Members of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America vote on who is inducted into the Hall of Fame. This year, pitcher Bert Blyleven and shortstop Roberto Alomar had their name called and are now enshrined in Cooperstown. Others deserving of being chosen were not, and most of those were snubbed primarily due to the suspicion surrounding their potential use of steroids.

Blyleven won 287 games from 1970-1992, posting a 3.31 ERA while throwing an astronomical 4,970 innings and compiling an astounding 3,701 strikeouts, a total that ranks him fifth all-time. He also threw 242 complete games and 60 shutouts, the latter amount ranking ninth in history.

He only made two All-Star teams and never won a Cy Young, but he was a dominant and durable pitcher. Among the pitches that made up his repertoire, his curveball gained the most notoriety, confusing hitters throughout his illustrious and long stay in the major leagues.

It was his bread and butter, used nearly as frequently as Tim Wakefield used his knuckleball. Playing for six teams, Blyleven is the owner of two World Series rings, as the 1977 Pittsburgh Pirates and 1987 Minnesota Twins stood atop the baseball world.

His first year on the Hall of Fame ballot was way back in 1998. That year he received a measly 17 percent of the vote. The following year he saw it drop to 14 percent. No player who has debuted on the ballot since 1970 had ever recovered from such a putrid percentage to garner the 75 percent necessary for election.

This being his next-to-last year of eligibility, he was relieved to finally hear his name called: “It’s been 14 years of praying and waiting. And thank the baseball writers of America for, I’m going to say, finally getting it right.”

Whereas Blyleven needed more than a decade to be enshrined, Alomar needed just three years. He narrowly missed in 2009 and 2010, receiving 73 percent of the vote both times. But he was named this year in convincing fashion, acquiring a whopping 90 percent of the vote. The shortstop was amazing throughout his 17-year career. He collected 10 gold gloves, appeared in 12 All-Star games, hit an even .300, and compiled over 2,700 hits, including 504 doubles, while swiping 474 bags. His election was a no-brainer. Gifted both in the field and at the plate, Alomar was a magician as one of the baseball’s most all-around players.

Many others were on the ballot, and many of those happened to play in the Steroid Era. The time of the syringe continues to hang a cloud over the players, especially hitters, who are either known to have used steroids or are simply suspected of usage. Rafael Palmeiro used steroids; there is proof of that. He continues to deny it, but his continued denial hurt him on the ballot, as his paltry percentage dropped.

The chances of others, like Fred McGriff and Jeff Bagwell, are hurt solely because writers are under the dangerous assumption that since many were using performance-enhancing drugs throughout the 1990′s everyone was.

Even without suspicion attached, McGriff, who nicknamed the “Crime Dog” during his playing career, is a borderline candidate. But receiving only 17 percent of the vote after hitting 493 homers, collecting 2,490 hits and batting .284 with a .377 on-base percentage in 19 years is unacceptable. Never has the Crime Dog been linked to steroids. But he is punished because he hit for power and played during a tainted era. Considering his vote total dropped from 114 to 106, writers are increasingly suspicious despite no evidence to back it up.

Bagwell has numbers worthy of being selected on his first-ballot. For someone with lesser statistics, like McGriff, acquiring 41 percent of the vote would be a good starting point. But this percentage associated with Bagwell is hard to fathom. Bagwell had 44 less homers than McGriff, but amassed his run and double totals while nearly surpassing his hit and RBI marks despite playing four fewer seasons. Bagwell spent his entire career with Houston and was a feared power-hitter throughout. Yet, power is ultimately linked with steroids, and, as in McGriff’s case, without a shred of evidence against him.

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick writes in relation to the unquestionable bias against him:

“Bagwell never failed a drug test, wagged his finger before Congress or popped up in one of Jose Canseco’s books. But he made himself into a slugger after hitting six homers in the minor leagues, and he’s credited obsessive weightlifting for his bulked-up physique. That’s all it takes these days to make someone a target of suspicion—or, if you prefer, character assassination.”

Barry Larkin, who received a respectable 62 percent of the vote, may get in next year. So may Jack Morris, who won 254 games but is being held back because of a 3.90 ERA spanning 18 seasons and 3,824 innings. Both Larkin and Morris are certainly deserving. Palmeiro and Mark McGwire aren’t. They did steroids, with the former denying so while the latter admitted his guilt. But, sadly, writers fail to separate fact from speculation. As a result, Bagwell and McGriff continue to wait.

Ken Griffey Jr. and Chipper Jones played during the Steroid Era, hit a bunch of homers, and have Hall of Fame worthy statistics. Does the inexplicable logic of the voting body mean they will be on the outside looking in when they are up for consideration? Fact and speculation must be separated. Clean statistics need to be recognized. If they aren’t, a rule needs to be instituted that, unless there is definitive evidence of steroid use or an admission of guilt, writers have to base their vote solely on the numbers and awards accumulated.

(Photo: AP/Jim Mone, File, through Daylife)

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