Induction into baseball’s Hall of Fame is not for players who were good. It’s not for those who were really good.
It’s for those who were truly great.
Statistically speaking, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were two of the greatest players of all time. They have been eligible to be elected to the Hall of Fame for the past six years.
Neither has been elected. And frankly, neither is really that close.
The results of this year’s election were announced Wednesday, and the headlines focused on the four players who were selected — Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman.
The equally newsworthy element of the day, however, is the continued resistance among Hall of Fame voters to invite Bonds and Clemens to join the legends of the game in Cooperstown.
There’s no mystery why Bonds and Clemens are still on the outside looking in. They are two of the biggest names linked to baseball’s steroid era, even though both have denied — and were never found guilty of — taking steroids.
But when Thome is a first-ballot inductee with 612 home runs, and Jack Morris — elected last month by the Hall’s Modern Era Committee — punches his ticket for Cooperstown with 254 career victories, you can’t help but notice the stink eye the majority of the voters are giving Bonds and his 762 home runs, and Clemens and his 354 career wins and seven Cy Young Awards.
This year, Bonds received votes from 56 percent of the Hall of Fame’s voters. That’s well short of the 70 percent threshold needed for election.
The good news for Bonds is that’s a big improvement from the 36 percent he received in his first year on the ballot. The bad news is this year’s vote total isn’t much of an improvement from last year, when he received 53 percent of the votes.
The trends for Clemens are quite similar in terms of voting results. He received support from 57 percent of voters this year. That’s a big jump from the nearly 38 percent he had in his first year of eligibility, but not much better than the 54 percent he garnered last year.
Both players have four years of eligibility remaining on the current ballot, which is voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America. It’s not impossible to imagine they will somehow win over another 13 percent or so of the voters needed for election.
But the fact their support seemingly stalled suggests there are still quite a few voters who remain adamant that the accomplishments of Bonds and Clemens are suspicious enough that they don’t deserve to be validated.
Maybe Bonds and Clemens are being punished for being too good.
After all, other players who were suspected of taking steroids, such as Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Piazza, have all been inducted in the past two years. Their stats were not close to matching those of Bonds, and none were as dominant at their position as Clemens was among pitchers.
It’s possible voters are simply punishing Bonds and Clemens by making them wait until their final year of eligibility before allowing them into Cooperstown. It’s also possible some voters are washing their hands of the whole controversy, opting to let the retired players who make up the Modern Era Committee decide if the superstars’ peers deem them worthy of induction.
Either way, if Bonds or Clemens want into the Hall of Fame in the near future, they’ll have to buy a ticket like the rest of us.
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