Hall pass

Another election, another controversy, though this one may not have the same impact as the presidential race or even the special Senate election. But the results of the Baseball Hall of Fame voting will certainly generate as much discussion as either of those votes.

For the first time since 1996 and only the eighth time since the Hall’s first class that included Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and Ty Cobb, the Baseball Writers Association of America did not elect anyone to Cooperstown, and unlike recent years, there is no doubt performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) took their toll on the entire roster of eligible players. The loudest and best statement on the balloting may be today’s New York Times sports front, which, under the headline “Welcome to Cooperstown,” is blank.

Former Red Sox ace and villain Roger Clemens and all-time home run king Barry Bonds were once seen as mortal locks for first ballot entry to the Hall of Fame. Then along came admission of human growth hormone use (Bonds, though he says he thought it was an ointment) and suspicion and accusations of HGH use (Clemens, who was prosecuted for lying to Congress about his use). What once seemed preordained by the baseball gods became a game of “how low can you go,” with Clemens and Bonds finishing  8th and 9th in the balloting, getting 37.6 percent and 36.2 percent of the votes, respectively. Election requires 75 percent of the 569 ballots.

Five writers, including former Herald columnist Howard Bryant, who lives in western Massachusetts and now toils for ESPN, submitted blank ballots, ensuring the threshold to reach 75 percent was that much more difficult for anyone.

The Boston Globe ran the ballots of all five of their voters. Three voted for Bonds and Clemens while two notable throwback Knights of the Keyboards, Dan Shaughnessy and Bob Ryan, refused to put them on their list of greats.  Likewise, the Herald’s Steve Buckley and John Tomase blanked Clemens and Bonds.

Interestingly, the four Boston scribes who ignored the PED twins voted for Curt Schilling, who finished ahead of Bonds and Clemens with 38.8 percent of the vote. There is a school of thought that Schilling’s numbers, which would normally get him entry to the Hall of Really Good, though Not Great, Players, benefitted from the perception of competing clean in an era of dirty peers. It’s not unlike the argument that saw Sox Hall of Famer Jim Rice’s stock rise, if not his actual statistics, to get him in Cooperstown on the 15th and final year of his eligibility.

There’s also a school of thought that the taint of ‘roids is damaging all players from the era, casting shadows on the careers of guys like Jeff Bagwell, who was a light-hitting, rail-thin third baseman in Boston’s farm system before becoming a monster home-run hitting first baseman for the Houston Astros. And Mike Piazza, whose offensive numbers would match any of the great catchers enshrined in the Hall, fell 49 votes short of election.

Many of those on the ballot were in their first year of eligibility and have another 14 tries to increase their vote totals. Maybe the criteria that guide baseball writers – which say voters shall weigh “integrity, sportsmanship, character,” as well as playing ability – will be rethought. Or perhaps the voting process will be changed. More likely, though, as eligible players with no hint of PED use such as Greg Maddux, Ken Griffey Jr., and Sox legend Pedro Martinez are on the ballot, the spotlight on the suspected players – and an era – will become even more harsh. (Don’t expect Manny Ramirez, with two failed tests and two suspensions, to make it past his first year.)

It seems like eons ago when Mark McGwire, less than a year removed from his historic assault on Roger Maris’s single-season home run record, stood at home plate in Fenway Park during the 1999 All Star Home Run Derby and blasted ball after ball over the left field wall that threatened to break windshields on passing cars on the Mass Pike. Soon after, both he and fan innocence disappeared from the playing field.

                                                                                                                       –JACK SULLIVAN

BEACON HILL

Gov. Deval Patrick will propose sweeping reform of the state’s controversy-  and corruption-plagued housing authorities, including replacing the 240 separate authorities with six regional offices to oversee low-income public housing in the state.

“The Dans” — state Rep. Daniel Winslow and state Sen. Daniel Wolf — face-off in a new CommonWealth video conversation on state taxes and spending.

Attorney General Martha Coakley sues Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua for failing to file a 2011 campaign finance report and pay off the resulting $5,000 fine, the Eagle-Tribune reports. An Eagle-Trib reporter waited in Lantigua’s office for 90 minutes but the mayor refused to be interviewed.

Eugenie Beal, in a CommonWealth commentary piece, writes that gun owners who are so enamored of the Second Amendment ought to be willing to provide public service to the state through a newly-constituted militia.

The New Bedford Standard-Times has an interview with MassINC research director Ben Forman about the think tank’s report being released today calling for a 10-year, $1.7-billion “transformative redevelopment” investment by the state into Massachusetts’s Gateway Cities. The Lowell Sun story on the proposal is here.

The Brockton Enterprise says the legislative pay cut is a good start but calls for lawmakers to repeal the voter-approved statute that ties their salaries to median household income and do the dirty work themselves.

CASINOS

Hard Rock International is expected to join the Western Mass. casino sweepstakes with a proposal for a gambling hall at the Eastern States Exposition fairgrounds in West Springfield.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Officials come clean about why Saugus High School principal Joseph Diorio has been missing since before Christmas break. Diorio was placed on paid leave while an independent audit is conducted into school finances, the Item reports.

Somerset officials will have to deal with a loss of $2.7 million to the town budget after more than 300 tax bills were sent out with last year’s lower tax rate, including to the town’s largest taxpayer, the Brayton Point Power Station.

Medford’s scruffy Meadow Glen Mall is heading for a major makeover.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

With November’s election of liberal firebrands like Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin, who join ideological compatriots elected in 2006 and 2008 like Bernie Sanders, Al Franken, and two Udalls, “the Senate has a core of assertive, brainy liberals greater than we have seen in decades,” writes Norman Ornstein in The New Republic.

Tufts Health Plan CEO James Roosevelt may be in line to run the federal Social Security Administration, the Globe reports. If Roosevelt gets the nod, he would be in charge of the program his grandfather, Franklin D. Roosevelt, signed into law in 1935.

The Atlantic makes the case for a higher federal minimum wage.

Here’s the latest in a string of obits for the Tea Party.

ELECTIONS

WBUR interviews Dr. Donald Berwick, who is mulling a run for governor .

FISHING

US Rep. John Tierney says he plans to file an amendment to the pending Hurricane Sandy relief bill for $150 million for fisheries disaster relief.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A report from the left-leaning National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy says many of the nation’s big banks are stingy when it comes to charitable giving as a percentage of their corporate revenues.

EDUCATION

The troubled Gloucester Community Arts Charter School was scheduled to close on Friday, but it shut down at midday on Wednesday instead, the Gloucester Times reports.

The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in Worcester buys a building with plans to convert it into rental apartments for graduate students, staff, and faculty, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

HEALTH CARE

A flu emergency is declared in Boston, NECN reports. CBS reports a widespread flu outbreak in 44 states and 18 deaths in Massachusetts.

A new study shows the rate of cervical cancer is down but cancers caused by the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus are on the rise in both men and women.

TRANSPORTATION

New MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott seems to becoming a regular on Greater Boston.

Joan Vennochi says things are a little too cosy between the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail Company, which has the contract to run the state’s commuter rail system, and the MBTA, which awards the contract.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Governing asks: Should parking lots be taxed to fund bike paths?

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Renowned defense attorney Tracy Miner is facing criminal charges for hosting an alcohol-fueled New Year’s Eve party at her Scituate home for her teenage daughter and her friends that was broken up by police.