PHOENIX – With Barry Bonds’ eligibility running out, baseball minds are split on whether one of most talented players in history should be in the Hall of Fame.
Despite continuing to trend upward in recent years, Bonds still hasn’t gotten the 75 percent of the vote needed to be enshrined in Cooperstown.
On Tuesday, voting revealed the former Arizona State standout secured 59.1 percent.
“I never, ever check his name,” ESPN baseball analyst Pedro Gomez said. “I think those that do check his name have no issue with it. They’re looking at it differently.”
Despite his accomplishments, Bonds became the face of what many baseball purists describe as a tainted era in the sport’s history. Bonds’ name has been tied to steroid use.
His resume speaks volumes. In 22 seasons, Bonds won an unprecedented seven NL Most Valuable Player awards. He is the only player in baseball history to have 500 steals and 500 home runs. His record of 762 home runs has not been surpassed. He won eight Gold Glove awards and finished with a career .444 on-base percentage.
Bonds never eclipsed 40 percent of the votes in his first three years on the ballot. However, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America has gone through a changing of the guard, with a wave of new, younger baseball writers having a vote. With that influx of new blood, Bonds began trending upward.
Steve West, a biographer for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), said younger baseball writers tend to care less about the influence of performance enhancing drugs.
“They think Barry (Bonds) was a great player and deserves to be in,” West said.
The support Bonds has received from voters has risen steadily, going from 44.3 percent in 2016 to 59.1 percent in the most recent balloting.
Bonds has received support from a number of baseball pundits, including the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Jayson Stark, and ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian, Keith Law and Peter Gammons. According to a tweet from ESPN’s Jeff Passan, 70.6 percent of first-time voters had Bonds on their ballot, reinforcing the idea that new voters’ opinions of Bonds differ from long-standing members of the BBWAA.
This is staggering.
Of the 232 who revealed ballots to @NotMrTibbs, 71.1 percent voted for Roger Clemens and 70.6 percent for Barry Bonds.
Of the 193 whose ballots remain private, 45.6 percent voted for Roger Clemens and 45.1 percent for Barry Bonds.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 22, 2019
However, Bonds now has only three years of eligibility remaining on the BBWAA ballot, and with his voting totals increasing only marginally year-to-year (he gained 2.7 percent from 2018 to 2019), it appears many voters remain steadfast in their opposition.
The most notable caveat to Bonds’ case is the recent induction of some other players associated with PEDs.
“Mike Piazza got in, and everyone who covered baseball knew Mike Piazza was using PEDs, and everyone knew Jeff Bagwell was using PEDs, ” said author Jeff Pearlman, who wrote “Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero.” “There came a point, and I guess it’s a fair question, ‘If we’re going to let guys like Piazza and Bagwell in, well, Bonds is better than both of them, so we might as well let him in.’”
Many argue that Bonds produced numbers that were Hall-of-Fame worthy long before his PED usage. Throughout the 1990s, Bonds was a force. He hit for power and average while consistently putting up 30 or more steals and home runs a year en route to a slashline of .301/.432/.603.
Still, many voters have not been swayed, including Gomez, who said that Bonds can only blame his own decisions if he is never enshrined.
“If you play 18 holes of golf, and you are having the round of your life for 17 holes, and on the 18th you shoot one into the woods and you say, ‘You know what, I’ve had such a great round, I’m just going to drop one from here,’ your whole round is gone at that point,” Gomez said. “He could’ve easily been a Hall of Famer on the first ballot, but he made a choice.”
The clock is ticking for Bonds. Over the seven years he has been eligible, he has gone from receiving 36.9 percent of the vote to 59.1 percent. Although the winds seem to be shifting in his favor, they might not be blowing strongly enough to get him to Cooperstown.
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