In voting for Hall, integrity trumps stats
Proven users of performance-enhancing drugs will learn their fate
It's difficult to believe a Major Leaguer with 3,020 hits, 569 home runs and a .288 career batting average may never make the Hall of Fame.
But that's the fate staring Rafael Palmeiro in the face.
Cooperstown has no place for cheaters, and that's exactly what Palmeiro was -- a proven user of performance-enhancing drugs.
Veteran members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America must have their ballots for the Class of 2011 submitted by Dec. 31.
Results will be announced on Jan. 5, and as that date nears, the debate will rage of whether players linked to performance-enhancing drugs belong in the Hall of Fame. Palmeiro is one of 19 players eligible for the first time on the 33-player ballot.
I have not and will never vote for a player tied to steroids or any other type of performance-enhancing substance. My passion for the game and what it stands for is too great to let them in.
That said, I believe the 2011 ballot will be monumental because Palmeiro is the first player who -- without the huge blemish on his career -- would be a sure-bet first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Two years from now, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa -- also under the dark cloud of performance-enhancing drugs -- will be on the ballot. Palmeiro -- I suspect he will not get very many votes -- will provide an indication of how BBWAA members will vote in the future as they consider players from the "Steroids Era."
Four of the top 11 all-time home-run hitters have in one way or another been associated with performance-enhancing drugs, and because of this may never make Cooperstown.
Mark McGwire, on the ballot for the first time in 2007, publicly admitted this past January he used steroids. He has never received more than 23.7 percent of the vote and last year was named on only 128 ballots when 539 were cast.
To be elected, a player must receive 75 percent of the vote.
McGwire was never a sure-fire choice, even without steroids. He was a one-dimensional player, a home run slugger who broke Roger Maris' single-season record of 61 homers -- set in 1961 -- when he blasted 70 in 1998.
"I don't think tainted numbers belong in the Hall of Fame," said Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg. "I think the sportswriters are handling that and sending the message loud and clear."
I can still see Palmeiro pointing his finger at congressmen during the nationally televised March 17, 2005, Capitol Hill hearing, raising his voice and emphatically saying, "I have never used steroids. Period."
Nearly five months later -- on Aug. 2, 2005 -- the four-time All-Star became the highest-profile player suspended for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
That came just a few weeks after Palmeiro, playing for the Baltimore Orioles, joined Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray as the only players with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.
The 2011 Hall of Fame ballot I'm submitting:
Bert Blyleven, Roberto Alomar, Jack Morris.
Blyleven and Alomar will be shoo-ins this time.
Morris, for whom I've been voting for years -- he's on the ballot for the 12th time -- is a long shot.
Blyleven and Alomar were five and eight votes short, respectively, of making it in 2010. No players have been so close and not eventually been elected.
This is Blyleven's 14th (of 15) years on the ballot. I must admit he didn't get my vote most of those years because I think he's one of those borderline players. Yet he's fifth on the all-time strikeout list with 3,701 -- less than only Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Clemens and Steve Carlton. He's 27th in all-time wins, but his 287 victories fall short of the coveted 300.
What kept me from voting for Blyleven early on was the fact that he missed 300 and never finished higher than third in the Cy Young Award voting.
Regardless, he'll be a Hall of Famer and should get inducted along with Alomar and former general manager Pat Gillick on July 24.
I was surprised that Alomar didn't make it a year ago, his first time on the ballot.
He'll have no problem picking up the extra votes to put him over the top this time.
Alomar's spitting incident with umpire John Hirschbeck and the fact that his career went downhill so drastically while he was with the New York Mets probably kept voters from making him a first-ballot selection.
You cannot overlook the fact that Alomar was one of the best second basemen of all time. He won 10 Gold Glove Awards, the most in history by a second baseman, and he had a career .300 batting average with 210 homers and 474 stolen bases.
As Toronto's GM, Gillick -- elected to the Hall during the Winter Meetings by the Expansion Era Committee -- made the trade with San Diego that brought Alomar to the Blue Jays. Gillick said "Roberto is the best all-around second baseman I've been around in the last 20 years."
I think Morris is a Hall of Famer because he was one of the most dominant pitchers of his era. I have never been able to understand why he doesn't get more support. His vote totals have increased since 2000, when he received just 22.2 percent of the vote. Last year, he finished fourth, with 52.3 percent. Morris had three 20-win seasons but never won the Cy Young Award. His 254 wins and 3.90 ERA have probably turned voters away.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.