On each BBWAA voter's Hall of Fame ballot you'll find the following instructions: 

Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

That's just broad enough to cover everything, which is the point. Within those 23 words, though, are some puzzling word choices. For instance, how is the voter supposed to discern between a candidate's playing record and his playing ability? And how are those distinguished from his "contributions to the team(s)"? Then, of course, there are the three words -- "integrity, sportsmanship, character" -- that have come to be known informally as the "character clause" of the ballot instructions.

As we know all too well, the character clause has been wielded inconsistently over the years and decades. Right now, it's keeping Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two of the greatest performers ever based on the numbers, out of the Hall because of PED allegations. It's probably costing Curt Schilling some votes because of his controversial behavior on social media since his retirement. On the other hand, a number of players who used amphetamines in the 1960s and 1970s have been enshrined. Any number of racists and rogues from the early days of modern baseball have plaques. Gaylord Perry leaned heavily on a banned spitball to build his Hall of Fame credentials. Juan Marichal attacked a player with a bat during a game. Mickey Mantle squandered a non-quantifiable amount of his legendary talent through his lifestyle choices (and may have used a corked bat). Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb were involved in a gambling scandal. We could go on, of course, in citing examples of those who have fallen prey to the clause or had it conveniently ignored to their benefit. The point is its grossly inconsistent application.

Such longstanding uncertainty brings us to the recent sign-stealing scandals that have afflicted the game. You'll recall that the Astros were punished for stealing signs via electronic means during their championship season of 2017 and beyond. As part of the fallout, Alex Cora, former Astros bench coach, was cut loose as manager of the Red Sox (penalties likely loom for Boston and Cora for similar behavior during their championship season of 2018), and Carlos Beltran was forced to step aside as manager of the Mets before he'd skippered even a single game.

According to MLB's investigation of the Astros, Beltran in his final season as a player helped devise the Astros' sign-stealing system. He was the only player named in commissioner Rob Manfred's report.