On the Hall of Fame Ballot: Just Missed

Barry Bonds

For the record, I do support Bonds for the Hall of Fame. This is a fairly recent development, as I’ve gone back and forth on his candidacy for years. I’ve taken the position that he should never be elected, and I’ve heard the argument that he should have gone in on the first ballot. Neither extreme, I think, is a good place to be.

If you take his accomplishments at face value, Bonds is unquestionably in the top five players of all time, and he has a strong argument as #1. He holds the all-time home run record and the all-time walks record. He’s the only player ever to hit 500 home runs and steal 500 bases; in fact, he’s the only player to even reach 400 in both categories. From 2001 to 2004 he had the most ridiculous run of dominance that the game had ever seen since the days of Babe Ruth, and he was an inner-circle Hall of Famer even before that stretch. To top it all off, in his younger days he was arguably the best defensive left fielder ever.

On the merits of his playing career, there’s just no argument anyone can make against Barry Bonds.

Of course, the question with Bonds isn’t about the merits of his career; it’s about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. The argument against Bonds goes like this: He cheated, cheaters shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame, therefore he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. That’s a valid argument; it just happens to be one I disagree with.

At face value, Bonds is arguably the greatest player of all time. Now, let’s discount his numbers because of PED use. Take away that incredible run he had in his late thirties; there’s no way he could have done that without steroids. Take away the all-time home run record. Take away four of his seven MVP awards. Heck, maybe you think he was juicing before the best available evidence says he started (because, hey, cheaters cheat). Take away 100 of the home runs he hit through the 1998 season, too.

Do all that, and Bonds is still a 300-300 guy. He’s still a fantastic defensive outfielder. He still has his legendary batting eye. Apply the most absurd, speculative demerits you can, and he’ll still rank in the top 50 players of all time.

In my mind, there’s really no way to argue that Barry Bonds, even without steroids, isn’t a Hall of Famer.

Still, he did cheat, and that’s why I’m okay with making him wait. That’s not a vindictive thing; it’s just the reality of the pool of Hall of Fame candidates this year. Right now, the writers can vote for 10 candidates, and even excluding Bonds and the other members of the (known) PED crowd, there are more than 10 qualified candidates. Once the logjam at the top of the ballot is clear, we can and should put Barry in, but not before.

Roger Clemens

Well, I’ve already explained my position on the Rocket, haven’t I? Just as Bonds is arguably the greatest position player of all time, Clemens is arguably the greatest pitcher of all time. As a starting point, he has 354 wins (ninth all-time, second only to Maddux in the last half-century), 4,672 strikeouts (third all-time), seven Cy Young Awards (most all-time by a wide margin) and an MVP. Discount Roger’s numbers as heavily as you want for PED use, and he’s still going to look like a Hall of Famer.

Like Bonds, Clemens should get into the Hall of Fame eventually. Like Bonds, he should wait until there’s room for him on the ballot.

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