The biggest loser in Wednesday's Hall of Fame shutout was not Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, two all-time greats who got about one-third of the vote. The biggest loser wasn't Craig Biggio, whose very strong first-year showing makes it all but certain that eventually, there will a day devoted to him in Cooperstown.
Without question, the biggest loser was Jack Morris, who has become collateral damage in the writers' split over how to handle the steroid-era candidates. And his example should be reason enough for the Hall of Fame to change at least one particularly significant voting rule, which threatens to contribute to the omission of Morris and other candidates like him.
Jack Morris won 254 games in his career and had one of the greatest single-game performances of all time in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. In 2000, the first year he appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot, Morris polled at 22.2 percent. That's about what Mark McGwire got in his first year on the ballot, but unlike McGwire's vote total, Morris' has steadily climbed -- and last year, he reached 66.7 percent, which is like being 60 feet 6 inches from induction. History shows us that when candidates reach that threshold, they eventually get into the Hall.
But this year, in Morris' 14th year on the ballot, his vote total rose only one percentage point, to 67.7 percent. His career 3.90 ERA is one speed bump that some voters can't get over in deciding whether to cast X's for Morris, but there's also a very strong possibility that he's getting caught in the middle of the ongoing PED quandary.
The baseball writers are allowed to vote for only 10 candidates a year. My colleagues Jayson Stark and Tim Kurkjian vote along the same lines as me -- we all voted for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, et al -- and because of that, we all saw a ballot with more than 10 worthy candidates. Tim said he would've voted for 15 candidates if he could have, and that is why, for the first time, he left Mark McGwire off his ballot. I would have voted for 12 candidates, if I could have. Because I wanted to give Dale Murphy a vote in his last year on the ballot, I voted for him instead of Tim Raines, whom I have voted for in the past and view as a Hall of Famer. Because I wanted to vote for Morris again, I left off Curt Schilling, who I think is a Hall of Famer.
I'd bet that there are some voters who, when faced with the same quandary, simply decided to leave Morris off their ballot -- not because they don't view him as Hall of Fame worthy, but because they had to leave somebody off and Morris, who is not a slam dunk candidate in the way that Sandy Koufax was, was not among their 10 names. In essence, the Rule of 10 probably prevented some voters from voting for Morris, in the way it prevented me from voting for Schilling or Raines.
Because nobody gained election Wednesday, the problem will only get worse next year, when five players who are probably all worthy of first-ballot induction -- Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent -- will join the muddle on the ballot. As Tim said, there will be about 19 or 20 Hall of Fame worthy players eligible, in his mind.
The way I would handle this, if the Rule of 10 isn't changed, is to take the nine best players eligible, plus Morris, because Morris will be in his last year. This is probably what my ballot will look like:
These are the players who I think are Hall of Fame worthy whom I will have to leave off the ballot:
It will be the first time that I don't cast a vote for McGwire -- not because I think he shouldn't be in the Hall, but because I don't have room for him, and a bunch of other guys who I think are Hall of Fame worthy. I think Schilling -- an extraordinary pitcher whose accomplishments are not at Maddux's level -- is going to be hurt by this, unless it's changed, and so will Mussina and Kent and Raines.
You can agree with my ballot or, more likely, disagree with it. But it's inarguable that the lack of consensus is a major problem in the Hall of Fame voting, from how to handle the PED candidates to how to pick 10 among many candidates. The Hall will not want Jack Morris' candidacy, and that of Schilling, Mussina, etc. getting caught in that issue. The Hall administrators will want the candidates judged on their merits, rather than having them swallowed up in some ballot puzzle that doesn't have a perfect or a correct solution.
This is why the Hall of Fame needs to open up the ballot immediately and allow the writers to vote for as many candidates as they deem to be worthy of induction.
Mike Piazza is on the path to induction, writes Mike Vaccaro. Steve Phillips was upset that Piazza didn't get into the Hall. Piazza and Jeff Bagwell are victims in the writers' witch hunt, writes Bob Klapisch.
As I've written here before: I really believe that the candidacies of Bagwell and Piazza will represent the tipping point in the whole PED conversation. If they get in, amid clear suspicions of a lot of voters that they used drugs, then it would be pretty difficult for writers to logically vote against Bonds and Clemens and McGwire and Sosa and Palmeiro.
Then again, logic does not seem to be a strong suit among some voters.
Unfortunately, writers are part of the story, writes David Murphy.
Moves, deals and decisions
2. CC Sabathia was at ESPN on Wednesday and said his elbow is feeling good, and that he'll be good to go. And Sabathia looked like he has maintained his conditioning, in a program he began in earnest in the fall of 2011.
3. For Orioles' fans, the silence from the Warehouse has been deafening, writes Kevin Cowherd.
6. The Giants signed an infielder.
• An 1865 baseball card is going to be auctioned.
And today will be better than yesterday.