NEW YORK – There’s a chance the podium under the chandeliers in the gold-and-ivory-colored Vanderbilt Room of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel will go unused.
With the cloud of steroids shrouding the candidacies of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and others, baseball writers may fail for the only the third time in more than four decades to elect anyone to the Hall of Fame, rendering a news conference unnecessary.
About 600 people are eligible to vote in the BBWAA election, all members of the organization for 10 consecutive years at any point. Results will be announced at 1 p.m. today, with the focus on first-time eligibles that include Bonds, baseball’s only seven-time MVP, and Clemens, the only seven-time Cy Young Award winner.
Since 1965, the only years the writers did not elect a candidate were when Yogi Berra topped the 1971 ballot at 67 percent and when Phil Niekro headed the 1996 ballot at 68 percent. Both were chosen the following years.
“It really would be a shame, especially since the other people going in this year are not among the living, which will make for a rather strange ceremony,” said the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser, president of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Three inductees were chosen last month by the 16-member panel considering individuals from the era before integration in 1946: Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O’Day and barehanded catcher Deacon White. They will be enshrined during a ceremony at Coopers-town on July 28.
Also on the ballot for the first time are Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza, power hitters whose statistics have been questioned because of the Steroids Era, and Craig Biggio, 20th on the career list with 3,060 hits – all for the Houston Astros. Curt Schilling, 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in postseason play, is another ballot rookie.
The Hall is prepared to hold a news conference Thursday with any electees. Or to not have one.
Jane Forbes Clark, the Hall’s chairman, said last year she was not troubled by voters weighing how to evaluate players in the era of performance-enhancing drugs.
“I think the museum is very comfortable with the decisions that the baseball writers make,” she said. “And so it’s not a bad debate, by any means.”
The BBWAA election rules say “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.”
“Steroid or HGH use is cheating, plain and simple,” ESPN.com’s Wallace Matthews wrote. “And by definition, cheaters lack integrity, sportsmanship and character. Strike one, strike two, strike three.”
Will leftovers be served?
Several holdovers from last year remain on the 37-player ballot. The top candidates include:
• Jack Morris (67 percent)
• Jeff Bagwell (56 percent)
• Lee Smith (51 percent)
• Tim Raines (49 percent)