Last year, the check mark was a scarce symbol next to the names of players eligible for first-time induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The voters delivered a veritable referendum on the sport’s so-called steroid era by failing to elect a single player.
Those highly suspected, casually linked or not even mentioned shared the same fate: Wait till next year or beyond to receive votes on the required 75 percent of the ballots from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
A year later, the results are in and will be announced Wednesday. There are no performance-enhancing suspicions facing this year’s top first-timers — pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and slugger Frank Thomas — so they already may have started to draft their induction speeches.
Perhaps the results will change for Mike Piazza, named to the Mets’ Hall of Fame last September, who received 57.8 percent in his first year of eligibility. Or the Astros’ Craig Biggio, who fell 39 votes shy with 68.2 percent.
“No one knows what the crystal ball will show from the BBWAA,” Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said, “but all indications lead us to believe that it should be a robust year.”
BBWAA secretary-treasurer Jack O’Connell said last year might have been an aberration. “I’ll grant that it had an asterisk, but that’s part of the process that happens every once in a while,” he said. “I don’t expect it to be an annual thing.”
Lonnie Wheeler, who collaborated with Piazza on his book, “Long Shot,” said Piazza is hopeful.
“I think it’s something he takes really seriously and would be honored,” Wheeler said. “I suspect he believes he belongs in. As he should. There’s reason to believe people had time and reasons enough to re-evaluate their position and any opposition they may have had. Having that validation of what he accomplished would be a crowning end to his career. I think it might be safe to say it would mean more to him than most, but he’s also somebody who follows the news and understands the landscape, so he wouldn’t be crushed.”
Piazza’s 427 home runs are the most by a catcher in major-league history. Piazza, who played eight of his 16 seasons with the Mets, was a 12-time All-Star and had a .308 career batting average.
But Boston Globe writer Peter Abraham said some players may have gotten caught in the writers’ overwhelming condemnation of suspected PED users.
“While it might be obvious for somebody like (Barry) Bonds, it’s really not obvious at all for, say, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza,” Abraham said, “and for me it was unfair not to vote for somebody based solely on my suspicion.”
Piazza denied steroid use in his book. Biggio, who played his entire 20-year career with the Astros and had 3,060 hits, also got caught in the crossfire, although he was never linked to PEDs.
“The talk around here was that he got lumped up with a bunch of guys who may not have been doing the right thing all the time,” Kings Park High School athletic director Dan Butler said.
“(Biggio) kind of prided himself on doing the right thing all the time. People kind of feel like he may have been a victim of that a little bit. We’re a little biased, but we think his numbers speak for themselves. For us, it’s great that we know he came from here. It’s something great for our kids here to say this guy sat where you did, he went to class where you did and look at what he was able to accomplish.”
Biggio, the former high school baseball coach at St. Thomas in Houston, still drops by there regularly. No one at the school expects him to go 0-for-2 in his Hall of Fame quest.
“We all like his chances this year,” St. Thomas assistant coach Ryan Lousteau said. “There’s a lot of buzz around here.”