The writers' Hall of Fame conundrum

Updated: November 27, 2012, 9:53 AM ET
By Buster Olney

The Hall of Fame ballots for the 2013 class are expected to be mailed to voters Monday, and within the same envelope, there also will be pages containing concise career biographies for each of the candidates.

For Roger Clemens, there likely will be mention of his seven Cy Young Awards, the eight years in which he led his league in ERA, the 354 career victories, the 4,916 2/3 innings and the 4,672 strikeouts.

Next to Barry Bonds' name, there will be a citation of his 763 career home runs, more than anybody else in baseball history, and his 2,227 runs, 2,935 hits, 2,558 walks, 514 stolen bases, seven Most Valuable Player Awards and eight Gold Gloves. The numbers for Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza and the rest will be similarly presented in neutral language.

But as Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro and Jeff Bagwell can attest, that list of career highlights doesn't contain the information that a lot of writers -- anywhere from 45 to 88 percent -- will view as the litmus test to judge whether the player is worthy of induction. In the mini-resume, there will be no mention of steroids or human growth hormone or testosterone or pills or hypodermic needles.

McGwire has acknowledged he's used performance-enhancing drugs. Palmeiro was suspended for testing positive for steroids. Bonds acknowledged using, but not knowingly. Clemens says he didn't do a damn thing; the same with Piazza. Sammy Sosa would answer if he understood the question, as he indicated on Capitol Hill in 2005, but his English is operational only in daily conversations and in commercials. There is no hard evidence that Bagwell used, but to date, he has been convicted annually by a large core of writers because they suspect he was a juicer, given his past muscularity and friendship with Ken Caminiti.

As far as Major League Baseball is concerned, McGwire and the other Hall of Fame candidates are all merely former players in good standing. McGwire served as a hitting coach for the Cardinals before recently being hired by the Dodgers. Bagwell has done work for the Astros, and Clemens and Bonds have personal services contracts with their former teams.

As far as the Baseball Hall of Fame is concerned, McGwire and the others are candidates in good standing. They'll be listed on the forthcoming ballot, eligible to receive votes -- and if they get enough votes, they'll be inducted. (Pete Rose, on the other hand, was never on a Hall ballot after being banned by Major League Baseball for betting on his team's games; he must get special permission to make any appearances on behalf of the Cincinnati Reds.)

It's the writers, and the writers alone, who are the bottleneck.