COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- A day before welcoming the largest class of living inductees since 1971, the Hall of Fame took a step that could clear away the steroid-era players still hanging around the ballot.
The Hall of Fame's board of directors announced Saturday that the maximum length of stay on the ballot will be reduced from 15 to 10 years.
Jane Forbes Clark, the chairman of the board, said "the steroid era had nothing to do with the decision." But several members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America said the practical effect is that there will be no more toeing the line when it comes to the controversial candidacy of players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire.
"When people say, 'I want to see how it plays out,' now you don't have the luxury to see how it plays out," said Bob Nightengale, the veteran writer for USA Today.
Scott Miller, the MLB columnist for Bleacher Report, said: "It's going to push decisions more to the forefront whether voters are finished agonizing or not."
Bonds, a seven-time MVP who hit record-setting home runs for the Giants, received only 34.7 percent of the ballots cast in the past election, nowhere near the 75 percent required for enshrinement. McGwire, the former A's slugger, has seen his already scant support dwindle to 11 percent in recent seasons. With eight years already on the ballot, he has two cracks left.
"(The rule change) really hurts McGwire," Nightengale said. "It pretty much ends any chance he has."
Three candidates currently on the BBWAA ballot will remain considered for up to the full 15 years -- Don Mattingly (15th year in 2015), Alan Trammell (14th year in 2015) and Lee Smith (13th year in 2015).
Once off the ballot, candidates move to the Era Committee system for review "in perpetuity," according to the Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame board dictates the rules for induction and leaves the voting to the BBWAA.
"We believe the BBWAA has done an excellent job of honoring the criteria advanced by the Hall of Fame. Player's record, contributions to the teams on which the player played, character, sportsmanship and integrity," Clark said in a news release. "The Board believes these changes are necessary to ensure the integrity of the voting process moving forward."
Tony La Russa, an inductee this weekend, hopes McGwire can get in. The former A's manager believes McGwire is a Hall of Famer.
"I definitely think he is," La Russa said. "I think 95 percent of McGwire was legit."