Halls door shut again to those suspected of steroid use
NEW YORK (AP) Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire's chances to enter the Hall of Fame are dwindling.
Baseball writers so far overwhelmingly have decided the outsized statistics of the Steroids Era stars are tarnished by their connection to performance-enhancing drugs use.
Once again Tuesday, Cooperstown's doors remained shut.
"I did it the only way I knew how, and I wanted to do it clean," Pedro Martinez said Tuesday after he was elected along with Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio. "And the integrity of the way I did is probably the reason of me going to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot."
For emphasis during a news conference at Boston's Fenway Park, the Dominican right-hander held open his navy blazer to show off his wiry frame, a stark contrast to the bulked-up bodies that personified the years offense reigned.
Clemens, the only seven-time Cy Young Award winner, and Bonds the home run king and only seven-time MVP, failed in their third turns on the ballot.
Smoltz voiced approval of drug testing in 2000, two years before players and owners reached a joint drug agreement for the first time since 1985.
"This great game and the game that I personally love has found a way to for the time being, to make it sure that it again has back the integrity and the legitimacy that it needs so that fans, the great fans of baseball, do not sit there and wonder what they're watching, is it legitimate or not?" Smoltz said.
Clemens received support on 37.5 percent of the ballots and Bonds 36.8 percent. The situations of McGwire and Sosa are more dire.
The duo, who electrified the nation with a dizzying home run chase in the summer of 1998, are on the verge of dropping out of contention altogether. Because of a rules change last summer that limits a player's years of eligibility from 15 to 10, McGwire has one more chance at receiving the necessary 75 percent vote from the Baseball Writers' Association of America. This year he received his lowest vote total yet, 10 percent, and he never was named on more than 23.7 percent of the ballots since he's been eligible in 2007.
Sosa survived being swept off the ballot by nine votes, receiving recognition by just 36 of 549 voters (6.6 percent) after just three years. A 5 percent threshold is needed to remain on the ballot.
Gary Sheffield received little attention in his first year on the ballot, getting 11.7 percent. He hit 509 home runs and says he only accidentally took a PED.
Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, two players who have fallen under suspicion of use but were never caught up in any investigation, fell short, too, though Piazza could gain admittance next year. He received 69.9 percent in his third year, a steady rise. Bagwell is up to 55.7 percent.
"I realize the cloud has covered a multitude of so many different people and I realize that the media and people have a hard time distinguishing and determining, and in time maybe it will become clearer for all parties involved," Smoltz said.
The future for players who've fallen under suspicion might be a bit brighter, though. The ballot could expand next year to 12 votes for each writer. Ken Griffey Jr. appears to be the only sure thing among a newcomer group that also includes Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner.
"It's actually sad, to be honest. It's sad," Martinez said. "People I admired are not going in with me."
AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen in Boston contributed to this report.