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Hall of Fame voters dig in on PED issue

Players tied to performance-enhancing drugs are losing support on the ballot

The National Baseball Hall of Fame electorate has once again said no to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

In fact, Hall of Fame voters have issued an even stronger message than the one they delivered in last year's voting.

While electing three deserving candidates -- Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas -- and bringing a fourth, Craig Biggio, to the doorstep of induction with 74.8 percent of the vote, the voters rejected players with PED associations.

There had been a theory that two of the greatest performers of their era -- Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds -- would be penalized for one year by the voters and then would at least gradually move toward inevitable inductions. But it turned out, in the balloting announced on Wednesday, that their status as Hall of Fame candidates was moving in reverse.

Last year, his first on the ballot, Clemens received 37.6 percent of the vote. This year, he received 35.4 percent.

Last year, Bonds, in his first appearance on the ballot, received 36.2 percent of the vote. This year, he received 34.7 percent.

With 75 percent required for election, it is not difficult to grasp how far away from election Clemens and Bonds are. Their career numbers make them among the game's greatest, but those gaudy statistics are apparently being far outweighed by the voters' shared belief that Clemens and Bonds were aided by factors beyond their own considerable talents.

The idea that voters would refuse to vote for Clemens and Bonds for one year and then relent on their candidacies grew out of a pattern of Hall of Fame voting. Many voters who consider a candidate as an eventual Hall of Famer, but not an absolute top-shelf Hall of Famer, will not vote for him in his first year of eligibility, but then will vote for him consistently in subsequent years.

Following this line of reasoning, Clemens and Bonds would have picked up additional support in their second year on the ballot. But they clearly did not. The voters' objections to their candidacies can no longer be viewed as a one-year phenomenon.

Other candidates with PED connections also had decreased support in the 2014 Hall of Fame voting. Mark McGwire was named on 11.0 percent of the ballots, his lowest percentage in eight years on the ballot.

Sammy Sosa fell from 12.5 percent last year to 7.2 percent in this, his second year on the ballot.

Rafael Palmeiro, whose career numbers would otherwise make him a Hall of Fame contender, fell from 8.8 percent last year to 4.4 percent this year. Because he did not receive five percent of the vote, he will be removed from the ballot.

The intense competition on this year's ballot could rationalize some of the low vote totals. But the level of competition won't ebb next year, either, when three more strong Hall of Fame candidates -- Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz -- arrive on the ballot.

The issue will not fade away in the near future, not as long as the Hall of Fame offers this instruction to voters: "Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."

If the Hall of Fame wanted voters to regard candidates as only amalgamations of numbers it would not include the terms "integrity, sportsmanship, character" in its rules for the Hall of Fame election.

Thus, the eligible voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America who did not support the candidacies of tainted players were basically following the guidelines. This is essentially good news for the standards of the Hall of Fame.

It does not matter how many years a candidate has been on the ballot. It should not be possible to square "integrity, sportsmanship, character" with PED usage.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa