Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame Tracker and the Bud Selig Factor

For the past several years, Ryan Thibodaux of The Sporting News has compiled early voting for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.  With the number of voters down to about 400, it’s always interesting to see where the votes seem to be headed.  

By this morning, with 68 votes posted, Thibodaux has good news for those actively rooting for our favorite not-in-the-Hall Mariner, Edgar Martinez.  He is named on 64% of ballots.  Not at the 75% mark needed for induction, but with two years left on his eligibility, it is a very important move up for Martinez.  

For those playing along, Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame Ballot Tracker also show Jeff Bagwell (90%,) Tim Raines (89%,) Ivan Rodriguez (83%,) and Trevor Hoffman (76%) above the 75% threshold.  

However, Hall of Fame balloting this year has taken a turn since former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig easily won election to the Hall of Fame Executives Wing on December 5th.  Selig was named on 15 of 16 ballots to join former Atlanta GM John Schuerholz as the only two nominees chosen by voters on the Today’s Game Era ballot. 

This post is not really about that ballot, or about Selig’s accomplishments, which are many.  He presided over the disastrous 1994 baseball strike, but it was also on his watch that baseball marched its way from popular scorn to celebration, from annual revenues of $1.2 billion in 1992 to $11 billion today, from perpetual labor warfare to guaranteed labor peace until at least 2021 when the newly negotiated CBA expires. One can criticize Selig’s role int he strike, his shortening the 2002 All-Star game to an extra-inning tie, and that he often seemed to run the sport like the car-salesman that he is. But it is difficult to suggest he is undeserving of praise and recognition. 

So I will.  In December 2013, in one of the very first posts on this blog, after I cast my first Hall of Fame vote for IBWAA, I argued Bud Selig was complicit in stalling the long fight for PED testing in baseball, and because of that he was morally equivalent to a user.  As such I argued:  

Those who argue Major League Baseball is also responsible for the steroids era are right on.  Bud Selig turned a blind eye to steroid use for a decade, and despite his contributions to the game, which are considerable, he should be out too.

 

i believed at the time this was a stretch, and when his moment came, Selig would be elected and enter the Executives wing at Cooperstown, and that would be that. His selection was nearly unanimous. 

But actions have consequences, and one sees those in the Hall of Fame voting made public on Thibodaux’s Tracker.  As of this morning, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, both strongly linked to steroid use, appear on 72% of ballots..  In 2016, Clemens and Bonds were 7th and 8th in balloting, named on 45.2 and 44.3 percent of ballots respectively.  So there is a clear change in voter’s behavior.  Why? 

Jim Litkke of AP and Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports both laid the responsibility directly at Selig’s induction

Passan writes:

Because this is the year it is changing, and Bud Selig is to blame. Seriously. It’s almost as if all of Selig’s slippery rhetoric on how baseball didn’t ride performance-enhancing drugs back to relevance after the strike was burbling in a big karmic fireball waiting to fire itself at just the right time.

Passan went on to interview Hall voters, including Philadelphia writer and voter, Kevin Cooney.  Cooney explained his vote for Bonds and Clemens for the first time in light of Selig’s election to the Hall. 

“When Bud was put in two weeks ago, my mindset changed,” said Cooney “If the commissioner of the steroid era was put into the HOF by a secret committee, then I couldn’t in good faith keep those two out any longer.”

Based on the voting we’ve seen so far, it seems pretty clear Clemens and Bonds are likely headed to Cooperstown.  Maybe not this year, but soon. However, it’s not clear the Selig effect has legs and has carried over to other players associated with PED’s. Sammy Sosa (15%,) Manny Ramirez (36%) and Gary Sheffield (11%) don’t seem to be getting much traction from the Selig election.  Perhaps Bonds and Clemens saving grace is they were likely ticketed for the Hall before their steroid revelations. 

Is this the end of Western Civilization as we know it, or the even the end of the Hall of Fame as a bastion of baseball excellence-something it’s never been, if we’re talking about character?  No. But I stand by my belief that casting a blind eye to PED use is a mistake, and may well open the door to future advances-pharmacological, biological and technological-it will be much harder to ignore in the near future. If the line isn’t steroid use, where is it? 

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