College coaches ponder Hall of Fame vote, baseball's steroids era & 'the right way'
NASHVILLE (BP) -- Baseball writers made their statement about steroids when it was announced that nobody was elected to the Hall of Fame on this year's ballot –- despite the eligibility of such superstars as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa.
Baseball coaches at Baptist-affiliated universities said they can understand why the writers chose to keep suspected steroid users out of the Hall of Fame.
"The people who vote, they can't wrap their hands around, 'What do we need to do here?'" said Beauford Sanders, baseball coach at Campbellsville University in Kentucky. "Maybe this will hopefully get something done -- an official admittance or policy from Major League Baseball."
Sanders said the powers in Major League Baseball, such as owners and the commissioner, chose to look the other way when it came to steroid suspicions because the increased offensive output translated into better ratings and higher profits.
"Now the chickens have come home to roost, because this is the first year where all these guys who put up some phenomenal numbers are eligible," Sanders said. "It's a mess."
Sanders said he wishes MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and team owners would have the courage to come forward and say, "We made a terrible mistake by not working to nip this in the bud earlier."
To be elected to the Hall of Fame, players must receive 75 percent of the votes cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Craig Biggio led this year’s voting with 68.2 percent, following by Jack Morris with 67.7 percent and Jeff Bagwell with 59.6 percent. Clemens received only 38.8 percent of votes while Bonds tallied 36.2 percent and Sosa collected 12.5 percent.
Reggie Reynolds, baseball coach at North Greenville University, said the sad part about the voting, which was announced Jan. 9, is how those players who likely didn't cheat may have been overlooked because of the emphasis on others.
"Curt Schilling put up great numbers for a lot of years and had one of the gutsy playoff performances in the history of baseball," Reynolds said. "By all accounts he never used performance enhancing drugs, but his name might have gotten slightly overshadowed by some voters who were caught up with whether or not to vote for guys who with high probability used performance enhancing drugs."
Reynolds also included players like Craig Biggio and Dale Murphy in the same category as Schilling.
"I believe the mistake came by MLB as a whole when it didn't crack down soon enough with doping policies," Reynolds said. "The reward far outweighed the risk for players, which trickled down to almost every level of baseball, including high school."
The problem with baseball's lack of a suitable doping policy, Reynolds said, is in determining the fate of players like Bonds or Clemens who would have been Hall of Fame-worthy whether they used performance enhancing drugs or not.
"There's no easy solution, but I hope that guys who by all accounts didn't cheat won't continue to be passed over or overshadowed," Reynolds said. "I don't think that will be case, but this particular class of first-time nominees had some very notable and controversial names."
Brent Fronabarger, baseball coach at Union University, said as a traditionalist and a fan who appreciates pitching and defense, the home runs and power numbers were always a bit suspicious. And while the future for the suspected steroid users may be uncertain, Fronabarger said he thought the voters did the right thing this year.
"Whether they ever end up in the Hall of Fame or not, I don't think they deserve to be first-ballot Hall of Famers," Fronabarger said.
Percentages of votes and whether players make it into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot are a marker of distinction among current Hall of Famers, Fronabarger said, so keeping out this year's class is a way of bestowing greater honor on Hall of Famers like Hank Aaron who, by all accounts, "did it the right way."
Tim Ellsworth is editor of BP Sports and director of media relations at Union University. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).