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Baseball Hall of Fame Voter Pluto on Why No New Players Will Be Inducted This Year

Omar Vizquel playing for the Texas Rangers
Erik Drost
Wikimedia Commons
Former Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel fell short of Hall of Fame honors for the fourth year.

There will be no new players enshrined to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. None of the 25 players on this year’s ballot reached 75% of the vote required for induction.

WKSU's sports commentator Terry Pluto is part of The Baseball Writers Association of America that selects Hall of Famers. Sports writers must cover baseball for at least 10 years to receive a ballot. Pluto says the numbers fluctuate, but there are as many as 500 voters.

The "steroid guys"
There are a number of players who have been on the ballot a number of years who are tied to the late 1990s to early 2000s steroid era of baseball. Those include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa.

Pluto says he, along with many voting members, won't vote for them.

"Steroids do impact your performance. It's a big deal," he said.

Bonds is one of the most accomplished players in MLB history, receiving seven MVP awards, eight Rawlings Gold Gloves, and 12 Silver Slugger Awards to go along with 14 All-Star selections. He broke Hank Aaron's all-time home run record and finished his career with 762 long balls.

A raid on BALCO showed Bonds tested positive for steroidsbefore MLB implemented testing, and he denies ever using them.

"Barry Bonds would have made the Hall of Fame without steroids. A good case could have been made for that, and the same thing with Clemens," Pluto said.

Terry Pluto's 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot
Terry Pluto
Terry Pluto checks off nine of 10 names on his 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot.

While the focus by some writers on PEDs has kept Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, and others like Mark McGwire out of Cooperstown, another player likely has been held back for other reasons.

Multi-time champion pitcher Curt Schilling, though he received the most votes among any players on the ballot, failed to receive 75% of the vote for induction in his ninth year on the ballot. Pluto believes it's because of Schilling's off-the-field actions and statements, including his public stances oneverything from politics to LGBTQ issues, along with a failed business venture.

Pluto says he's consistently voted for Schilling, arguing there's a distinction between making statements and using steroids.

"I don't think whether he likes Donald Trump or whoever it may be, has an impact on him being a better pitcher," Pluto said.

Next year will be Schilling's last on the ballot, and he's asked to be removed. His request was rejected.

"I think he's tired of every time the Hall of Fame comes around, people dig into his background," Pluto said.

2021 Baseball Hall of Fame Voting
Curt Schilling: 71.1%
Barry Bonds: 61.8%
Roger Clemens: 61.6%
Scott Rolen: 52.9%
Omar Vizquel: 49.1%
Billy Wagner: 46.4%
Todd Helton: 44.9%
Gary Sheffield: 40.6%
Andruw Jones: 33.9%
Jeff Kent: 32.4%

The Pete Rose debate
Pluto says he has a similar view about baseball's hit king, Pete Rose, who was banned from baseball for gambling on games when he was a manager of the Reds.

"There is nothing that he did in a way to cheat to make himself a better player. And if he were on the ballot as a player, I would vote for him. Pete Rose as a player belongs in the Hall of Fame," Pluto said.

"I wish some of these other people stood behind their votes in some of the other sports."
Terry Pluto

Pluto's picks
Pluto says two players he's consistently voted for have been overlooked: Omar Vizqueland Scott Rolen. Vizquel played short stop for the Indians from 1993 to 2004. He's known as one of the best defensive players in baseball history, winning 11 Gold Gloves. Rolen was another defensive specialist at third base for a number of teams, including the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals.

But Pluto says baseball writers have long devalued defense, and the fact that Vizquel and Rolen never played in cities like New York or Boston "where you get noticed."

Vizquel, meanwhile, was accused of domestic abuse by his wife last year.

Remaining on the ballot
For players to remain on the ballot, they must earn at minimum 5% of the votes. Notable names like Kenny Lofton and reliever LaTroy Hawkins have fallen off.

And, they have 10 years to get 75% of votes before they're dropped from the ballot. Pluto believes that works against many players.

"It used to be you could be on the ballot for 15 years. Pitcher Bert Blyleven—who pitched for the Indians and Twins—I kept voting for him year after year. And I believe he made it in year 14. He would have never made it in 10," Pluto said.

A flawed system
Pluto says the Hall of Fame voting process is nowhere near perfect, and he says it's even more glaring in other pro sports.

Pluto said baseball writers make it as transparent as possible.

"Our ballots are made public. I print mine every year. I wish some of these other people stood behind their votes in some of the other sports," he said.

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Sean Fitzgerald is an announcer/board operator at Ideastream Public Media.