Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens faced each other for a total of only nine plate appearances during their long careers: twice in All-Star Games and twice in regular-season games. Bonds went 0-for-4 with four walks, a hit by pitch and two strikeouts.
But the players are forever linked for something they are believed to have done off the field: used performance-enhancing drugs. It’s the only reason neither is in the baseball Hall of Fame.
It used to seem as if there was never going to be a day when Clemens and Bonds would make the Hall. The taint of PEDs has kept one of the best pitchers and best hitters of all time far, far away from getting the 75 percent of the vote required to achieve baseball immortality.
That may be changing. Although neither Bonds nor Clemens is expected to be among those elected to the Hall of Fame class of 2017 when the results are announced on Wednesday, both are poised to record their highest totals since becoming eligible for a plaque in Cooperstown.
How do you feel about the possibility of PED-tainted stars sharing the hallowed Hall with the heroes of your youth? In a year or two, it could happen. It’s certainly trending that way.
According to public ballots collected and tabulated by ballot tracker Ryan Thibodaux as of late Friday night, Bonds was named on 64.3 percent of ballots and Clemens was named on 63.8 percent. Each is in his fifth year on the ballot and has five more to go — if necessary.
Whatever the final numbers from voting by eligible members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, Bonds and Clemens likely will score much higher than they have in the past, which suggests that the taint of PEDs may be washing away over time.
Bonds’ percentages in his first four years of eligibility: 36.2, 34.7, 36.8, 44.3.
Clemens’ percentages: 37.6, 35.4, 37.5, 45.2.
So what’s the deal? Are PEDs suddenly OK in the minds of the voters?
Not exactly. But changes to the voting rolls by the Hall of Fame in the last few years have purged some of the more veteran writers who no longer cover the sport but still were allowed to cast ballots. Those voters are believed to have been tougher on players who have been linked to PEDs.
Also, some writers have said this voting season that the election of former commissioner Bud Selig to the Hall by the 16-person Today’s Game Committee in December caused them to rethink their opposition to PED-tainted players. Selig was in charge at the beginning of the Steroid Era, the thinking goes, and he did little to combat it until it became impossible to ignore, so if he’s in, the players should get in, too.
According to Thibodaux’s tireless work, the players most likely to be elected on Wednesday (with public vote percentages through late Friday) are Tim Raines (91.5 percent), Jeff Bagwell (91.0), Ivan Rodriguez (79.9), Vladimir Guerrero (74.4) and Trevor Hoffman (73.4).
Bagwell and Rodriguez have been linked, fairly or unfairly, to PEDs in the past. It’s Bagwell’s seventh year on the ballot and Rodriguez’s first.
Many felt the election of former Mets star Mike Piazza last year was a softening of the anti-PED stance of many voters (or a byproduct of the purge). Although Piazza has always denied PED use, he wasn’t elected until his fourth year on the ballot despite having career numbers that easily were Hall-worthy.
It will be many years until the issue goes away. Some writers, fans and players — especially some Hall of Famers — will never accept PED-tainted players in the Hall.
Here’s one juicy storyline to consider if Bonds and Clemens don’t crack 75 percent this year or the next four years and stay on the ballot all the way to their final year of eligibility in 2022:
That will be Alex Rodriguez’s first year on the ballot. Maybe Bonds, Clemens and A-Rod should all go in together.
Hall of Fame to some. Hall of Shame to others. You may not have a vote, but you get to decide that one for yourself.
Wednesday, 6 p.m.
Leading contenders: Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman
Updates at newsday.com/mlb