The Baseball Writers' Association of America meets three times each year -- at the World Series, the Winter Meetings and the All-Star Game. The meetings rarely extend to two hours. Tabling a motion is not an uncommon procedure for the group in those few and brief sessions. As a result, moving toward resolution of any matter sometimes becomes a rather deliberate process.
Accustomed to and, evidently, comfortable with the pace, the BBWAA membership has adopted it for its highest profile function -- voting for the Hall of Fame. And now we have results of a vote for the Cooperstown Class of 2013 that say little more than "the motion has been tabled."
No one was elected. None of the high-profile candidates were rejected. Some remain suspected. The Hall of Fame Class of 2013 will go forth without them.
The propriety of players who have the cloud of performance-enhancing drug use over them gaining election to the Hall was not addressed in any meaningful way by this ballot. The matter essentially was tabled.
So the game, the Hall, its members, the candidates, the electorate and the passionate public should expect to endure at least one more round of the sort of handwringing the 2013 ballot prompted come December when the 2014 ballot is distributed. And probably subsequent Decembers will be similarly unsettling.
This much was accomplished by the most recent balloting:
The quest of Jack Morris to gain induction on the writers' ballot was made more difficult. He has one year of eligibility remaining, and the next ballot will be packed with more worthy candidates.
The eventual BBWAA elections of Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa -- three sluggers whose names routinely raise questions or eyebrows -- became more unlikely. Their vote percentages added together don't reach the necessary 75 percent it takes for one player to make it.
Dale Murphy is not a Hall of Famer, according to the BBWAA.
The candidacies of Craig Biggio and, to a lesser degree, Mike Piazza and Tim Raines have better-than-even chances to become successful via future BBWAA ballots. Each was checked on at least 50 percent of the ballots cast.
The vast majority of the voters didn't use blank ballots as a form of protest -- merely five of 569 did.
And all the while, nothing was determined about Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, the most conspicuous names on the ballot for reasons of accomplishment as well as suspicion. No evidence exists that either intentionally used PEDs, and the support each received in his first year on the ballot -- Clemens was checked on 37.6 percent of the ballots cast and Bonds on 36.2 percent -- said nothing definitive. Others who have received less first-year support have gained election. Steve Garvey was checked on 41.6 percent of the ballots in 1993, and in 14 subsequent elections, exceeded that percentage once.
Clearly the candidacies of the seven-time Cy Young Award winner and the seven time National League MVP were undermined by the PED cloud. Absent the doubts, each would have made midsummer reservations for Cooperstown already. But in neither case can anyone comfortably predict in which direction their candidacies will go.
Instead, the phrasing than can be rightfully applied to their elections comes right from the words of the game itself -- postponed, no date. Perhaps never a date.
So put away the calculator until next year; no need for arithmetic now. Calculating "the necessary 75 percent" became quite unnecessary this year. You could have eyeballed the counting of ballots and determined early on that no one would come close, that the voting for the Class of 2013 would produce vacancies at the podium in Cooperstown come July.
To the surprise of no one, performance-enhancing drugs have influenced the Hall of Fame election process as never before. And now a large, menacing domino is about to fall on Cooperstown, the sweet and innocent burg in upstate New York that is home to our most sainted memories and the heralded history of the sport.
The stain of PEDs had spread and reached the most renowned and treasured Hall in professional sports, and it is likely to dilute one of the grand weekends on the summer calendar.
The Hall will do the best it can with what it has. And what it has is more than most institutions of its kind. All living Hall of Famers will be invited back for what still will be identified as Induction Weekend -- July 27 and 28. And umpire Hank O'Day, Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and 19th century player Deacon White, each of whom was elected by the Pre-Integration Committee in December, will be inducted posthumously. And the 2012 winners of the Ford C. Frick Award -- Tom Cheek, the late announcer for the Blue Jays -- and MLB.com's Paul Hagen -- winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award -- also will be honored.
But the weekend will be lacking a premiere attraction. Murderers' Row without The Babe, The Doors without Jim Morrison, Big Brother without Janis Joplin.
The greater loss though involves the institution itself. The Hall's credibility doesn't deserve to be questioned, not even a little, because of the latest results of balloting by the BBWAA. The Hall has done nothing wrong, nor has the electorate that is indirectly charged with protecting the integrity of the institution. That integrity is a result of decades of discriminating voting by the BBWAA. The writers didn't muff it this time around.
Indeed, in seven other elections, the most recent being 1996, the BBWAA voted in no one. In nine other years since 1936, no election existed. A veterans committee elected Jim Bunning and Earl Weaver in 1996, so the dais had a current aspect and Weaver's wit to enjoy. Satchel Paige was elected by a special committee studying Negro League Baseball and inducted in 1971, another year without a candidate elected by the BBWAA. Those who attended his induction ceremony were entertained, to say the least.
Jimmie Foxx and Mel Ott were inducted in 1951. Both had fallen short of the necessary 75 percent in the previous election. It's not as though anyone now considers either player to be less of a Hall of Famer. And from 1958 through 1961, three players elected by veterans committees -- Zack Wheat (1959) and Max Carey and the deceased Billy Hamilton (1961) -- were inducted. The BBWAA played no role in their elections.
So it's not as though the BBWAA whiffed this time.
"I'm very confident and comfortable with the electorate and the voting procedures," Hall president Jeff Idelson said Wednesday. "Nobody in Cooperstown was rooting for a shutout. ... I'm not surprised by a shutout. ... It's a tough period for evaluating."
Idelson dismissed the loud and numerous calls for changes in the procedure and/or the electorate.
"Any group you put this to would have the same issues," he said.
Yet the calls will multiply and be amplified, an indication of the passion the Baseball Hall of Fame engenders. Or, as Idelson noted, all the fuss, conjecture and finger-pointing at players, officials in the game and voters is indicative of "how volatile the era has been."
All of which leaves us with ballots with checks next to suspicion and propriety, signs of the times in which we live.
Marty Noble is a columnist for MLB.com.