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ARMOLD: Hall of Fame PED issue on way out

ELIJAH ARMOLD
505-5406/@EAdispatch

The newest class of the National Baseball Hall of Fame has been announced, and the usual debates have raged across the Internet and airwaves.

In this Feb. 13, 2008, file photo former New York Yankees baseball pitcher Roger Clemens is sworn-in on Capitol Hill in Washington prior to testifying before the House Oversight, and Government Reform committee hearing on drug use in baseball. Clemens got a significant bump in the number of Hall of Fame votes he received this year.

Some will always be there, like whether or not a player who didn’t get elected had the numbers to warrant his inclusion, or vice versa.

Others, like the historic place that is deserved by players suspected of performance-enhancing drug use, seem like they are showing signs of going by the wayside — with the help of some recent changes to the selection process.

In 2014, a change was made so that a player can only be considered for 10 years after his retirement, down from 15 years. This means those suspect names will be off the ballot sooner. All the while, their peers deemed worthy will be elected.

The benefit there is that those same peers would hopefully be members of the Veterans' Committee, who can elect worthwhile figures after their Baseball Writers Association of America ballot eligibility runs out.

PED-Era Sub-Committee may be needed: Perhaps the fairest way to allow the writers to vote their conscious, and yet still preserve the historical accomplishments of those simply clouded by suspicion, not conviction, would be to create another sub-committee to the Veterans' Committee — a PED-Era Sub-Committee.

The Veterans' Committee is comprised of three sub-committees representing a different era: the Pre-Intergration Era, the Golden Era and the Expansion Era. Each sub-committee meets and votes on a rotating basis once every three years.

They vote on players whose 10-year BBWAA ballot eligibility has run out, but still have met the requirements for consideration.

By using a PED-Era Sub-Committee, one might argue that the final say would then rest with those most qualified to make the decision. If those who were in direct competition with PED-era candidates didn’t feel as though their actions compromised the game’s integrity, then who would fans and writers be to say otherwise?

Major change: The BBWAA, the organization in charge of electing players to the hall, changed a major criteria for voting before this recent election that should also help speed up the PED issue becoming a thing of the past.

In order to initially obtain a vote, among other criteria, a writer must be on an active MLB beat for 10 years. Now a writer must have also been active on that beat within a 10-year period to maintain the vote, rather than being a voter emeritus.

This helped purge the number of ballots cast from 549 in 2015 to 440 this season.

It also likely resulted in some of the older members losing their votes. Some of the more entrenched viewpoints probably left along with them.

This can be seen by the sudden comparative bump candidates shrouded in suspicion, such as Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, received this year.

In their previous three years on the ballot, Clemens and Bonds hovered in the mid-30s in terms of percentages, with averages of 36.8 and 35.9 percent, respectively. They even each lost support from their first year to their second.

This year, however, they each rose more than 7 percentage points above the previous average. Clemens went from 37.5 in 2015 to 45.2 this year. Bonds climbed from 36.8 to 44.3.

So, they have an outside chance of reaching the needed 75 percent if they can continue to pick up at least 5.2 percentage points each year going forward. That rate will be hard to maintain, given there aren’t any major changes on the horizon, or other factors that would seemingly warrant such a bump. They’ll have to rely on overall sentiment softening at a much faster rate than present to avoid the surge in support flat lining.

MLB taking steps to eliminate problem: Major League Baseball has taken some steps to help eliminate this problem as well.

Though not designed to protect the integrity of the hall specifically, and the scope and the breadth of the measures are certainly up for debate, MLB has instituted policies and punishments aimed at ridding the game of PEDs.

Where that might help is the notion that, while these moves aren’t likely to halt PED use completely, they will hopefully deter it to a degree where hall of fame level talent isn’t taking the risk.

That’s the ultimate fix, really — a strong deterrent and the threat of a damaged legacy.

It will be nice to see a time when PEDs, and the scandal surrounding them, are merely an exhibit in the hall, rather than being constantly discussed as a determining factor for its entry.

Reach Elijah Armold at earmold@yorkdispatch.com.