Seven might be a lucky number, but it wasn't good enough for a Hall pass on Wednesday.
For just the third time in five decades and the eighth time ever, baseball sportswriters kept the keys to the baseball Hall of Fame locked.
Left outside looking in were seven-time National League Most Valuable Player and Major League home run king Barry Bonds and seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, who were on the ballots for the first time. And while both dominated on the field during their playing careers, their support among voters was anemic. A player needs to be named on 75 percent of the ballots cast to enter baseball's most prestigious club. Clemens' name was included on 37.6 percents of the ballots. Bonds was on 36.2 percent.
In fact, the guy who came closest to joining the Hall was former House Astros sparkplug Craig Biggio, who, with 68.2 percent support, was only 39 ballots short of inclusion. Former Detroit pitcher Jack Morris, in his next to last year of eligibility, was next at 67.7 percent.
The supermajority requirement for inclusion in the Hall is a difficult bar to cross. Just ask former Atlanta Brave Dale Murphy, a two-time NL MVP and once of the NL's most feared sluggers. He now drops off the ballot after pulling in only 18.6 percent of the vote in his last year of eligibility.
But more than the 75 percent minimum, the issue that kept Bonds and Clemens out of the Hall this year was the cheating -- the use of performance enhancing drugs. The revelation of PED use a few years back -- along with the lying from dirty players -- has the 569 Hall voters perplexed on how to proceed. Five submitted blank ballots.
Should players of what is being called the Steroid Era be held to higher performance standards? For instance, if a player who hits 500 career home runs would normally be voted in, should the Steroid Era "magic" number be, say, 570 homers?
Should those suspected of PED use be forbidden Hall entrance altogether, as in the case of baseball's all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, whose name has never appeared on a ballot because of his gambling on games?
Should the use of PEDs be ignored by voters?
Should those suspected of PED use be required to wait a number of years before getting the call from the Hall?
Those are questions that many of the baseball sportswriters who cast ballots discussed in columns and blogs before the vote announcement. The only consensus we saw was that there was no consensus.
The answer's not a simple one.
Bonds and Clemens will have 14 more chances at consideration, so shutting them out this year is no big deal. Plus, it does send a message that the voters have high regard for the Hall and what it symbolizes.
The voters didn't resolve the issue, but at least they did no harm.
-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board