(AP) Mark McGwire could miss out on making the Hall of Fame because of baseball’s swirling steroids scandal, heightened by his refusal to answer specific questions before Congress, an Associated Press survey showed Thursday.
Barry Bonds would get enough support to make it into Cooperstown, but he’s far from being a shoo-in, according to results from 155 Hall voters polled this week among the roughly 500 eligible.
Only 65 said they would vote for McGwire when he becomes eligible in two years or were leaning that way; 52 said no or were leaning that way and 38 were undecided.
Bonds received 105 votes for election, 25 against and 25 were undecided.
Players need 75 percent of the vote to get into the Hall.
McGwire got just 55.6 percent support from those who gave a yes/no response, while Bonds was at 80.8 percent.
“I will not vote for Mark McGwire,” Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times said. “It’s obvious from his own statements he used some form of performance-enhancing drugs and it’s obvious from his statistics he did not become a Hall of Fame-type player until he did so.”
McGwire and Bonds are two of the biggest names in baseball — one past, one present.
McGwire hit 583 home runs and ranks sixth on the career list, and broke Roger Maris’ record in 1998 by hitting 70 home runs.
Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001, breaking McGwire’s mark. He now has 703, just 52 shy of Hank Aaron’s record.
Among the 20 players to hit 500 homers, all who have appeared on the ballot are in the Hall.
“Right now I’m sort of sitting on the fence, but leaning toward not voting for McGwire or Bonds because they cheated,” said Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News, himself a member of the Hall’s writers’ wing.
“McGwire had the opportunity to say something, but didn’t. To me, that’s sort of like pleading the Fifth Amendment and not denying he did it,” he said.
Subpoenaed by a congressional committee to testify last week, McGwire repeatedly refused to discuss whether he used illegal performance-enhancing drugs, saying he would not talk about the past.
The slugger was roundly criticized by fans, media and politicians – even in Missouri, the state where he set the home-run record while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals.
“He had a chance to help himself, help his sport, a chance to help kids and the parents sitting behind him and he just whiffed,” said Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times. “It might as well be a guilt admission.”
Bonds, who has denied using illegal steroids, was not asked to appear before Congress. But in 2003, the San Francisco star testified before the federal grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, known as BALCO.
Henry Schulman, who covers the Giants for the San Francisco Chronicle, plans to vote for both.
“The Hall of Fame is not a museum for saints. It’s filled with racists, philanderers, players who used cork bats and spitters and everything at their disposal to their advantage,” he said. “It’s hard for me to single McGwire out. Unless he commits a crime, he’s on my ballot.”
As for Bonds, Schulman said: “I think he was a Hall of Famer before he had those monster home run seasons. … Even if he were convicted of a crime, I would probably give him my vote to be consistent within myself. I’ve always felt Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. I’d have to get some damning evidence confirmed on Barry before I would knock him off my first ballot.”
There’s no telling when members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will be asked to decide on Bonds – players must be retired for five years before going on the ballot.
The AP contacted members of the BBWAA who are eligible to vote or will be by 2007 and asked whether they would support Bonds and/or McGwire for the Hall. Seventeen of those were AP sports writers.
This year, 516 votes were cast for the Hall by BBWAA voters, who must be members of the organization for 10 consecutive years or more. The total of eligible voters is likely to increase slightly by the time McGwire and Bonds appear on the ballot.
Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal said no to McGwire — but not because of the steroid issue.
“The only thing he has done to make him worthy of the Hall of Fame was break the home run record,” he said. “Overall, he hasn’t been good enough to get in.”
Dan Le Batard of The Miami Herald said he would vote for both.
“Barry Bonds is the greatest player of our lifetime, with or without steroids. He won three MVPs as a stick figure,” he said. “I don’t think they were cheating. Something has to be against the rules for you to be cheating. Despite their size, these guys climbed through a loophole.”
Baseball did not ban steroids until 2002.
“I begrudge the era that tolerated this more than I begrudge the man,” said Jeff Horrigan of the Boston Herald, who said he would vote for both. “You can’t wipe out the ’90s.”
Chris Haft, who covers the Giants for the San Jose Mercury News, would vote for Bonds but isn’t sure about McGwire.
“I think a lot more will come out between now and two years from now. The events will make our decision a lot easier,” he said. “All of us who vote take this really seriously. We also have the right to change our mind, because we’re painfully human.”
The following AP Sports Writers contributed to this report: Nancy Armour, Bob Baum, Dave Campbell, R.B. Fallstrom, Rick Gano, Fred Goodall, Stephen Hawkins, Joe Kay, Tim Korte, Larry Lage, Rob Maaddi, Janie McCauley, John Nadel, Alan Robinson, Arnie Stapleton, Doug Tucker, Howard Ulman, Joseph White, Bernie Wilson, Steven Wine and Tom Withers.