With five more years left on the ballot, the clock is ticking on the Hall of Fame chances of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, legendary talents whose Cooperstown trajectories were derailed by PED-related scandals. Based on the balloting trends revealed in Wednesday night’s results, however, it appears that both ultimately could get their plaques, and possibly as early as 2019.
Clemens jumped to 54.1 percent from 45.2 a year ago, gaining 40 votes, and Bonds was close behind at 53.8 percent, an impressive bump from 44.3 last winter, as he picked up 43 more votes. Apparently, that’s a good spot to be at the halfway point of their eligibility. According to Yahoo Sports, only three players in history failed to reach the necessary 75 percent for induction after getting more than 50 percent of the vote.
That trend is likely to continue. Bonds and Clemens scored more than 90 percent on the ballots of first-time BBWAA voters this year, as the previous hard-line stance against PED-soiled candidates appears to be softening over time.
Both also did well on ballots publicly released before Wednesday’s announcement, thanks to data compiled by Hall of Fame tracker Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs), with Bonds appearing on 64.4 percent and Clemens on 63.2. That’s a significant trend to watch, because next year the BBWAA will reveal every ballot instead of doing so on a voluntary basis. (Only 242 of 442 chose to make theirs public this time.) The increased transparency could alter voting patterns to some degree.
But while two of the more vilified players made significant gains this year, another controversial figure, Curt Schilling, took a major hit that undoubtedly was related to his recent off-the-field conduct. Schilling, who climbed as high as 52.3 percent in 2016, dropped to 45.0 as he lost 31 votes. A handful of BBWAA members had publicly stated they planned to penalize Schilling for re-tweeting a well-circulated photo of a T-shirt that advocated lynching journalists, with his own comment, “Ok, so much awesome here . . . ” Schilling later apologized, but whether the damage is permanent won’t be known until next year’s ballot.
Another pitcher who has competed with Schilling on the ballot but usually lagged behind him is the former Yankee Mike Mussina — and that dynamic was flipped by Wednesday’s results. Mussina jumped to 51.8 percent from 43.0, an increase of 40 votes that should put him in serious contention with six years left on the ballot. As for another Yankee, Jorge Posada, his Hall of Fame campaign ended almost as soon as it began. Posada received only 3.8 percent (a total of 17 votes) and is off the ballot after failing to get the required 5 percent to stay. He fell just six votes short.
The Hall of Fame vote totals for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens continue to trend upward. Their percentages for the five years they’ve been on the ballot:
36.2 2013 37.6