Should Hall Voters Finally Make The Call To Include Clemens, Bonds?
Over the course of the next few weeks, 400 members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will pour over statistics, sort through memories and decide how heavily ethical behavior should be weighed when voting for the Hall of Fame Class of 2019.
Done correctly, voting for as few as one or as many of 10 players on the ballot, is painstaking, very hard. You compare numbers. You consider impact, popularity and charisma. You envision how their plaques will mesh with those already taking up wall space in Cooperstown. You wonder if someone will look one day and wonder why it’s there.
No Greater Honor
For the players on the ballot, the honor is the ultimate. Imagine doing something for a living and being assessed as spectacular enough to be considered among the best ever, even if it’s just for one year. It’s something to cherish forever, put in the Christmas letter.
Of course, just being considered remarkable, perhaps even the greatest to ever play the position, is no longer a guarantee of admission. At one time, having 3,000 hits, 500 homers or 300 wins were measures of worthiness. That is no longer the case. Now you have to do that while being the ultimate rule-follower.
A Thorn In The Rose
With some candidates, even powerful numbers have taken a backseat to conduct, being perceived as accomplishing those great things in honorable fashion by adhering to the rules of fair play and behavior. No shortcuts are allowed. No attempt to get an unfair advantage will be tolerated.
You know the story of Pete Rose, the MLB’s hit king. He bet on games. He circumvented the rules in a manner most heinous. Former Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti literally worked himself to death in 1989 making sure Rose was adequately punished. He remains on the outside of the Hall looking in, likely forever.
Another Tough Call
But as the sportswriters walk into the voting booth again – actually, it’s a printed ballot sent via U.S. mail – a question that has lingered since 2013 rears its head once more. In fact, it may be an issue the voting body will have to consider until it gathers to vote for the Hall of Fame class of 2022.
Should Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, on some scorecards as the most prolific hitter and starting pitcher of the last quarter-century, be excused for their apparent use of performance enhancing drugs and granted entry into the Hall of Fame despite it all.
Rules Of Eligibility
This is how the voting works: In order to be nominated, a player must be retired for five seasons. To be elected, a player needs to receive at least 75 percent of the votes. Candidates who receive at least five percent of votes this year, will included on the 2020 ballot.
Anyone who receives less than five percent are immediately eliminated from contention. Either way, all candidates are limited to 10 years of eligibility before losing it for good. As an example, 15 players fell short of the minimum 75 percent to get in, but had enough support to stick around.
Taking Another Swing
Back for another at-bat: Edgar Martinez (70.4), Mike Mussina (63.5), Clemens (57.3), Bonds (56.4), Curt Schilling (51.2), Omar Vizquel (37.0), Larry Walker (34.1), Fred McGriff (23.2), Manny Ramirez (22.0), Jeff Kent (14.5), Gary Sheffield (11.1), Billy Wagner (11.1), Scott Rolen (10.2), Sammy Sosa (7.8) and Andruw Jones (7.3).
This is the final year of eligibility for Martinez and McGriff. This is Walker’s ninth try, the seventh for Bonds, Clemens, Schilling and Sosa. Sheffield is on his fifth ballot, Wagner his fourth, Ramirez his third, Jones, Rolen and Vizquel their second. Maybe they are not fated to be Hall of Famers.
Clemens, Bonds More Popular
In the 2018 vote, Clemens and Bonds received their highest percentages in the first six years of candidacy. Once you look at their numbers, you will notice both have slowly gathered support over the years: 2013: Clemens (37.6) and Bonds (36.2). 2014: Clemens (35.4) and Bonds (34.7). 2015: Clemens (37.5) and Bonds (36.8). 2016: Clemens (45.2) and Bonds (44.3). 2017: Clemens (54.1) and Bonds (53.8).
Attitudes are beginning to shift in Bonds’ and Clemens’ direction. Perhaps the passage of time has softened hearts. Perhaps younger writers are voting now, a generation who learned the love the game in the 1980s and 1990s when PEDs were apparently popular.
Hall May Become Picky
So what does this mean for 2019 or the years that follow until Clemens and Bonds are dropped from the ballot in 2022? Let’s tighten the focus and see. First of all, the voters have been extremely generous over the last five years, inducting a record 16 players.
Last year’s class included Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman. To some, the Hall has been too lavish. Jones, the great third baseman for the Atlanta Braves, led the way, named on 410 of the 422 ballots (97.2 percent), unbelievable support for any player, as we will soon explain.
Johnny Damon: Hall Of Famer?
Much of the clutter that resided on the 2018 ballot has been cleared: Jamie Moyer, Johan Santana, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Chris Carpenter, Kerry Wood, Livan Hernandez, Carlos Lee, Orlando Hudson, Aubrey Huff, Jason Isringhausen, Brad Lidge, Kevin Millwood and Carlos Zambrano. Yes, nature has a way of naturally taking care of things.
In their place for the first time: Rick Ankiel, Jason Bay, Lance Berkman, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, Travis Haffner, Roy Halladay, Todd Helton, Ted Lilly, Derek Lowe, Darren Oliver, Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt, Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, Mariano Rivera, Miguel Tejada, Vernon Wells, Kevin Youkilis and Michael Young.
Make Room For Martinez
Take a look at the list of returning players. Who catches your eye? Edgar Martinez, for sure. There has never been a greater designated hitter. Martinez had 6,218 at-bats as a DH and hit .314 with 243 home runs. He won the AL batting title in 1995 with a .356 average, scoring 121 runs with 52 doubles and an on-base percentage of .479.
By the time he was done, Martinez has posted a career .312/.418/.515 stat line. Larry Walker is the only other player in the game’s history to put up numbers like that who is not already in the Hall of Fame. Amazing, right?
History Points To Success
Last year, Martinez fell five votes short (297) of induction. But his chances are good in his final year of eligibility — 19 of the 20 players to get at least 70 percent of the vote have eventually been voted in.
Who else might seem to make sense? Mike Mussina, perhaps? He received 63.5 percent in his fifth year on the ballot. That’s a huge jump from the 20.3 percent and 24.6 percent he picked up in his first two tries. What might hurt is he didn’t win 300 games or a Cy Young. Then again, many great hurlers can say that.
It Could Be Moose Season
Mussina was also facing tough competition in the AL East, where he spent all 18 MLB seasons. How many times did he have to get Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams out or work out of jams at Fenway Park? And for many of those seasons, the Orioles were certainly less competitive than the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays.
Mussina was a five-time All-Star and perennial Gold Glove winner for the Orioles and Yankees. His WAR of 82.7 ranks 19th since 1901. Mussina also has accumulated 48.6 wins above average, which is 13th all-time, better than Warren Spahn and Bob Gibson.
Not Everyone Agrees
Aside from Bonds and Clemens, perhaps one could make a case for Schilling, Vizquel and Walker. But maybe not. As for the new class of nominees, there is no doubt you can start making room Rivera, the greatest relief pitcher in history. He is in. No doubt. Unquestioned. The statue aside Yankee Stadium is next.
The only question is will he be a unanimous choice. Not since the first Hall of Fame class was inducted in 1936, and that included Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb and Walter Johnson, has anyone been named on 100 percent of the ballots.
Icons? Yes. Unanimous? No.
Cobb grabbed 98.23 percent of the 226 votes cast. The Babe was on only 95.1 percent as was Wagner. Mathewson garnered 90.7 and Johnson managed only 83.6. Cy Young got only 49.1 percent. Cy Young, for goodness sakes! Imagine, not Jackie Robinson or Lou Gehrig. Not Jimmy Fox or Dizzy Dean. Unthinkable, really.
Ken Griffey, Jr., came the closest, receiving 437 of 440 votes (99.30 percent) in 2016. That was more than Tom Seaver (98.84), Nolan Ryan (98.79), Cal Ripken, Jr. (98.53) and George Brett (98.19). Hank Aaron fell just nine votes short. Willie Mays was shy by 23 votes.
Save A Space For Mariano
More about Rivera: There has never been a greater example of class and absolute domination than the sleek righthander. He played in New York for 19 years and never was connected with unscrupulous behavior. And that says a lot when you consider how hot the city’s tabloids are for sexy news.
Rivera’s 652 saves are the most in the game’s history. His ERA in the postseason was 0.70 in 141 innings with 42 saves. And he played for five World Series champions. Yankee fans will also remember he was the guy who got the last out for four of them.
Numbers Go To WAR
If you want to get analytical about it, take a look and Rivera the way Oakland general manager Billy Beane, the innovator of Money Ball might. Mo’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is 56.3, by far the best of any relief pitcher. Hoyt Wilhelm is second (50.1) followed by Rich Gossage (41.9), Trevor Hoffman (28.1) and Rollie Fingers (25.1).
Aside from Rivera, we assume Pettitte, Halladay and Helton will generate attention. Pettitte’s case will be interesting, simply because he was a member of all those great Yankees teams, but he really was never an ace, not in the way Clemens was.
Pettitte, Morris: Mirror Images
Then again, Jack Morris is a Hall of Famer and Pettitte’s 256 wins and 3.85 ERA are on the same block. Pettitte won 19 postseason games, the most in the game’s history. But his ERA in the playoffs was 3.81. And he shared the Yankee Stadium stage with David Cone, David Wells, Mike Mussina, Clemens, Orlando Hernandez and C.C. Sabathia, among others. He never quite owned it.
Of course, Pettitte also admitted to using performance enhancing drugs and although he seems to be perceived more positively than Clemens and Bonds, one never knows how the voters will receive him. Look how long it took Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza, more deserved members, to get elected.
Will Hall Call The Doc?
Halladay, who died in Nov. 2017 when the plane he was piloting crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, won Cy Youngs with the Phillies and Blue Jays and finished second twice. From 2002-11, he averaged 219 innings, had a 2.97 ERA. He won 20 games three times.
On May 29, 2010, he pitched a perfect game against the Marlins, striking out 11. And on Oct. 6, 2010, he pitched a no-hitter against the Reds in the first game of the NLDS. The only other postseason no-hitter was Don Larson’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Helton Once Peyton’s Backup
Helton, once a backup quarterback at the University of Tennessee to Heath Shuler and Peyton Manning, was a fabulous hitter and first baseman. During his 17-year career, entirely with the Rockies, he slugged 369 homers with 2,519 hits, 1,406 RBIs and a .316 batting average. He was definitely at his peak from 1999-04.
He hit .344 and his power numbers equated to 37 homers and 121 RBIs each season. Who wouldn’t want someone like him in the middle of a lineup? Since 1900, only 19 players with at least 5,000 plate appearances have put up numbers like .300/.400/.500. You guessed it. Helton is one.
Summing Up The Competition
Of course, voters may look at these numbers and believe they were more a product of playing at Coors Field than an indication of Helton’s talent. Just look at the trouble Walker has had and he is the greatest Colorado Rockies hitter ever. It’s a weight all Rockies hitter must carry.
So let’s review: Edgar Martinez and Rivera are locks. Schilling, Mussina, Halladay, Pettitte, Helton, Vizquel and Walker definite maybes. Seriously, folks. With the exception of Rivera, an all-time great, do any of these guys deserve to even stand in the shadow of Clemens and Bonds? You know the answer. No.
The Controversy Continues
Still, controversy will continue to swirl about these generational comets in the opinion of the Hall of Fame voters, that is. They were both mentioned in the Mitchell Report, that explored the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in MLB.
Bonds was involved in a grand jury investigation after the BALCO scandal and was indicted for obstruction of justice. He was convicted in 2011, but that decision was overturned in 2015. Bonds also admitted to the use of a cream given to him by his trainer which he understood to be nothing more than a nutritional salve for arthritis.
Morgan Against PED Users
Some Hall of Famers, such as the late Willie McCovey, pleaded for Bonds admission. Other, like Joe Morgan, argued strongly against it. Morgan, the vice chair of the Hall’s board of directors, sent a letter to voters in 2017. He strongly urged them not to admit alleged PED users.
“We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall,” wrote Morgan. “They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here. Players who failed drug test, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in MLB’s investigation of steroid use, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in.”
Hall Has Passed Judgment
What’s important to note is neither Bonds or Clemens actually failed a drug test, and it was apparent during the home run era they played, that MLB officials may have known about PED use and didn’t particularly care. The attention the game was getting far outweighed the reason it was happening.
The Hall has already passed judgement on two other implicated superstars, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. It is in the process of making its mind up about Sheffield, Sosa, Manny Ramirez and Pettitte. As an example, Ramirez twice failed drug tests and missed 150 games because it of it.
Suspicion Didn’t Block Bagwell
It has already voted in Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez, all of whom have been suspected, but never charged, with PED use. And when the Hall did, there was reason to suspect its attitude about these players might have shifted, become more understanding and forgiving. A new day had come, perhaps.
And in a few years, it will be faced with the quandary of what to do with Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz and perhaps Ryan Braun and Bartolo Colon. ARod hit 696 homers but missed the 2014 season because of PED use. Ortiz alleged tested positive in 2003.
Bonds Was Something
Bonds hit more homers (762) than anyone. He won seven MVPs with the Pirates and Giants. He played from 1986-07 and his on-base percentage of .444 in sixth all-time; slugging percentage (.607) is fifth; OPS (1,051) is fourth; walks (2,558) is first, RBIs (1,996) is fifth; runs scored (2,227) is third; extra-base hits (1,440) is second; times on base (5,599) is second.
His WAR (162.4) is second only to The Babe. Bonds set the single-season home run record (73) in 2001, averaging one homer every 2.1 games. He played in 14 All-Star Games, won eight gold gloves and owns 16 Silver Sluggers. Like Ted Williams, he failed to win his only World Series appearance in 2002, but unlike Williams, Bonds totally dominated the seven-game epic with a .471 batting average, four homers and an incredible OPS of 1.381.
Clemens One Of The Greats
Clemens won 354 games (ninth all-time) and won the Cy Young seven times. Before the 1997 season began, Clemens was already 192-111 and had won three Cy Youngs and an MVP. He led the league in strikeouts three times, wins four times, winning percentage three times, complete games three times, shutouts six times and innings twice.
By the time his 24-year career was over, Clemens had won seven Cy Youngs and had led the his leagues in either wins, strikeouts or ERA 16 times. His team won six pennants and two World Series. He struck out 4,672 hitters, third all-time.
No Win (Or Lose) Situation
After he was implicated by The Mitchell Report, he decided to dispute the results by testifying before Congress. That turned out to be a mistake. His testimony led to six counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress.
He was first cleared in a mistrial in 2011 before being exonerated on all charges in following year. They are two of the greatest players in the 20th century. That is abundantly clear. Still, there is no comfortable middle ground on their candidacies. The nation of baseball fans seems to be split on whether Clemens and Bonds belong.
Bad Guys Already Inducted
To take one side is to guarantee incurring animosity from the other. This is what the Hall of Fame voters are dealing with. Of course, Hall voters have traditionally ignored startling personality flaws to admit players. There was a day when past indiscretions, including many that would be disqualifiers today, were ignored.
Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker were alleged racists, both supposed members of the Ku Klux Klan in the deep south. Cap Anson and former Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis lobbied vigorously to prevent black players to becoming Major Leaguers. Players popped amphetamines “Greenies” like M&Ms in the 1960s and 1970s.
Derek Jeter Up Next
Grover Cleveland Alexander and Paul Waner were alcoholics. The Babe was a notorious womanizer who drank during Prohibition. Orlando Cepeda served time for selling marijuana. Juan Marichal clubbed Johnny Roseboro with a baseball bat. Gaylord Perry admitted to doctoring baseballs with Vaseline.
As for Bonds and Clemens, they will be joined on the 2020 ballot by a crew led by the Yankees captain, Derek Jeter. He will obviously will join Rivera as a first-ballot inductee since he was a five-time World Series champ and 14-time all-star. He played all 20 seasons with the Yankees and hit .308 the post season.
ARod and Big Papi in 2022
The other first-timers will include Bobby Abreu, Josh Beckett, Eric Chavez, Adam Dunn, Rafael Furcal, Jason Giambi, Paul Konerko, Cliff Lee and Alfonso Soriano. None of those players conjures a image even close to greatness, and none are expected to get in during their time on the ballot.
In 2021, Mark Buehrle, A.J. Burnett. Michael Cuddyer, Dan Haren, Tim Hudson, Torii Hunter, Adam Laroche, Aramis Ramirez, Alex Rios, Nick Swisher, Dan Uggla, Shane Victorino and Barry Zito join. Things change in 2022 — the last year for Clemens and Bonds — with A-Rod and Ortiz leading a ballot that includes Carl Crawford, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, Jake Peavy, A.J. Pierzynski, Jimmy Rollins and Mark Teixeira.
Alternate Route To Hall
Should Bonds and Clemens fail to be inducted via traditional voting, there is always the chance that its Era Committee may come to their rescue. This is how Tom Lasorda, Phil Rizzuto, Bill Mazeroski, Earl Weaver, Tony Lazzeri, Leo Durocher, Walter Alston, Pee Wee Reese, Tom Yawkey and Bill Veeck got in.
As of now there are separate committees charged with reviewing the credentials of players from 1871-1949, 1950-1969, 1970-1987 and 1988 to present. Each of these ballots includes 10 names and at least one the committees will be meeting soon to consider things before the next induction in July 2019.
Committee To Take Orel Quiz
To make this ballot, players considered must have been retired for at least 15 seasons. Managers and umpires must have at least 10 years of experience and either be retired for five years, or be at least 65 years old and retired for six months.
In November, the Hall announced the 10 candidates who will be on the current game’s ballot, which will get together at the winter meetings. To get in, they must receive 75 percent (12 of 16) of the votes. Those players are Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, Lou Piniella, Lee Smith and George Steinbrenner.