroid era: They don't know what to think.
Neither do we.
Barry Bonds received 206 votes (36.2 percent), and Roger Clemens received 214 (37.6 percent). Who, by the way, are the eight or more people who voted for Clemens and not Bonds?
Sammy Sosa received just 71 votes (12.5 percent) in his first year on the ballot, and Mark McGwire got 96 (16.9 percent) in his seventh year, making a pretty clear point that neither will ever be getting into the Hall of Fame, no matter what happens with the steroid era in baseball. That much was clear.
There's a chance, if you look at historical trends, Bonds and Clemens will eventually get in. Many voters talked about sending a message to those players by not voting for them the first year they became eligible. Next year will be the most important voting season for both, as the "first-ballot objectionists" will add their opinions to the matter on two of the game's all-time greats. Without those votes, it's really impossible to know how good a chance Bonds and Clemens have of eventually getting into the Hall of Fame.
That's where the sanctity comes in.
Rather than ignore the steroid-era players altogether and vote on the previous list of candidates like Jack Morris, Tim Raines or Lee Smith, it seems the voters essentially took a pass this year on those players, with percentages for most holdover players staying very close to the year before. That doesn't bode well for any of them, really.
This vote was going to be more about who didn't get in than who did, so maybe there's poetic justice to that. Not for those players, but for the vote (for the sanctity of the process, too).
The fact that Craig Biggio got close but didn't make it in his first bid also sends a message—that even the supposedly clean players of this era will have to wait until the voters can figure out what to do about the dirty ones. Biggio got 68.2 percent of the vote, which makes him a near-lock to get over the 75-percent mark next year. Who goes with him remains to be seen.
The fact that a guy like Biggio got 49 more votes than Jeff Bagwell is another takeaway that says a lot about what voters think of the steroid era. That and the fact Morris couldn't get in on a year like this is a pretty telling sign of how disenfranchised some voters have become with the process.
The fact that Mike Piazza got 329 votes (57.8 percent) is fascinating. Piazza is the grayest of the gray-area guys, playing in the steroid era with speculation and rumors swirling around him his entire career. But he never failed a test, which clearly was a distinguishable threshold for at least 115 or so voters. I just hope people whoever voted for Piazza did so with the appreciation that his stats were Hall of Fame-worthy (they are), but not so Hall of Fame-worthy they warranted a Congressional hearing or perjury trial.
Piazza was either clean in an era where many of the greats weren't (which makes him even greater), or was just good enough not to get noticed for being dirty. Piazza never had any outlier seasons like Sosa, McGwire or Bonds, hitting 40 or fewer homers in each of his 16 seasons. While he always raised suspicion, he never had the stats or profile to get the Bonds or Clemens treatment.
Maybe Piazza had better stuff, or better people who kept quiet, or maybe he was just clean. Clearly the majority of voters thought (or didn't care) that he was clean, but a majority vote isn't enough to make it into the Hall.
It's hard to take the process seriously when nobody gets in and voters admit to holding back votes for first-ballot candidates. It's even harder to take it seriously when you consider the fact Aaron Sele got a vote, Shawn Green got two votes and Steve Finley got four votes.
That is a mockery of the process. It's become a joke to some voters, and it spits in the face of the game's tradition just as much as people think inducting a steroid abuser would. It's not to say Sele, Green and Finley weren't fine players, but come on. Come on. That's a freaking joke.
Really, the whole thing was a lot of waiting around for nothing. The voters made their statement, and the rest of us can complain (see above) or agree with the fact nobody got in this year.
I'll say this about nobody getting in: Go back in time and tell anyone 10 or 15 years ago that Curt Schilling will get more Hall of Fame votes than Roger Clemens in their first year on the ballot. Tell them Biggio will get 182 more votes than Bonds.
It's an amazing and confusing time in the history of the game, and the voters didn't accomplish much in terms of seeing the game's past—or the Hall's future—more clearly.