Baseball Hall of Fame results: How a rule change ensured Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens wouldn’t get voted in


Congratulations. It appears you have gotten your wish. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have not been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and are now off the ballot. 

Who is “you” in the above sentence? 

We can’t be totally sure. It’s not an individual. It’s a group of people. A group of people who really, really didn’t want Bonds and Clemens in the Hall of Fame. 

In July of 2014, the Baseball Hall of Fame changed its rules for induction. Previously, players on the BBWAA ballot receiving at least five percent of the vote could hang around on the ballot for up to 15 years, assuming they never dipped below five percent (or got into the Hall with 75 percent of the vote, obviously). After the decision to change the rule in 2014, however, players now were only allowed to stay on the ballot for a maximum of 10 years. Three players were grandfathered into the rule, as they were already past 10 years (Don Mattingly in his 15th year, Alan Trammell in his 14th and Lee Smith in his 13th). 

Everyone else on the ballot was now subject to the new rule, including Bonds and Clemens, who had already been on the ballot for two voting cycles. Yes, a rule was changed midstream. 

The rule change supposedly wasn’t directly due to any specific players, but it wasn’t too difficult to see what was happening. It became even more clear in 2017 when the late Hall of Famer and former Sunday Night Baseball broadcaster Joe Morgan wrote a letter to Hall of Fame voters with an impassioned plea to avoid putting in “steroid users.” He didn’t speak for all Hall of Famers, but he sure wasn’t going rogue. Morgan multiple times mentioned other Hall of Famers. 

For whatever reason, there’s been a line drawn at the so-called PED era from the Hall of Fame and a grouping of current Hall of Famers. 

It’s quite a leap of hypocrisy. Whether we go back to Pud Galvin (a Hall of Famer, by the way) in the 1880s pumping monkey testosterone into his body or we discuss the rampant use of amphetamines (“greenies”) in Morgan’s era, no time period in baseball history is “clean.” None. 

And it is here that I’ll remind everyone that Bud Selig was put into the Hall of Fame by a Hall-appointed veteran committee. Selig was the commissioner when the so-called PED era exploded in Major League Baseball. He contradicted himself in public on different occasions, once claiming he didn’t even know anything about so-called steroids until around 1998 or even 1999 — the great home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa was in 1998 — but also testifying in front of Congress that he was way ahead of the game, knowing it was a problem as early as 1994. 

Selig was also an owner during the collusion scandal, too. Which is a nice jumping off point to wonder: Are we really going to get into judgement of character here? We don’t need to name names, but the Hall of Fame already has plenty of not-so-great human beings. Whether racists, drunkards, abusers or anything else unseemly, it’s hardly a collection of sainthood. 

No, it seems to me the Hall of Fame is a museum to celebrate baseball greatness. Roger Clemens won seven Cy Youngs. No one else has more than five. Barry Bonds won seven MVPs. No one else has more than three. 

They’ll now fall off the ballot (and have their Cooperstown fates lie with a veterans committee) as the rule change has had its intended effect, even if the Hall of Fame wouldn’t explicitly say as much. 

Clemens’ vote percentage since 2016 grew from 45.2 to 65.2 percent in 2022. Bonds went from 44.3 to 66. If there were another five voting cycles with the BBWAA electorate continuing to evolve (I’ll first be a voter in 2024, I’d vote for both and I’m not close to alone), not to mention holdover voters possibly getting different perspectives on the matter the more distance they get from Bonds and Clemens’ playing days, it seems very possible — if not likely — the duo would have made it in. 

Like I said, the rule change did its job. It kept them out. Congratulations, all who wanted this. You got your wish. The line has been drawn. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are not Hall of Famers.



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