Roberto Hernandez, the original Rays closer, expected he might not even get a vote in his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot.
But the 48-year-old was surprised and disappointed that nobody in this year's star-studded class was elected, failing to receive the required 75 percent of the vote.
Former Astros star Craig Biggio, with 3,060 career hits, came the closest (68.2 percent).
"It was a sad day," Hernandez said. "Even though there were some players with a cloud of speculation, I would have figured that Biggio would be a slam dunk with his career longevity and the numbers he put up; 3,000 hits no longer means (anything) if he's not on the first ballot."
Hernandez knew the suspicion of performance-enhancing drug use would hurt the likes of Barry Bonds (36.2 percent), Roger Clemens (37.6 percent), the highest-profile newcomers on the ballot. "They were Hall of Famers even before the PED era started," Hernandez said.
But Hernandez felt the PED talk took attention away from other worthy candidates such as Jack Morris (67.8 percent), Mike Piazza (57.8 percent), Tim Raines (52.2 percent), Lee Smith (47.8 percent) and ex-Ray Fred McGriff (20.7 percent). And with a strong class (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas) next year, it'll be "even tougher" for them to gain ground.
"I don't know if they're going to keep punishing or dwelling more on that PED stuff," said Hernandez, who had 326 saves over 17 seasons. "I'm pretty sure that the ones that have been caught and admitted it probably won't get in there. But I think you're innocent until proven guilty. I think you might have to start doing what they did with the Heisman, if you have anything linked to you, they take (the award) away from you, like they did with Reggie Bush.
"You can't deny history. Sooner or later you've got to tell the history of the game, good or bad."
MINOR MATTERS: Mitch Lukevics, Rays director of minor-league operations, doesn't believe there's a widespread issue with PED use in their system.
But he acknowledged it was concerning that Tampa Bay had six minor-leaguers suspended 50 games each for violating the league's drug prevention and treatment program last year.
That included former first-rounders SS Tim Beckham (marijuana) and OF Josh Sale, who was one of four to test positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine. Sale said, through his agent, he did nothing wrong.
"It stunk, very disappointing," Lukevics said. "I'd be lying to say anything different. As much education as we do, and when we tell them all 100 times, we tell them 101 times. We spend as much time on the education of 'do's and don'ts' and derailers as much as we do hitting or pitching or throwing. It was very disappointing, there's no getting around it."
The topic is likely to come up this week, as Beckham and Sale are two of the 31 minor-leaguers attending the team's annual development camp, held Monday-Thursday at Tropicana Field (not open to public).
MORSE REPORT: Nationals OF/1B Mike Morse is a potential fit for the Rays and is likely available now that Washington re-signed 1B Adam LaRoche. Morse, 30, provides legitimate power (31 homers in 2011) and the type of positional flexibility (experience at 1B, RF, LF, SS and 3B) Tampa Bay covets, and has a reasonably affordable contract ($6.75 million next year before becoming a free agent). But with Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reporting Morse is "strongly opposed" to being a DH, it could caution some AL clubs, including the Rays. There also will be the question of the price for one year of Morse. The Nationals are said to be seeking young starting-pitching prospects or a big-league reliever (left-handed, preferably), which the Rays have. But it remains to be seen if the sides match up.
RAYS RUMBLINGS: OF Matt Joyce, a Tampa native, will hold his annual baseball camp Jan. 20 at North Brandon Little League, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., with proceeds going to the Little League he used to play for. It's $100 per child (ages 6 to 13), registration online at nbll.org. Joyce donated $10,000 last year. "For me, it means everything," he said. "Being from the area, and growing up, born and raised here, it's home for me." … OF Sam Fuld, in partnership with the Rays, USF and Florida Diabetes Camps, will host the second Sam Fuld Diabetes Sports Camp at USF on Feb. 2-3. For information on the camp, call (352) 334-1321.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]