The next Baseball Writers vote for Hall of Famers is going to be a wild one and it will be fascinating to watch those who have ballot power (I do not) operate as they either torture themselves trying to decide who to vote for or come up with tortured arguments against voting for someone whose statistics clearly show he deserves to get in.
Recently, Barry Bonds, pretty much example No. 1 of the above, told MLB.com that he definitely belongs in the Hall of Fame. “Oh, without a doubt,” he said. “There’s no doubt in my mind.”
There has never been any doubt in Barry’s mind about anything he ever did, it seems. But just what he did to become the all-time home-run champion has never been clear. There is a widespread perception that Bonds used illegal supplements to enhance his body in order to slug for the moon. Although there have been convoluted and charges, there never has been smoking-gun type evidence that Bonds cheated. So what’s a voter to do?
Likewise with pitcher Roger Clemens. The guy won a boatload of games, mostly with the Red Sox, Yankees, and Blue Jays, was increasingly suspected of using substances that would not pass muster with Hershey’s or Nestle’s. Not so long ago, Clemens was acquitted in a court case that brought charges that he lied to Congress over his usage of illegal performance enhancing drugs.
If voters were waiting to see if law enforcement personnel and court cases gave them irrefutable evidence to work with and downplay Bonds’ and Clemens’ numbers, they are out of luck. Bonds, indeed, spoke up on Clemens’ behalf in the same MLB.com report. “They accuse whoever,” Bonds said. “Who cares? He was acquitted. He deserves the same rights as everyone else does.”
Bonds, Clemens, Sammy Sosa (who hit 609 home runs, but was also under a suspicion cloud), Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling and Craig Biggio are all going to be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time next time. Each will have their supporters. Bonds and Clemens dwarf the statistics of the others as great as they were.
Bonds played 22 years with the Pirates and Giants and smacked the all-time record 762 home runs. He drove in 1,996 runs and walked a record 2,558 times with a lifetime average of .298. He won the Most Valuable Player award a record seven times. His career on-base percentage was .444 and he was a 14-time All-Star. There is no disputing that Bonds was a great player.
Clemens was one of the greatest pitchers in history, winning 354 games, striking out 4,672 batters, and winning the Cy Young Award a record seven times during a 23-year career.
I suspect there is going to be crazy batting splitting, with some writers ranking Bonds and Clemens 1-2 (or the other way around), while at the same time some voters will leave them off their ballots altogether. Sosa is going to be ranked third by some and not at all by others. Depending on how many voters handle in which way, Sosa, who is most closely identified with the Cubs, Piazza, Schilling and Biggio could all be shut out–for now. Each would be much better off if their eligibility began in a different year than this one.
On numbers alone, Bonds and Clemens are first-ballot Hall of Famers. Given the controversy that will swirl, I am going to bet that none of the first-time Hall candidates gets in on the first try. But in the end, I believe that most of them will, and on this one, lacking clearcut proof of cheating, I’m with Bonds in saying he belongs in the Hall.
Tags: Barry Bonds Boston Red Sox Chicago Cubs Craig Biggio Curt Schilling Cy Young Award Hall Of Fame Mike Piazza MLB.com MVP New York Yankees Pittsburgh Pirates Roger Clemens Sammy Sosa San Francisco Giants Toronto Blue Jays