With “Steroid Era” on Deck, Baseball Writers Tighten Hall of Fame Rules

At a time when a number of tainted stars are aiming for spots in Cooperstown, the Baseball Writers' Association of America chose to narrow the window for Major League Baseball stars to get voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The group's members are facing tighter restrictions too.

Well, that’s one way to get past the so-called “steroid era” quickly.

Over the weekend, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA)—the body of sports journalists who vote Major League Baseball stars into the sport’s Hall of Fame—voted to change its rules for only the third time in its recent history. Now, instead of players getting 15 years of eligibility, they get only 10.

As the Associated Press notes, the change shortens the window for major stars of the past two decades, such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa—players tainted by allegations (and, in some cases, their own admissions) that they used performance-enhancing drugs while playing professional baseball—to get into the hall.

Those players still have about eight more chances to win the votes needed for induction, but one star of the era, former home run champ Mark McGwire, now has only two years left to make his case.

“The board is committed to keeping the policies and voting procedures of the Hall of Fame relevant,” Jane Forbes Clark, who chairs the National Baseball Hall of Fame, said in a news release announcing the new rules.

The rules allow for exceptions for Don Mattingly, Alan Trammell, and Lee Smith, who predate the steroid era and linger between years 10 and 15 of their eligibility period.

Players must receive votes from at least 75 percent of voting association members to be elected to the hall—a mark that players such as Bonds and Clemens have failed to even get close to thus far.

The Deadspin rule

The BBWAA board also approved a rule change directly affecting the group’s members.

In the wake of an infamous incident this year in which Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard gave his vote to the readers of the blog Deadspin, BBWAA members will now have to complete a registration form and sign a code of conduct. Also, members’ names (but not their ballots) will be made public.

“The board believes these changes are necessary to ensure the integrity of the voting process moving forward,” Clark said.

The rule changes come after a tumultuous period for the Hall of Fame, which has struggled to handle the steroid controversy involving some of the sport’s biggest stars. In 2013, the hall failed to admit a single player for just the eighth time in its history. Le Batard’s protest vote was at least in part a reaction to that.

The rule change doesn't apply to Don Mattingly (left), but could severely hurt the chances of Mark McGwire (right). (photo by Keith Allison/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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