The calls started to come the other night from other Hall of Fame writers asking if I intended to vote for Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. As a Hall of Fame voter the past decade I take the responsibility seriously.
Because of their connection to performance enhancing drugs, I did not vote for Mark McGwire or Rafael Palmeiro, the latter whom I covered when he was with the Orioles. Palmeiro certainly didn’t look bulked up at the time. I had been on the Yankees’ beat for several years when he waved his finger at Congress and said he never used steroids. I believed him.
My guess, and it’s only a guess, is he thought after that display he wouldn’t be tested. I liked Palmeiro and it pains me to leave him off, At 3,000 hits and 500 homers, achieved mostly before his testimony, he was a given. He’s fallen off the radar since his retirement which leaves me wanting more.
Of the candidates, the only one I am sure of is Craig Biggio. Bonds, Sosa and Clemens are a definite no now because they have been implicated or tested positive. There is evidence as to their use. Piazza is different and I don’t know about him yet. He hasn’t failed a drug test and wasn’t accused in the Mitchell Report.
I don’t care about the newspaper articles of his back acne. What gives me pause is his autobiography is coming out in February, deliberately held back by the publisher until after the Hall of Fame announcement. I am wondering why. If Piazza didn’t use steroids, then why not come out and scream it? He has friends in the press in New York. Why doesn’t he say something?
I’ll probably wait on Piazza until next year depending on what he says in the book.
What is also interesting is the silence from the teams. Not a word. In previous years, teams would bombard the voters with emails, similar to what the colleges do when they have a Heisman candidate. Nothing, not a peep from these teams. Makes you think they know something, and it isn’t good.
Not only their silence speaks volumes, but the Giants and Cubs seem to be distancing themselves from Bonds and Sosa, respectively. Sosa is a two-time cheater in my book, using steroids and a corked bat. He can pretend not to understand English before Congress and bleach his skin white after retirement, but he can’t hide. We know what he is.
With the Mets, a franchise in desperate need of positive news, there’s been no public support for Piazza, a player who said he wants to go in wearing their cap. (The Hall of Fame decides the cap with its basis on where that player made his mark.) The Hall’s thinking with Piazza is he’d wear a Dodger cap. Clemens would wear Boston, Bonds would wear San Francisco and Sosa would wear the Cubs.
I don’t think that will be an issue on the first ballot.