Once all the yelling subsided and the results were announced Wednesday, the lasting residue of the first real "Steroids Era" Hall of Fame voting was quiet.
No sounds of celebration over election. And no speeches to be given at the annual summer ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y.
The Baseball Writers' Association of America voters delivered a shutout, just the second in the last 40-plus years, failing to elect any candidates, whether linked to performance-enhancing drugs or not.
Former Astros star Craig Biggio came the closest to the 75 percent standard, with 68.2 percent, 388 of the 569 votes cast, with pitcher Jack Morris next at 67.7. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two players who would have been overwhelming choices if not for the steroids issues, both got less than 38 percent. (Tampa's Fred McGriff received 20.7 percent, a slight drop from last year's 23.9.)
"I think as a player, a group, this is one of the first times that we've been publicly called out," pitcher Curt Schilling, who received 39 percent of the vote, told ESPN.
"I think it's fitting; unfortunately, I think there's some players who got dragged into the muck, Craig Biggio was one. If there was ever a ballot and a year to make a statement about what we didn't do as players — which is we didn't actively push to get the game clean — this is it."
The lead-up to the announcement was filled with rancorous debate, as voters (who have to be 10-year members of the BBWAA), current Hall of Famers, candidates, present players and fans all attempted to sort through a convoluted and controversial process. The 569 ballots were four fewer than last year and included five blanks (down from nine), which factored into the percentage.
Players union chief Michael Weiner called the voting "unfortunate, if not sad."
"To ignore the historic accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, for example, is hard to justify," he said. "Moreover, to penalize players exonerated in legal proceedings — and others never even implicated — is simply unfair. The Hall of Fame is supposed to be for the best players to have ever played the game. Several such players were denied access to the Hall today. Hopefully this will be rectified by future voting."
Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, told the Associated Press: "It is unimaginable that the best player to ever play the game would not be a unanimous first-ballot selection."
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, however, said he had no issues with the result.
"This is not to be voted to make sure that somebody gets in every year," he told the AP. "It's to be voted on to make sure that they're deserving. I respect the writers as well as the Hall itself. This idea that this somehow diminishes the Hall or baseball is just ridiculous in my opinion."
Hall of Famer pitcher Jim Palmer said he was more concerned with the impact on other candidates. "The problem is for a guy like Fred McGriff, who never had any kind of accusations and had almost 500 home runs, or Dale Murphy,'' he told the Baltimore Sun. "Their numbers pale (in comparison), and people forget how good they were. That's the tragedy."
While some voters have said they are opposed to voting for any player connected to PEDs, others indicated they voted No now but might change their opinion.
Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson suggested a long-range view as players get to stay on the ballot for 15 years.
"It's a tough period for evaluation, that's what this chalks up to," he said. "Honestly, I think that any group you put this to would have the same issues. … There's always going to be discussion and concern about players who didn't get in, but at the end of the day it's a process and again, a snapshot in time isn't one year, it's 15 with this exercise."
To maintain interest in the July 28 ceremony, which still includes Pre-Integration Committee electees umpire Hank O'Day, Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and 19th-century player Deacon White, the Hall also will honor 12 previous enshrinees who didn't have formal inductions, topped by Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby.
First-timers on next year's ballot include three near locks, former Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and ex-White Sox slugger Frank Thomas.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]