Barry Bonds never passed Hank Aaron on the all-time home run list, or Babe Ruth, or even Larry Bowa, who hit 15 of them.
Roger Clemens never made a plate ump yodel ďStee-rike three.Ē Mark McGwire never was Roger Maris, let alone Mickey Mantle. Phoenixville High School product Mike Piazza never did hit .362, or .346, or .336. So maybe thatís why he was a 62nd=round draft choice.
None of it happened, because thatís how history will be written. And it wonít be written on bronze plaques at a central New York tourist trap.
Such was the missive Wednesday from the baseball writers, who had their say on the sportís steroid era, its users and those suspected of being users. In the first full-service opportunity to rule on the matter, the writers elected no one to the Hall of Fame, not a power hitter, not a pitcher, not a shortstop with a magnetic glove.
In that, it was the latest add-on to the Bud Selig Collection of Baseball Embarrassments, joining the missed World Series of 1994, the split World Series of 2008, the tie All-Star Game of 2002, the years of imbalanced leagues and the continuing over-punishment of Pete Rose. Nor, will it go away. Not now. Because for as long as people talk baseball and baseball stats and baseball stars, they will be reminded why some of the most accomplished players were never formally awarded fame.
Not that the commissioner is alone in his haul of shame. The writers who rejected Piazza, Bonds, Clemens, McGwire and other obvious candidates had to have been watching something other than baseball. But annually, some voter does something foolish, like refusing to make Cal Ripken Jr. a unanimous choice. This year, somebody threw in a vote for Aaron Sele, he of the 4.61 career ERA. As usual, I voted for the maximum 10 candidates, including Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Jack Morris, Piazza, Rose (write-in), Curt Schilling and Alan Trammell. Clearly, some voters will think that ballot foolish, and thatís how the system functions. So it is onto the next issue: The fallout. And thatís what made Wednesday a dreary day for baseball, even if no one did succumb to the temptation to vote for Jose Mesa.
Unless something about the process changes --- for instance, a fresh clarification from the Hall of Fame on how the designer-vitamin era must be viewed --- there will be an emptiness in Cooperstown, and not just in Ruthís rickety locker. It is going to taunt. It is going to scream that baseball was sideways at one time, that something was dreadfully wrong, that home runs were being hit that should not have been hit, that fast balls for strikeouts were really just change-ups in costume.
The system is designed to be self-correcting. Each year, the ballot and the panel of electors changes. And players can be considered for up to 15 years. So there is the possibility that with new perspective, the all-time leading home run hitter and --- who knows? --- the all-time hits leader could someday rate Cooperstown wall space with players never as productive. But thatís not the way it is headed. McGwire was the canary sent into the mine years before the first full steroid-era class, and he is receiving fewer --- not more --- votes in every election. Bonds and Clemens, just to name two, canít ignore that trend.
Next year, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas will enter the competition, and they should receive quick approval. Tom Glavine will be a sturdy candidate, too. Morris, Lee Smith and others from the pre-steriod period will still have their game-used caps in the ring. All of which will make it more difficult for those rejected Wednesday to bob to the top.
Thus, the new history: None of what fans thought they saw actually happened --- not those home runs, not those high-and-tight heaters that blunted late-inning trouble. Nothing. So will say the Hall of Fame, which still has that final say.