NEW YORK — Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and other tainted stars of the Steroids Era appear likely to get a boost in Hall of Fame balloting, but not enough to enter Cooperstown this year.
Ken Griffey Jr. seems assured of election on the first try Wednesday, possibly with a record vote of close to 100 per cent. Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines also were strong candidates to gain the 75 per cent needed for baseball’s highest honour.
Following the elimination of about 100 retired baseball writers from the electorate, Bonds and Clemens were on track for a 5-10 percentage point increase. After drawing about 37 per cent of the ballots last year, they were in the 48 per cent range this year according to www.bbhoftracker.com , which tabulated public votes adding to more than one-third of the total.
Last July, the Hall’s board of directors cut eligible voters from approximately 575 to roughly 475 by purging writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade. Previously, the electorate included people who had been active members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for 10 consecutive years at any point.
"We have a somewhat different electorate," John Thorn, Major League Baseball's official historian, said Tuesday. "I think possibly the current electorate was not content to keep kicking the PED crowd down into a hole and leaving the Hall of Fame with a crater in its plaque room."
Marc Maturo, a reporter covering New York baseball for Gannett in the 1970s and '80s, was among those who lost voting rights. He said he would have voted for Bonds, Clemens, Griffey and Raines.
"The whole process I think was done too quickly, wasn't given enough thought," he said.
Now a writer for the weekly Rockland County Times, Maturo pointed out players who received one or two votes in recent years, such as Armando Benitez, Aaron Boone, Bret Boone, Darin Erstad, Kenny Rogers, J.T. Snow and B.J. Surhoff.
"They call these courtesy votes or friendship votes," he said, "That should eliminate you. They're not Hall of Famers by anyone's imagination. But people vote for them. To me, that's wrong."
A 13-time All-Star who is sixth with 630 homers, Griffey was a lock to be inducted at Cooperstown on July 24. The former Cincinnati and Seattle star appeared on all 166 ballots counted by bbhoftracker and could challenge the record of 98.84 per cent set by Tom Seaver when he was picked by 425 of 430 voters in 1992.
Piazza was at about 87 per cent in his fourth appearance after falling short by 28 votes last year, when Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio became the first quartet elected by the BBWAA in one year since 1955.
Bagwell was third at 80 per cent in his sixth appearance, followed by Raines at 78 per cent in his ninth. Last year, the actual percentage was about 5 per cent under the pre-announcement figure on the vote-tracker.
Bonds, the only seven-time MVP, and Clemens, the only seven-time Cy Young Award winner, are both making their fourth appearance and are eligible for up to six more years.
Reliever Trevor Hoffman, on the ballot for the first time, was at 62 per cent on the vote-tracker and seemed likely to fall short.
Mark McGwire, one of the first big stars to admit using steroids, was at 13 per cent in his final ballot appearance -- nearly half his peak of 23.6 per cent in 2008. Alan Trammell, also on for the last time, was at 47 per cent. Sammy Sosa was at 8 per cent in his fourth attempt.
Following the board's decision not to accept the BBWAA's recommendation that voters be allowed to select up to 12 candidates rather than 10, next year's ballot could force more tough decisions. Manny Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero and Magglio Ordonez are eligible for the first time.