Don’t be fooled, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds remain in PED purgatory
Don’t be fooled by the percentages.
The chances of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds making the Hall of Fame didn’t necessarily improve with the results of the 2016 voting, which were announced Wednesday.
Yes, the respective percentages of both former greats jumped, Clemens from 37.6 percent to 45.2 and Bonds from 36.8 percent to 44.3. But both are still well short of the 75 percent minimum needed for induction – and both actually received seven fewer raw votes than they did a year ago from the eligible members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
The percentage increases for Clemens and Bonds, then, were something of an illusion — and almost directly attributable to the Hall’s decision last July to eliminate voters who were more than 10 years removed from actively covering the game.
That decision led to 109 fewer votes than in 2015 – fewer votes by older writers who as a group presumably were less inclined than younger voters to support players linked to performance-enhancing drugs.
So, while a number of writers, including myself, revealed publicly that they were voting for Clemens and Bonds for the first time, the two players lost other votes, some from the 109.
In the words of U2, they’re running to stand still.
The Hall is not going to trim another 100 or so older voters every year; subsequent reductions will be far less dramatic. Clemens and Bonds might gain additional voters who are uncomfortable excluding them now that a player suspected of using PEDs, Mike Piazza, has been elected to the Hall. But only a relatively small number of writers changed their minds this year..
(Piazza, in his comments to reporters Wednesday night, all but ran from the PED question, saying: “The fans understand there’s no flawless institution. It’s the human condition that we all make mistakes. … What I’m trying to say is, the game has healed and they’ve addressed the issue and we’re moving on and trying to be as positive as we can be.”)
Easy for Piazza to say — he’s in. Clemens and Bonds each have six years of eligibility remaining — six years to gain the more than 130 votes necessary for induction, based on the 2016 numbers (Clemens received 199 votes, Bonds 195). Maybe the opposition to them slowly will crumble, particularly with younger voters who will join the electorate after serving the requisite 10 years in the BBWAA. But would you bet on it?
Mike Mussina made the most meaningful gain in this year’s election, jumping from 24.6 percent to 43.0 by adding 54 votes. Edgar Martinez was next, going from 27 percent to 43.4 by adding 43 votes.
Thanks to the reduced electorate, Tim Raines went from 55 percent to 69.8 despite increasing his actual vote total by only five. Jeff Bagwell went from 55.7 percent to 71.6 despite increasing his total by only nine.
Raines and Bagwell are close enough to 75 percent to reasonably expect induction, as is Trevor Hoffman, who received 67.3 percent of the vote in his first year on the ballot — a sign that writers will embrace the best one-inning closers.
Clemens and Bonds, on the other hand, still must make up considerable ground. Six years is a long time, and perhaps enough voters will soften their positions toward players linked to PEDs during that period. Just don’t be fooled by the latest percentages.
Clemens and Bonds did not make any sort of leap forward on Wednesday. If anything, they barely got off the ground.