SHARECOMMENTMORE

By Bob Nightengale

We didn't juice, take steroids, or even wash down our double-double cheeseburgers with a six-pack of Red Bull.

But we, members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, still pitched a shutout against the powerful Hall of Fame.

For the first time since 1996, not a single player Wednesday was voted into Baseball Hall of Fame.

Not all-time home-run king Barry Bonds. Not seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens. Not even Craig Biggio, who accumulated over 3,000 hits and was suspected of nothing more illegal than take-out slides at second base.

We managed to turn the Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y., in July into an adult fantasy camp, where you too can watch your favorite old-timers because no one new will be joining the exclusive club.

We, the voters, were in a difficult situation. If we put the steroid kings into the Hall of Fame, we had no morals, and were rewarding cheaters. If we kept out everyone, we were morons who wouldn't know a Hall of Famer from a utility infielder.

The ridicule and criticism is starting already, with folks demanding to overhaul the voting system, petitioning for changes, assuring this never happens again. Go ahead and rip away, but you know what, there's nothing wrong at all with today's results.

Shutouts happen, even in today's era of pitch counts. There are no-hitters. Even perfect games. They are rare, but it's baseball, man, anything can happen.

"Shutouts are part of the process,'' Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson told USA TODAY Sports. "It's unfortunate when they happen, but it underscores how seriously the writers take the vote.

"We believe that the process and the rules are right. They are right and fair, giving voters the leeway to vote their conscious. And at the end of day, it underscores just how difficult it is to be elected and earn a plaque.

"The reality is that when you talk about the Hall of Fame ballot, a snapshot view is not just one year, it's 15 years.''

Precisely.

Baseball games last nine innings in regulation. We give each candidate 15 years to remain on the ballot as long as they receive at least 5% of the vote. And if you don't make it on the writers' vote, the veterans' committee can come to the rescue.

Biggio is not a Hall of Famer this year. But he will be next year. Or the year after that. Some day, he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Bonds and Clemens, in time, will be joining them, too.

It's the way the system operates. And it works because getting into the Hall of Fame should not be easy. It took Jim Rice 15 years on the ballot to get in. Bert Blyleven lasted 14 years on the ballot, after receiving only 14.1% of the vote in his second year. Hey, when Robin Yount can amass 3,142 hits, win two American League MVP awards, playing shortstop one year and center field in another, and squeak in by only 12 votes, you understand the exclusivity of this Hall of Fame club.

"Nobody getting in isn't a travesty,'' says San Diego Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus, who played with four possible future Hall of Famers with the Houston Astros -- Biggio, Clemens, Jeff Bagwell and Andy Pettitte. "Not every year should someone get in. This is going to happen. It's the Hall of Fame. The waters get murkier and murkier.''

This year's shutout, if nothing else, sets up a doozy of a party for next year. Greg Maddux, with his 355 victories and four consecutive Cy Young awards, is a slam dunk and should receive the highest vote total in history. Frank Thomas could be a lock with his two MVPs, 521 homers, .301 batting average, and .974 career OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage). Tom Glavine and his 305 victories may be a first-ballot pitcher. Jeff Kent and his record 377 homers by a second baseman will be considered. There's Mike Mussina, too.

And let's don't forget the expansion era ballot featuring late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, Braves President John Schuerholz and former managerial greats Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa.

So, please, let's stop with the dramatics. The Hall of Fame is not broken. There's no need to junk the voting system. There's no need to set up protest groups in Cooperstown. It's fine. Let's give this a chance to see what unfolds as voters discover more information about the steroid era, with perhaps more dark, deep secrets coming to light.

"We're very happy with the process,'' Idelson says. "To pass judgment on a single election doesn't make sense.

"There's no reason for people to be upset.''

Please, time for everyone to chill.

Now, if nobody gets in next year, ooh boy, do we have a mess on our hands.

SHARECOMMENTMORE