Skip to content

I wonder if Bonds and Clemens might make the Hall of Fame this year after all

Nov 29, 2012, 11:00 AM EDT

clemens getty Getty Images

My strong presumption is that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will not make the Hall of Fame this year. I think, at best, they get about 50% of the vote and stay in that limbo-land until the anti-PED crowd’s fever breaks.

But I just read something that makes me wonder if I’m being too pessimistic. It’s a column from Ian O’Connor of ESPN New York in which he takes the “Bonds and Clemens were so good that you have to vote for them even though they juiced” tack. Kind of a “discounter” argument which, while obviously flawed, makes some degree of sense and allows one to differentiate between guys like McGwire and Palmeiro on the one hand — guys who may not have had Cooperstown numbers without PEDs — and Bonds and Clemens on the other, who were gonna make it regardless.

This is somewhat surprising coming from O’Connor, because he has, in the past, given off all the indications of a “PED use = disqualification” kind of guy.  Back in 2010 he demanded that Mets general manager Sandy Alderson offer a public apology for being complicit in allowing “the monstrous steroid culture to grow fangs on his watch.”  Earlier that year he eviscerated Alex Rodriguez as a player who “cheated the game, cheated the fans and cheated himself” and wrote that nothing could “absolve him of his not-so-venial steroid sins.”

I know there is a vast, silent block of Hall of Fame voters who don’t actively write columns and tweet like O’Connor does and who do not, per their job description, think all that much about baseball.  As such, he may not be truly representative of the electorate and thus it may be premature to view O’Connor’s surprising reasonableness about Bonds and Clemens as some sort of harbinger.

But it is interesting. Very, very interesting.

  1. giantboy99 - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:09 AM


    • Detroit Michael - Nov 29, 2012 at 12:24 PM

      I’m not sure why all the thumbs down for the above comment. I don’t think there’s any way that in the first year on the ballot that 75% the BBWAA voters will vote for Clemens or Bonds. Whether that’s the approrpriate course of action is a different debate.

      • philsieg - Nov 29, 2012 at 12:44 PM

        Possibly because he’s SHOUTING in a tone immediately dismissive of any other POV?

      • mrwillie - Nov 29, 2012 at 1:21 PM

        No shot is not being on the ballot at all. If your on it, you have a shot, no matter what the odds may be.

      • e5again - Nov 29, 2012 at 2:44 PM

        Todd Walker has no shot.

      • klbader - Nov 29, 2012 at 3:27 PM

        So you’re saying there’s a chance.

  2. Shafer's Dealer - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    Vote them in so Craig can go back to writing riveting articles on which joker jumped on twitter to demand a rule change following an incident.
    I live for that as much as I do the game itself….

  3. jase44 - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    I think this needs to be a non-grey area issue. If found guilty for using PEDs you are disqualified, if it is only alleged then you can’t hold that against a ballot vote. In the grand scheme of things how can we as a society possibly honor people who cheat to get results. We have to set better examples for future generations. Would you condone your 16 year old kid using steroids to get a leg up on competition, most likely not, so let’s not celebrate those who do

    • 18thstreet - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:40 AM

      Gaylord Perry is in the Hall of Fame.

    • amhendrick - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:52 AM

      If you’re caught now, you get a 50 game suspension (25 for amphetamines). Why should a player be permanently banned from the HOF when he’s allowed to play again after only a couple of months?

    • shynessismyelguapo - Nov 29, 2012 at 1:20 PM

      “”I’ve cheated, or someone on my team has cheated, in almost every game I’ve been in.” — Rogers Hornsby. Man Already Honored by Hall of Fame

      • salvomania - Nov 29, 2012 at 1:38 PM

        Kick out Mays, Mantle, Aaron, etc.

        All greenie users. The same PED that has Carlos Ruiz suspended for the first 25 games of 2013.

        MLB players have ALWAYS used what’s out there to enhance performance, and just as greenies were condoned by MLB—the clubs made them available them before every game!!—so were steroids.

        Just as the Greenie Generation played, won, lost, accrued stats, etc. during the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s, so to did the Roid Generation of the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s.

        If the Greenie Generation is hall-eligible, so too should be the Roid Generation.

  4. Ben - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    I just wonder if I’ll care this year?

    • 18thstreet - Nov 29, 2012 at 12:49 PM

      It’s weird — I obviously care, in that I read these threads and comment on them all the time. I have opinions. But as soon as they elected Jim Rice, I just felt like, “Eh, who cares what they think? They don’t know.” Tim Raine was better than Jim Rice. (Hell, Rick Reuschel was better than Catfish Hunter.) I don’t know what I need 75 percent of a group of writers to validate my opinions. I really don’t.

      • shynessismyelguapo - Nov 29, 2012 at 1:08 PM

        I hear you on not wanting to care, but being unable to help. I got extremely bored during one month long span and created my very own personal Hall of Fame. I did it right to, I meticulously looked over statistics, used the Keltner List for any candidates I had the slightest doubt about, challenged my own discriminatory opinion and hypocrisies….

        At the end of the search, I looked upon my list of HOFers…discovered it was basically just a list of players more than 60 WAR (with a few exceptions) and lamented the many, many hours of my life I’d wasted doing so.

  5. dan1111 - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    I don’t see why the “discounter” argument is “obviously flawed”. It seems like a reasonable position to me. If a player broke the rules in order to enhance performance, it seems important to consider that in his Hall of Fame case, both for statistical and character reasons. It just needs to be given a reasonable amount of weight, in light of baseball’s long history of cheating and bad behavior.

    In fact, Craig’s recent article in favor of Bonds and Clemens seems to assume the discounter position: he mainly argues that they should get in because they would have been Hall-worthy even without steroids. This implies that steroids should be a factor if they may have increased performance to a HOF level.

    As for them getting inducted this year, I seriously doubt it. I think the optimistic position is next year: I think many writers who plan to vote for them eventually will still register their protest by keeping them from being first-ballot inductees.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:55 AM

      I’m totally fine with the discounter argument and have, as you note, advocated for it in some form myself over the years.

      But just because I find it reasonable and use it myself doesn’t mean I believe it is perfect. It is flawed in that we can’t always know when a player used and when he didn’t and we have far, far from perfect information about the effects of steroids on player performance. Indeed, I’m sure it works quite differently for different players depending on their workouts, they type of player they are and any number of other factors.

      Put differently, just because I agree with something doesn’t mean I think it’s without flaw. In this case I think it’s the least flawed of several flawed options.

  6. Stiller43 - Nov 29, 2012 at 12:08 PM

    I would like to think there would be some punishment involved to those who cheat the game, especially when they obviously cheat and then lie about it (see: bonds, arod, cabrerras plan to lie). Any suspension players may get usually doesnt make up for providing the boost it provides (see: cabrerra almost won a batting title and could have received a contract representative of that if he wasnt busted. Worth 50 games? You betchya.)

    The HOF voting, as i understand it, does include integrity. If voters perceive those player to lack integrity, i have no problem not letting them in.

    At the end of the day, for players like bonds and clemens, people are going to regard them as some of the greats with or without a HOF induction anyway.

    • paperlions - Nov 29, 2012 at 1:17 PM

      People that cheat the game. Who “cheated the game” more: owners that refused to sign black players for the better part of a century or players that took steroids during an era in which everyone (fans, media, coaches, front offices, owners) encouraged its use?

      Along those same lines, there is more evidence that amphetamines help performance than steroids do, and players took steroids from the late 1940s through the early 2000s. Man, that is a LOT of generations of players that cheated the game.

      • paperlions - Nov 29, 2012 at 2:46 PM

        EDIT: Obviously was supposed to say “players to amphetamines from the late 1940s through the early 2000s”, steroid use apparently didn’t start until the 60s.

      • ezthinking - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:05 PM

        You forgot cocaine and heroine were legal until the 1920’s. Good bet the players didn’t stop using the medicine.

  7. rodge1 - Nov 29, 2012 at 12:16 PM

    They should make a PED-HOF just for them with Jose Canseco as the master-of-ceremonies.

  8. sdelmonte - Nov 29, 2012 at 12:27 PM

    O’Connor’s a curious one. He’s neither one of the ESPN-NY reporters I recoil from (Wally Matthews, Stephen A) nor one of the ones I trust (Adam Rubin). Sometimes he is saying something just to say something, other times he’s a real jerk, and times like this he engages his brain. And he’s like that on his Sunday morning radio show. I don’t rush to read his stuff or to listen to him, but you can do a lot worse. And a lot better.

  9. Carl Hancock - Nov 29, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    Either allow all of them in or none of them in. The writers can’t have it both ways. You can’t let some PED users in and not others.

  10. johnchesterny - Nov 29, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    If you let Bonds and Clemens in you might as well let Sosa, Palmeiro and McGwire (to name a few) in as well. I wonder how that will sit with the Mussinas and the McGriffs of the world who just missed?

  11. jdvalk - Nov 29, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    Bonds admitted putting on his cream. Clemens followed Nolan Ryan’s training regimen and faced failed testimony from a guy facing fed indictments in McNamee who was pressured by prosecutors to come up with a big fish to go after. Apples and oranges.

  12. jeffa43 - Nov 29, 2012 at 1:32 PM

    Considering Bagwell, a class act, had been held out on suspicion, with zero leads or proof of the hearsay.

    These clowns should have no shot with their overwhelming evidence.

    • The Dangerous Mabry - Nov 29, 2012 at 1:59 PM

      It’s REALLY important to realize, though, that while Bagwell was a great player, Bonds and Clemens were historically brilliant players. We’re not talking about a couple of guys who were “pretty good”. We’re talking about guys whose playing careers on their own merit belong in the Best of All Time conversation. There are people who (somehow) look at Bagwell’s career without any PED discussion and say “Eh, he’s kind of borderline”. I can’t justify that, but there it is. There’s nobody who could look at either of these guys and say anything along those lines. Without the PED discussion, these guys aren’t “probably” hall of famers or “average” hall of famers, or “pretty good” hall of famers. They’re about as inner circle as it gets.

      Essentially, while Bagwell was certainly unfairly penalized by some voters for their unfounded steroid guesswork, others said he was a marginal case, for whatever reason. That’s not an issue for these guys, so it’s a different question.

      • johnchesterny - Nov 29, 2012 at 2:46 PM

        So we are to forgive the PED user that puts up All Time numbers? What do you say about Sosa then? 609 homers are eigth ALL TIME!

      • The Dangerous Mabry - Nov 29, 2012 at 3:08 PM

        There’s nothing here about forgiveness. This was a post discussing how the question facing writers for Jeff Bagwell is meaningfully different than the one facing writers for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. That’s all.

        And it’s worth noting that the careers of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens don’t rest on a single number being in the all-time top 10, like that of Sammy Sosa (though I guess to be fair, Sosa’s also third on the all-time strikeout list, though few would consider that criteria for enshrinement).

        Sammy’s career OPS+ was 128. In the very same era, Barry Bonds had a career OPS+ of 182. This isn’t a couple of guys who were similar players here.

        The point is, the voters may be able to poke holes in the hall of fame cases of some players (Bagwell, and perhaps even Sosa), but there aren’t holes in the cases for Bonds and Clemens. The singular question in the case of those men is whether or not writers wish to say that anyone who has likely used any of the drugs they deem to be inappropriate should be kept from the hall of fame. That’s it.

      • johnchesterny - Nov 29, 2012 at 3:35 PM

        So let’s give Bagwell the benefit of the doubt here. I actually agree with him being unfairly penalized. His connection to PEDs is at best circumstantial. Are you saying that had Bonds not taken PEDs (and his connection to PEDs is more than circumstantial) he would have put up better numbers than Bagwell? If this is what you are implying, how can you quantify it? Before you judge the 2 careers you would first have to determine when Bonds started to juice. Did he start in ’01, ’93 or ’90?

      • The Dangerous Mabry - Nov 29, 2012 at 3:43 PM

        No. I’m saying that there are two different issues that the writers face:

        Player 1 has a strong career, which some may be able to argue is a borderline hall of fame case, while others see it as a solid HOF case. He also has some rumors of drug use surrounding him which have no evidence. Is he a Hall of Famer?

        Player 2 has a slam-dunk hall of fame career. About as good as it gets. However, there’s very strong evidence that he used performance enhancing drugs for at least some portion of his career. Is he a Hall of Famer?

        My point to the original poster was that these aren’t the same question, and the results of player 1’s vote can’t be used to predict the results of player 2’s vote. That’s all.

      • ezthinking - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:08 PM

        Well put Mabry.

      • jeffa43 - Nov 29, 2012 at 8:37 PM

        MLB just did a countdown of the greatest players not in the hall, and Bagwell was # 5, and the comment was he should get in within the next two votes.

        He hit 450 home runs in 15 seasons, and 10 were in the dead air of the Astrodome.
        MVP ROY Gold Glove, considered one of the best base runners of his time ( not to be confused with a base stealer) although he had 200.

        300 avg, one year hit .367, he had 1500 runs 1500 rbi’s. 1 team. 1 world series.

        Always a class act with fans and media. Craig Biggio will say he was the best Astro ever, and Biggio is going in this year.

        7 straight years with 30 100 100 100, few have done that, names like Gherig, Mays, and Ruth.

        So I am glad I can clear that up for you.

  13. sparty0n - Nov 29, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    How can Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe have been denied for so long, but people like Craig are focused on the OBVIOUS, present day, cheaters who they feel are worthy in Bonds and Clemens?

    • mgflolox - Nov 29, 2012 at 3:36 PM

      Because, dumbass, PED users did something to become BETTER and help their teams win more games, rather than deliberately try to lose a World Series, or cast suspicion on their efforts because of betting on games in which they were participants.

      • johnchesterny - Nov 29, 2012 at 3:44 PM

        Better to “help their teams”? or get a huge payout?

      • mgflolox - Nov 29, 2012 at 3:51 PM

        Probably both. These guys are pretty intense competitors anyway, and frankly, what difference does it make? We watch and go to games to see our favorite teams win, don’t we? That’s what their paid for.

      • mgflolox - Nov 29, 2012 at 3:53 PM

        Dammit! Should be “what they’re paid for”. Must’ve been in a hurry.

      • sparty0n - Nov 30, 2012 at 1:46 AM

        OK, I can’t take you out to the parking lot and kick your ass, so lets debate the issue here! First, as I understand it, there is MUCH greater evidence that Clemens and Bonds cheated than there is against Shoeless Joe.

        Secondly, again as I understand it, Pete never bet AGAINST his team. Therefore the CHEATING to me, exceeded the gambling offense – Althought both are WRONG.

        I was simply stating that if Craig wanted to banter about on some great injustice, there are far greater issues Craig could focus on than lobbying for these cheating dirtballs.

    • The Dangerous Mabry - Nov 29, 2012 at 3:54 PM

      I imagine another issue is that Bonds and Clemens had substantially stronger careers than Pete Rose, and are present on a ballot, whereas Pete Rose is not.

  14. nothanksimdriving123 - Nov 29, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    Here’s what I want, though I know it will never happen (down-thumbers, get excited). South Africa held a truth and reconciliation commission on an infinitely more important subject, inhumanity and brutality to fellow humans. I’d like to see all those who took performance enhancing chemicals come to the camera and mic and state what they took and how it helped them achieve greater things than they might have otherwise. They will then feel better about themselves, and we will feel better about them and give them whatever honors they rightly have earned.

  15. juanhughjazz - Nov 29, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    If Bonds doesn’t get in, it’s further proof that it’s the hall of fame, not the hall of talent. Best player in my lifetime. I saw him walked one time with the bases loaded and down by two. For me, the assumption is that they all use PEDs.The old timers used amphetamines. This generation will use anything to get an edge(including viagra). I even view pain killers as a PED, especially if you couldn’t play without them.

  16. swu32733 - Nov 29, 2012 at 5:57 PM

    Yea Pete Rose would have made it regardless as well.

  17. larrytsg - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:00 PM

    I dunno about Clemens. I kind of agree with what some people are saying, that some guys might have had wonderful HOF careers even without the PEDs, but Clemens gets me.

    I’ll preface it by saying that yes, I do live in Boston. But look at Clemens carefully. The man has 3 halves to his career. First phase is from 1984-1991, where he is a very promising, HOF kind of superstar. 3 CYs, MVP, all that jazz. Then you have the middle part, where he went 40-41 over 4 years, notig spectacular, and Dan Duquette called him “in the twilight of his career”. Then magically he goes to Toronto and turns back into a superstar and defies age and all other things for 10 years.

    I don’t know what conclusions to derive from this…..

  18. ezthinking - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:23 PM

    ’92, ’94 and ’96 he had great years on not so great teams.

    If you like WAR, he went 8.4; 2.3; 5.8; 1.7; and 7.4 from ’92-’96.

  19. kappy32 - Nov 30, 2012 at 6:53 PM

    The Holier Than Though BWAA will stick their nose up & not vote them in. I saw a great convo on YES Network’s Hot Stove Report. There were 2 writers with votes, one pro-Bonds, one anti-Bonds. The anti writer said he wouldn’t vote for Bonds because a first ballot election is something sacred & he would tarnish the meaning. The pro-Bonds writer then asked him whether he thought Hank Aaron being elected 1st ballot tarnished the sanctity of the Hall & the 1st ballot because he admitted to taking amphetamines in his book. The anti-Bonds writer had nothing to say but stumble on himself; he tried to say that Aaron used prescribed amphetamines. He was told he was wrong, then said, “well I’ll have to take that into consideration.”

    Another example of a Holier Than Thou writer having a position without knowing all of the facts. It’s not their responsibility to punish PED users; it’s their job to vote in the best players in the history of the game. If Bonds & Clemens aren’t 1st ballot worthy, then the HOF is a complete sham to me & means nothing. What tarnishes the sanctity of the HOF is writers who allow their personal opinion outside what I player did on the field to determine their eligibility. PEDs were so rampant in MLB that the dumb ones were the ones who didn’t use.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. G. Stanton (2764)
  2. H. Ramirez (2655)
  3. G. Springer (2655)
  4. C. Correa (2648)
  5. B. Crawford (2462)
  1. M. Teixeira (2420)
  2. H. Pence (2383)
  3. J. Baez (2340)
  4. J. Hamilton (2272)
  5. Y. Puig (2258)