For the Hall of Fame candidacies of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the urgency is starting to set in.
Another year, another ballot by the Baseball Writers Association of America and the two most controversial players on the ballot aren’t too much closer to Cooperstown. And now they have just two more years to reach the necessary threshold of 75 percent of the vote, like Derek Jeter and Larry Walker did Tuesday.
Bonds finished this year’s ballot at 60.7%, up slightly from 59.1% last year. Clemens was about the same. He finished at 61 percent, up from 59.5% last year.
They’ve seen only incremental change over the past four years. Bonds was at 53.8% in 2017 and Clemens was at 54.1%. Getting a seven-percent boost over four ballots doesn’t put them on the path to 75 percent.
It’s enough to make you wonder whether voters on each side of the PED debate have dug their heels in and aren’t changing their minds.
How Sosa, Schilling and Manny fared
Those aren’t the only two controversial names on the ballot, so let’s look at few more:
• Sammy Sosa, whose candidacy has been hit harder than anyone from the PED era, finished at 13.9 percent compared to 8.5 last year. He also has two more years on the ballot. For Sosa, 75% seems like a lost cause.
• Manny Ramirez, the only of these players to be suspended for PED use, finished his fourth year on the ballot at 28.2 percent compared to 22.8 last year. He’s also a long way away.
• Curt Schilling isn’t controversial for anything related to PEDs. With him, it’s all politics and hateful social-media posts. Still, Schilling is on the “controversial” list, whether you agree with it or not. This year, he got closer than ever with 70%, up from 60.9. He has two more years on the ballot, and could be on the trajectory to get inducted.
Here’s a year-by-year look at the vote for all five players:
What’s the future hold for Bonds, Clemens?
Bonds and Clemens remain the most polarizing names in this debate. Their only hope at this point seems to be the BBWAA bringing in new voters who are more sympathetic to the PED era and phasing out ballots from old-school voters who don’t cover the sport anymore. With these totals, however, there would have to be a lot of new Hall of Fame voters to change the results.
Hall of Fame history has shown that if a player gets 70 percent of the vote, there’s a good chance he’ll get 75 percent the next year. That’s promising for Schilling and it creates a benchmark in 2021 for Bonds and Schilling. If they can’t get to 70% next year, there’s a good chance they’ll never reach 75% on the BBWAA ballots.
The next step would be getting on one of the Hall of Fame’s era committee ballots. They’ve been more generous in recent years after being stingy for so long. They let in Marvin Miller and Ted Simmons in this year.
With another year past and another ballot behind us, It’s looking more and more like that may be Bonds and Clemens’ only path to Cooperstown.
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