The San Francisco Giants have not had a player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame since Orlando Cepeda in 1999. Barry Bonds, who retired in 2007, has been eligible for Cooperstown since 2013. At the time he received only 36% of the vote. In the most recent Hall of Fame balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America, he received 44%. A player needs 75% of the vote to be enshrined.
Bonds finished his career with the second highest Wins Above Replacement (162.4) in history behind Babe Ruth (163.1). To put that number into perspective: Ken Griffey Jr. (83.4) and Brooks Robinson (78.4) are both first ballot hall of famers and their combined WAR doesn’t equal Bonds.
The Giants slugger is the all-time leader in Home Runs (762), Walks (2558), Intentional Walks (688), and fourth in OPS (1.051.) However, there is also plenty of evidence that shows Bonds took performance enhancing drugs while playing for the San Francisco Giants. Despite never being found guilty in court, between grand jury testimony, books written and the court of public opinion, Bonds has become the poster boy for PED’s.
This is why the greatest hitter in most voter’s lifetimes is not in the Hall of Fame. Despite the numbers that are clear and without flaw, there is clearly flaws in the perception and reality of how Bonds earned those numbers. Before anyone suspected Bonds of using anything illegal substance, the former Pittsburgh Pirate was winning Most Valuable Player awards, going to All-Star games and winning Gold Gloves routinely. After signing as a free agent in 1993 with the Giants, Bonds continued to win MVP’s and go to All-Star games. Bonds retired with seven MVP’s 14 All-Star games, 12 Silver Sluggers and eight Gold Gloves. Despite all the on the field success, his attitude towards the same media that votes for him as well as his suspected drug use has led nearly 60% of the BBWAA to keep him out of the Hall of Fame.
Barry Bonds had 334 HR & 380 SB through 1996.
No other player in baseball history eclipsed both of those totals in their entire career.
But it’s not just Bonds that is being kept out. Part of the problem with the current system is you have to get 75% of nearly 600 voters to agree on anyone. On top of that, you have a maximum of 10 players you can include on your ballot. Those two factors have led some voters to leave players off they feel are deserving for others they feel may not get enough votes.
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Tim Raines and Edgar Martinez are two players eligible for the Hall of Fame this year. Raines is in his final year of eligibility and Martinez is getting closer to reaching the end as well. Both players are not only deserving of the Hall, but should have been added years ago. The fact they are still on the ballot creates an unnecessary logjam.
Jeff Bagwell, Raines and Martinez are already in their Hall of Fame, which is why they aren’t on my ballot, but the other 15 that are could all be at risk of being bumped from the ballot altogether. One of the BBWAA rules is that a player must earn a minimum of 5% of the vote. Theoretically, if every voter voted for the 10 most deserving players, at least five of the players I voted for would be removed from the ballot. I wrote about how the Hall of Fame is a museum, not a shrine last January because we have made it far too difficult for a player who doesn’t gain entrance on the first ballot to ever get in.
One of the main reasons is the misconception we have about who should be voted in on the first ballot. We have made first ballot Hall of Famers an even more exclusive club than any in sports and the fact we have made an elite list of players even more elite has blurred the lines of who is and isn’t a Hall of Famer.
In 1936, five legendary players were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson. Many voters have referenced this group as a Mount Rushmore of sorts for baseball, and because none of them were unanimous, nobody should ever be unanimous. The major flaw in this logic is that this was the first ever ballot for the Hall of Fame. There were literally hundreds of names to choose from on the ballot. Legendary players like Cy Young and Tris Speaker and legendary managers like Connie Mack and John McGraw weren’t elected in 1936, and neither were so many other deserving candidates. There was also no set ballot initially. For quite some time, writers simply submitted their own list of names.
As we wait to see how Barry Bonds does in his fifth year of eligibility, we can expect more of the same from the establishment. Instead of just simply looking at who is best, we seem to want to try to make a statement about what the Hall of Fame should be.