With three more bites at what is a very tainted apple, all-time greats Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens still have hope of getting into the Hall of Fame.
Bonds and Clemens — linked forever in greatness on the field and accusations of performance-enhancing drug use off of it — both moved up slightly in balloting that was announced on Tuesday night. They each have three more years left on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot under current rules.
Bonds, baseball’s all-time home run king, was named on 59.1 percent of the ballots. Seventy-five percent is needed for induction to Cooperstown.
Bonds’ total has increased nearly every year since he debuted on the ballot in 2013 with 36.2 percent. Last year, Bonds earned 56.4 percent.
Barry Bonds HOF voting
2013: 36.2 percent (on 206 of 569 ballots)
2014: 34.7 percent (198/571)
2015: 36.8 percent (202/549)
2016: 44.3 percent (195/440)
2017: 53.8 percent (238/442)
2018: 56.4 percent (238/422)
2019: 59.1 percent (251/425)
Clemens, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner and two-time former Yankee, was named on 59.5 percent of the ballots, up from 57.3 percent in 2018. In 2013, in his first year of eligibility, Clemens earned 37.6 percent.
Roger Clemens HOF voting
2013: 37.6 percent (on 214 of 569 ballots)
2014: 35.4 percent (202/571)
2015: 37.5 percent (206/549)
2016: 45.2 percent (199/440)
2017: 54.1 percent (239/442)
2018: 57.3 percent (242/422)
2019: 59.5 percent (253/425)
The debate about whether to admit Bonds and Clemens to Cooperstown apparently will go on for at least three more years.
The reason why both players’ vote totals have increased, especially over the last few years, can be traced to a few factors: a changing Hall of Fame voting body, evolving attitudes about the so-called Steroid Era; voters who chose to punish Bonds and Clemens for their alleged transgressions in early ballots, but always intended to let them into the Hall at some point.
As Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and The Athletic wrote in 2015 when he changed his vote from “no” to “yes” on both players: “I voted for Bonds and Clemens. I might vote for other alleged and confirmed users in the future. Honestly, I’m no more content with my current ballot than I was with my previous ones. But at the same time, I no longer could justify snubbing two of the greatest players of this era.”
Rosenthal has voted for both players ever since.
But for other voters, Bonds and Clemens will never be on their ballots.
One such voter, columnist Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Bay Times, wrote on Tuesday: “The Baseball and the Hall will forever be lost to me if these cheaters are enshrined. I vote for the Hall. I never vote for Clemens and Bonds. And I never will. And I’ll never apologize. People can argue with me, throw numbers at me, present logic to me. I’ll stop voting before I change my mind. My gut says cheaters don’t belong. My gut will throw up if these two get in.”
Voters do not have to reveal their ballots. The BBWAA voted in 2016 to make all ballots public beginning with the 2018 election, but the Hall of Fame rejected this change and voters still can keep their ballots private if they choose.
According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, of the 232 publicly revealed ballots tabulated by the web site bbhoftracker.com, 71.1 percent voted for Clemens and 70.6 percent voted for Bonds. But of the 193 ballots which remained private as of Tuesday night, 45.6 percent voted for Clemens and 45.1 percent for Bonds.
If neither player is elected in the next three years, they will pass to the Today’s Game Committee, which is currently a 16-person group consisting of Hall of Famers, baseball executives and veteran media members. That group voted in Harold Baines and Lee Smith in December as part of the Class of 2019.
One Hall of Famer who does not have a vote in any forum – Reggie Jackson – said over the weekend that “Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens should be in. It's time."
But the voters don’t agree. At least not yet.