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Over the long haul, Barry Bonds’ Hall of Fame prospects aren’t that bad

Aug 10, 2012, 2:00 PM EDT

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Gregg Doyel has a column up over at CBSSports.com about why he thinks Barry Bonds is a Hall of Famer. This part, though, about his CBS colleagues, is interesting to me:

CBSSports.com has seven baseball writers—three with actual HOF votes—and five of the seven said they would vote for Bonds. That’s 71.4 percent in favor of induction, with 75 percent required for admittance.

Again, that’s a small sample size—and here comes an even smaller (but more telling) sample size:

Of our three Hall voters at CBSSports.com—longtime baseball writers Scott Miller, Danny Knobler and Jon Heyman—just one said he’d vote for Bonds. Which one? That’s for him to say, if he chooses. Point being, Bonds’ candidacy is supported primarily by the newer-media bloggers at CBSSports.com, an ominous trend given that most Hall voters are longtime writers from the Miller, Knobler and Heyman mold.

I’m not sure it’s quite so ominous. I agree that the longer-tenured, more established voters are more likely to be anti-Bonds and anti-PED guys in general, and that for that reason he faces a tough road for some time. But time marches on and that electorate is going to change quite a bit in the next 15 years.

And it will be 15 years, because even if Bonds doesn’t get in any time soon, it’s almost certain that he’ll get enough support to remain on the ballot.  Mark McGwire does, after all — he has ranged from 19% to 23% in the voting since he’s been on the ballot — and there’s no rational reason anyone who votes for McGwire wouldn’t vote for Bonds.

Add more to Bonds, in fact, because some people who don’t vote for McGwire don’t withhold votes simply because he did PEDs, but rather, because they are the “discounters,” as it were, and simply think that McGwire wouldn’t be in the conversation without PEDs (i.e they discount some credit for is career totals due to PED use). Such voters likely will feel differently about Bonds given what he did before it’s generally accepted that he did PEDs, figuring that even with the discount he’d be a Hall of Famer.

So, that gives you a baseline of, at the very least, 25% or so for Bonds. And I’d bet that he gets something closer to 50% of the vote.  Then you add in the demographic shift.

It takes ten years as a BBWAA member to become a Hall of Fame voter. So even if one is just admitted to the BBWAA this year — as we here at NBC are going to attempt to do — Barry Bonds will still be on the Hall of Fame ballot for five years after one is allowed to vote.

Not that it’s just starting now, of course.  Younger voters who are more inclined to be open to Bonds’ candidacy — I’d say anyone who began regularly covering baseball in the nineties or later — began being admitted to the BBWAA several years ago and are being given Hall of Fame ballots in greater numbers. Many — especially the web-based members like Keith Law, Rob Neyer, Will Carroll, the Baseball Prospectus guys and the FanGraphs guys — are still several years away.  The upshot: between now and the end of Bonds’ theoretically continuing unsuccessful candidacy, there should be a pretty significant shift in the aggregate attitude of the Hall of Fame electorate.

So, yes, Bonds’ odds of being elected are pretty long in the short term.  But it would surprise me greatly if Bonds spent 15 years on the Hall of Fame ballot without being voted in.

In fact, I’d even offer to eat my hat if I’m wrong, but I’m guessing they will have cured baldness by 2027, so I will no longer have a need for hats.

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