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Ortiz Says It’s Hard to Believe Bonds, Clemens Not in Hall. He’s Right

Sportico
Sportico
 2022-01-26
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Barry Bonds , Roger Clemens , Todd Helton, David Ortiz , Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa — My ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2022.

The Hall of Fame is now right where it wanted to be in 2014, when it changed the eligibility for players on the writer’s ballot from 15 years to 10. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa, stars of Major League Baseball’s so-called steroid era, are now off the Baseball Writers of America Association ballot five years before they otherwise would have been.

For the 10th consecutive year, the BBWAA failed to give any of them the necessary 75% of the vote.

My picks are not how the voting went. When the results were announced Tuesday evening, only David Ortiz got the necessary votes to be inducted at the ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 24.

Bonds had 66% and missed by 36 votes, while Clemens had 65.2%, 39 votes short.

The rule also affected Curt Schilling, though for different reasons; his post-career politics wound up costing him a chance to be elected.

Ortiz, however, received 76.9% and was elected in his first year on the ballot, despite a career that was also scrutinized because of performance-enhancing drugs.

“Barry Bonds was special,” Ortiz said during a video call afterward with the media. “He separated himself from the game at the highest level. I know a lot of things are going on, but to me the guy’s a Hall of Famer. Same with Roger, The Rocket.

“I can’t even compare myself to them. Not having them join me at this time is something that’s very hard for me to believe.”

My choices for the Class of 2022, including Ortiz, Bonds and Clemens, were, for me, clear. I talked to many people, including a few on the ballot, and decided to vote for the best players because of what they did on the field, steroids and politics notwithstanding.

They are some of the greatest players of their era: Bonds, with an all-time leading 762 homers, ranks up there as best of all-time. But many of them won’t have a place in the vaunted plaque room of the red-bricked Hall of Fame and Museum on Main Street in Cooperstown.

Besides Ortiz, the induction ceremony behind the Clark Sports Center will include two living players among the six elected late last year by the era committees—Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat. Both are 83 years old.

Bonds couldn’t be reached for comment, but Clemens released a statement.

“My family put the Hall of Fame in the rearview mirror 10 years ago,” Clemens said just after the vote was announced. “I didn’t play baseball to get into the Hall of Fame. It was my passion. I gave it all I had the right way for my family and my fans. I would like to thank all the people who took the time to look at the facts and vote for me. Hopefully now we can close this book.”

Not quite yet, Rocket. In addition to the writer’s ballot, the Hall of Fame has selection committees for prior eras, giving some players who were passed over on the writer’s ballot another chance. That’s how Oliva and Kaat got in.

It’s now left to the Today’s Game Committee to give Bonds, Clemens, et al, another shot. That 16-person committee meets again later this year. But the mathematics of the committee vote make it difficult for any of them to be elected, which the late Dick Allen found out, losing by a single vote the last two times he was on that ballot.

It’s not a transparent process, and there weren’t enough votes to go around for someone as controversial as Allen to be elected.

Simply put, there are 10 names placed on the ballot of any era committee. There are 16 voters, every committee composed differently. Each can vote for a maximum of four candidates. That’s 64 total votes. To be elected, a candidate needs to be named on least 12 of the 16 ballots, the requisite 75%.

That means four candidates have a chance to be voted in, with an outside possibility of a fifth.

In this year’s Golden Days Era balloting, a rare four players were voted in: Minnie Miñoso had 14 votes. Kaat, Oliva and Gil Hodges each garnered 12. Allen just missed with 11. That accounts for 61 of the 64 votes. The Hall announced that the other five candidates had all amassed three votes or fewer.

Because voters are sworn to secrecy, and how the Hall reports the results, there’s no way of knowing where those final three votes were apportioned.

So how does that effect the future candidacy of Bonds and Clemens?

The next Today’s Game Era ballot is sure to be stacked. Remember, even more significantly, that the era committees are the only way to vote managers, umpires and executives into the Hall. The BBWAA doesn’t rule on any of them.

Start with the players: Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and Schilling. They’ll face competition from Fred McGriff, a favorite who fell off the BBWAA ballot in 2019 after his 10th year with a final tally of 52.4%.

Among managers, Bruce Bochy and Lou Piniella have great cases. Bochy won three championships with the San Francisco Giants and retired in 2019. Piniella received 11 votes in 2018, the last time the committee met, and elected Harold Baines and Lee Smith, both controversial picks.

Let’s not forget umpire Joe West, who just retired having worked more than 5,376 games, the most in MLB history.

Late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner also has recently been on the ballot, although he’s received little traction.

This will be the challenge later this year and in 2024 when the committee meets again: Will there be enough votes for Bonds and Clemens to be elected? Probably not.

Bonds, Clemens and Sosa all became eligible for BBWWA consideration in the Class of 2013. That year was the first of two times during their period on the writer’s ballot that the BBWAA declined to elect a single candidate. (The other was 2021.)

In 2014, the Hall’s board of directors, trying to correct the process, cut the eligibility time by a third.

“The Hall of Fame is all about relevance,” then Hall president Jeff Idelson said at the time. “In a study of Hall of Fame voting over its history, it has become clearly evident in the last 30 years or so that after 10 years, the likelihood of election is incredibly minimal. The idea of making it more relevant was attractive to the board. We think it maintains the integrity of the process and for those [who] fall off the ballot after 10 years, it gets them to consideration by the era committees a little sooner.”

The fact is that of the 135 players voted into the Hall by the BBWAA, 12 were elected after their 10th year of eligibility. Most recently, Jim Rice was elected in 2009, his 15th year, and Bert Blyleven in 2011, his 14th. Rice’s margin of victory was razor slim, a mere eight votes.

Tell them how minimal the likelihood of their election was.

In 2013, Bonds received 36.2% of the vote, Clemens 37.6%. Those totals have gone up by 30 percentage points in 10 years. It’s reasonable to believe, as the BBWAA electorate and times change, that both would have been elected during the next five years.

But the Hall changed the rules on them after they earned their way on to the ballot. It was a small-minded decision, and the Hall of Fame is much more irrelevant because of its own actions.

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