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Bonds and Clemens Next Step in the HOF Process

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After ten years on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) ballot, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have been denied admission to the Hall of Fame. While this was a disappointing outcome for many baseball fans, Bonds’ and Clemens’ chance at the Hall of Fame is not over. In December 2022, the Today’s Game Era Committee will meet to consider the two icons’ Hall of Fame cases yet again.

What is the Today’s Game Committee?

There are multiple ways to get elected to the hall of fame. The most common way for players is to get elected through the BBWAA ballot, which considers players who have played 10 seasons of Major League Baseball and have been retired for five full seasons. Last year, 405 members of the BBWAA were eligible to vote for members of the Hall of Fame. Eligible players needed 302 votes or 75% of the vote to get elected. Only David Ortiz received the necessary amount of votes, as Bonds and Clemens received 260 and 257 votes respectively.

The second way players can get elected to the Hall of Fame is through the Veterans Committee. Players who are no longer on the BBWAA ballot, along with managers, umpires, and executives are eligible for election. The Veterans Committee is divided into four different eras:

All of the committees meet during the MLB Winter Meetings, and consist of 16 members chosen by the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors. The top ten contributors from each era are chosen as finalists, and must reach the 75% threshold among the 16 voters to get inducted into the Hall of Fame. The Today’s Game Committee meets next in December 2022.

Who is on the Today’s Game Committee?

The 16 members of the Today’s Game Committee selected to vote consist of Hall of Fame members, executives, and media members. The last time that the Veterans Committee met was in December 2019. The voters consisted of:

While the members of the committee for the upcoming election will not be the exact same, the voting between the different versions of the committee will be relatively consistent.

Will Bonds and Clemens make it?

The first way to analyze this question is by looking at past elections.

On one hand, the threshold is probably significantly lower for players to make it into the Hall of Fame through the Today’s Game Committee. In the 2019 election, Harold Baines was inducted with exactly 75% of the vote. Baines never received more than 6.1% of the vote in any BBWAA election, and received less than 5 votes from the Today’s Game Committee two years earlier. Baines was below average by HOF standards in almost every metric, and he only had a career WAR of 38.7. But, the committee was still willing to induct him, since the candidates on the ballot have all already missed their chance to enter the Hall of Fame through the BBWAA process.

On the other hand, Mark McGwire was on the ballot in 2017. He received less than 5 votes, and was dropped from the ballot in 2019. While McGwire does not come close to the accolades of Bonds or Clemens, he does provide an example of a player with HOF accolades that got denied because of PEDs.

The second way to answer this question is by breaking down the individual voters. The 2019 committee may not be the exact same as future voters, but it should give a decent idea of what future voters may think of the two controversial candidates. 2019 voters can be broken down into four main categories.

Members that would likely vote for Bonds and Clemens: Bert Blyleven, Greg Maddux, Tony La Russa, Tim Kurkjian, Claire Smith. Blyleven has publicly voiced his disapproval against players suspended for steroid use, but believes that Clemens and Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame. Similarly, La Russa suggested that players that used steroids should be let in, but with an asterisk. Maddux indicated that players who were good enough to make the Hall of Fame without steroids should be let in, which clearly includes Bonds and Clemens. Kurkjian and Smith have both voted for Bonds and Clemens previously on BBWAA ballots.

Members that have reason to vote for Bonds and Clemens: Pat Gillick, John Schuerholz, Joe Torre. Many of these managers and executives were greatly benefitted from PED-users, such as Torre, who won two World Series with the Yankees due to the help of Roger Clemens. Torre has publicly stated he does not believe Clemens used steroids.

Members with zero to limited public record on Bonds and Clemens: Al Avila, Paul Beeston, Andy MacPhail, Jerry Reinsdorf, Steve Hirdt, Roberto Alomar. It is hard to tell how these members would vote, but the lower threshold for letting players into the Hall from the committee may help Bonds and Clemens in this case.

Members that would not vote for Bonds and Clemens: Ozzie Smith, Joe Morgan. Both Smith and Morgan have stated they do not believe steroid users should be let in the Hall of Fame.

Given these two factors, it is reasonable to believe that Bonds and Clemens will be let into the Hall of Fame through the Today’s Game Committee. While it may not happen this election, it is highly likely that Bonds and Clemens are eventually allowed in, given their consistent increases in voting and the induction of other players linked to steroid use, such as Ortiz. Let’s hope that day comes sooner rather than later.

main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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