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Kolakowski: A call for transparency from Hall of Fame voters

| Wednesday, January 23, 2019

After the Baseball Writers Association of America announced its final Hall of Fame results Tuesday night, it became clear that those voters who remained anonymous had something to hide.

The writers who vote on the Baseball Hall of Fame opted to select four players for the game’s most prestigious honor, including a unanimous selection for former Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera. The surprise, however, was not in who was selected, but rather in who was not.

Once again, former superstars and suspected steroid users Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were omitted from the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Throughout the voting process, baseball fan Ryan Thibodaux works to obtain every available Hall of Fame ballot from the writers who vote on the honor. He publicizes the ballot totals, allowing fans to see if their favorite players will surpass the required 75 percent threshold for enshrinement.

By the time that the final Hall of Fame announcement was made on Tuesday, Thibodaux had collected 234 out of 425 ballots from writers. Among those ballots, 70.1 percent of voters selected Barry Bonds and 70.5 percent selected Roger Clemens to their ballots.

Yet when the final Hall of Fame announcement was released, Bonds was listed on only 59.1 percent of the 425 ballots and Clemens only garnered 59.5 percent of the vote.

The vote totals for both Bonds and Clemens dropped by over 10 percent when the final ballots were tallied, indicating that many of the voters who remained private decided not to vote for the controversial superstars.

The final votes are stunning: two deserving players will have to wait another year for their chance to get into the Hall of Fame because the voters who did the most to keep them out chose to keep quiet.

It’s cowardly.

Bonds, a slugging outfielder, holds the records for most home runs, walks and intentional walks in a career. He was easily the most feared hitter of his generation, and teams often chose to pitch around him rather than give him the chance to send a ball out of the park.

Bonds began his career in electrifying fashion with the Pittsburgh Pirates, after which point he moved west and racked up absurd statistics with the San Francisco Giants. He remains the only player in Major League Baseball history with 500 home runs and 500 steals. Per MLB Stats on Twitter, he is the only player to ever maintain at least a .600 on-base percentage in a season (minimum 100 games), a feat he accomplished in 2004.

Clemens acquired seven Cy Young Awards and one league Most Valuable Player award over his 24-year career. The longevity of his dominance is worthy of the Hall of Fame. He was a fiery personality on the mound, a personality trait made manifest in the 2000 World Series, when he, a Yankee, hurled a broken bat at Mets player Mike Piazza.

Both players dominated in the steroid era, a period in baseball history when a number of players utilized performance-enhancing drugs. Both players were suspected of using these drugs during their playing days to get a leg up on the competition.

If voters want to use steroid-use as an excuse not to list these greats on their ballot, that’s fine. Choosing to remain anonymous, however, should not be an option.

These voters are journalists who made a living on players and coaches being open and willing to talk to them. These writers, in turn, should be held to the same standard. All ballots should be made public, and voters should not be able to hide their decisions behind a guise of anonymity.

Selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame is the greatest honor a player or coach can receive. It is time that those writers who both honor and omit are held accountable.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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