Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven in Hall
NEW YORK -- Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven became Hall of Famers on Wednesday, the two-time World Series champions easily elected after narrow misses last year.
All-Star sluggers Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire and Juan Gonzalez didn't come close in Wednesday's election. No telling if they ever will, either, after Hall voters sent a clear message: The drug cloud isn't going to cover Cooperstown.
"The writers are saying that this was the Steroids Era, like they have done Mark McGwire," Blyleven said after finally making it to the Hall on his 14th try. "They've kind of made their point."
Alomar was picked on 90 percent of the ballots by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The 12-time All-Star won a record 10 Gold Gloves at second base, hit .300 and helped the Toronto Blue Jays win titles in 1992-93.
Blyleven was picked on 79.7 percent -- it takes 75 percent to reach the shrine. The great curveballer won 287 games, threw 60 shutouts and is fifth with 3,701 strikeouts. This was his 14th time on the ballot and his career stats have received a boost in recent years from sabermetricians who have new ways to evaluate baseball numbers.
"It's been 14 years of praying and waiting," Blyleven said in a conference call. "And thank the baseball writers of America for, I'm going to say, finally getting it right."
Palmeiro, McGwire, Bagwell and Gonzalez fared poorly in the election, with BBWAA members apparently reluctant to choose bulky hitters who posted big numbers in the 1990s and 2000s.
Hall of Fame voting
Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven were elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Alomar was picked in his second appearance, while Blyleven earned the honor in his 14th try.
|Others receiving votes: Juan Gonzalez 30, Harold Baines 28, John Franco 27, Kevin Brown 12, Tino Martinez 6, Marquis Grissom 4, Al Leiter 4, John Olerud 4, B.J. Surhoff 2, Bret Boone 1, Benito Santiago 1|
"Guys cheated," he said. "They cheated themselves and their teammates. The game of baseball is to be played clean. I think we went through a steroid era and I think it's up to the writers to decide when and who should go in through that era."
A lot of them have already decided.
"I will not vote for any player connected with steroid use, because I believe cheaters shouldn't be rewarded with the sport's highest honor," Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle said in an e-mail.
"We are asked to consider character when casting Hall of Fame votes and I don't believe those who used performance-enhancing substances meet that standard," she said. "They cheated to get ahead, plain and simple, creating an imbalance in the game and a mess for the voters. They can enjoy the big contracts they earned as a result, but they won't get my vote."
Bagwell got 41.7 percent in his first year on the ballot. His career stats are among the best for first basemen since World War II -- .297 batting average, .408 on-base percentage and .540 slugging percentage. He hit 449 home runs, topped 1,500 RBIs and runs and ran the bases hard. He was Rookie of the Year, NL MVP and a Gold Glove winner.
Bagwell never tested positive, there were no public allegations against him and he was adamant that he never used illegal drugs. Still, many voters and fans aren't sure yet how to assess the huge numbers put up by the game's top hitters.
"That stuff's going to happen in this era," Bagwell said on a conference call. "People are going to have suspicion in the era I played in."
"People are going to think what they want to think. If they don't think that anybody was good in this era, then that's fine. Like I said, I'm one of the first ones to come up in that era. I'm OK with it," he said. "There's nothing I can do about it."
Palmeiro was listed on just 64 of a record 581 ballots (11 percent) in his first try despite lofty career numbers -- he is joined by Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray as the lone players with more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.
But Palmeiro failed a drug test and was suspended by Major League Baseball in 2005. The penalty came a few months after he wagged his finger at members of Congress and told them: "I have never used steroids. Period."
"I am disappointed, obviously I am disappointed, I thought I would get more support," Palmeiro told ESPN The Magazine's Tim Kurkjian. "But I am grateful that I get to stay on the ballot for at least another year. Maybe I'll go up, maybe I'll go down. I thought I was worthy of a better showing than what I got, but I had a black mark against me my last year in baseball. That is hard to overcome. I know there were some voters that said, 'He's a Hall of Famer, but he tested positive. I can't vote for him.' That's the reality of it. And it is something I have to live with."
Palmeiro recently reiterated the anabolic steroid that caused his positive test came in a vitamin vial given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada.
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McGwire got 19.8 percent, a drop from 23.7 percent last year. This was his fifth time on the ballot, and first since the former home run champion admitted he took steroids and human growth hormone.
Juan Gonzalez, a two-time AL MVP implicated by Jose Canseco in steroids use, received 30 votes, just above the 5 percent threshold for remaining on the ballot next year.
Alomar and Blyleven will be joined by Pat Gillick at the induction ceremonies July 24 in Cooperstown. The longtime executive was picked last month by the Veterans Committee. Gillick helped earn his place with a trade that brought Alomar to Toronto.
Smart, graceful and acrobatic on the field, Alomar also was guilty in one of the game's most boorish moments. He spit on umpire John Hirschbeck during a dispute in 1996 and was suspended. They later made up and Hirschbeck supported Alomar's bid for the Hall.
"I regret every bit of it. I apologized many times to John," Alomar said. "I feel good I've had a good relationship with John."
Said Hirschbeck: "I'm very, very happy for him. It's overdue."
"I'm not going to comment on why he didn't get elected the first time. But I forgave him. Maybe the rest of the world has," Hirschbeck told The Associated Press by telephone.
Alomar drew 73.7 percent last year in his first try on the ballot. Blyleven had come even closer, missing by just five votes while getting 74.2 percent.
"Robbie was an incredible player. He was a pleasure to watch play the game and I am not saying that because he was my brother. He had all the tools and put them all into play," former Cleveland teammate Sandy Alomar Jr. said.
Alomar got his first major league hit off Nolan Ryan in 1988. Ryan was the last pure starting pitcher elected to the Hall by the BBWAA in 1999.
Although former Blue Jays Paul Molitor and Dave Winfield also are in the Hall of Fame, they went in representing the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres, respectively. Alomar told reporters he wants to wear a Blue Jays cap on his plaque in Cooperstown.
"It would be a great thrill to be the first Hall of Fame member to go in under the Blue Jay hat," Alomar said, according to the Toronto Sun. "I hope the Hall of Fame will give me a chance to give Toronto that gift."
I'm very, very happy for him. It's overdue.” -- John Hirschbeck on Roberto Alomar
Blyleven, now 59, pitched against Alomar and his father, Sandy Alomar Sr.
It was quite a climb for Blyleven, who helped pitch Pittsburgh to the 1979 title and Minnesota to the 1987 crown. Many years ago, he drew barely over 14 percent in the BBWAA voting.
"I could not be happier if it was my own son," Twins Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew said. "I played in the first game Bert pitched for the Minnesota Twins in 1970. ... I wish it wouldn't have taken so long but now that he is in, it's wonderful."
Barry Larkin and Tim Raines showed gains in this year's voting. Pete Rose received three write-in votes.
Larkin finished third in balloting, receiving 62 percent of the votes. The only other player who finished above 50 percent was pitcher Jack Morris, who was selected on 53 percent of the ballots.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.