After players gain election into the Baseball Hall of Fame, they are treated royally, like family. Months before standing on the stage in front of tens of thousands of baseball fans and explaining their lives' journeys with baseball greats arrayed behind them, inductees are invited to Cooperstown with spouses and guided through the Hall -- a castle presented to a new king. Some have said that it's during this initial visit that the honor begins to overwhelm them.
The Hall of Fame bestows the ultimate respect upon inductees, which is why its disrespect of induction candidates is a little shocking, as it continues to steer the voting process like state senators gerrymandering for a desired effect.
Why is this? Well, it doesn't take a strategic mastermind like Buck Showalter to understand that the players most affected by the Hall of Fame's voting machinations are the most prominent of the steroid era candidates: Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, etc.
But there continues to be enormous collateral damage to legitimate Hall of Fame candidates not linked in any way to performance-enhancing drugs: They are losing votes due to the doctored voting process, and not because of anything they did or didn't do on the field. The baseball writers have tried to address the problems by recommending alterations to the voting, but the Hall has ignored those requests and enacted its own change.
Because of all that, we can get the suspense out of the way: Ken Griffey Jr. has impeccable credentials for Hall of Fame induction, with 630 career homers among 1,192 extra-base hits and 10 Gold Gloves, but he will probably not be anything close to a unanimous selection for induction this year. As was the case with Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson, there likely will be voters who will leave him off their ballots as they struggle to come up to with a proper ballot in spite of the Hall's rules.
Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina won't come close to Hall of Fame election this year, again losing votes because of the ballot logistics, while moving another year closer to falling off the ballot entirely. The same will be true for Alan Trammell, Jeff Kent and Fred McGriff and perhaps first-year candidate Trevor Hoffman. McGwire won't be elected in what will presumably be his 10th and final year on the writers' ballot, his candidacy banished into baseball purgatory.
They all deserve to be judged on the merits of their careers, and instead, the Hall of Fame continues to foster rules that allow these former players to be affected by the perceived sins of others.