Bags and Rock and Pudge are heading to Cooperstown. After a vote that could prove to be a turning point how Steroids Era stars are viewed, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens could be joining them in the next few years.
Bonds and Clemens, their careers tainted by allegations of steroids use, were passed over for the fifth straight year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America but each received a majority of votes for the first time, but fell well short of the 75 percent threshold. Bonds received 53.8 percent, just behind Clemens at 54.1 percent.
Bonds, a seven-time MVP who holds the season and career home run records and spent 15 season with the Giants, received 36.2 percent in 2013 and jumped from 44.3 percent last year. Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, rose from 45.2 percent last year.
Sportswriters from around the country weighed on Wednesday’s vote, with many viewing Bonds and Clemens as likely to be inducted, pointing to a shifting perception of the Steroids Era among other aspects of voting. There are still skeptics, however. Check out excerpts of the national dialogue below.
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Rick Morrissey, Chicago Sun-Times: “What an embarrassment. ... It has been years since Bonds and Clemens did their damage, and the discussion has turned to whether we all overreacted. Hearts soften. Attitudes change. OK, fine. But we seem in an awful hurry to go from forgiveness to coronation.”
Marcos Breton, The Sacramento Bee: “I’ve voted for both the past four years, not because I doubted they used performance-enhancing drugs. I believe they did. But I also believe Bonds and Clemens were all-time great players with or without PEDs.”
Tom Verducci, SI.com: “Bonds gained 9.5% to 53.8% support while Clemens gained 8.9% to 54.1%. Those are nice gains, but not enough to suggest their election is inevitable. They still need 46% of ‘no’ votes to swing to ‘yes’ votes.”
Tim Brown, Yahoo Sports: “They’ll be there soon enough, it seems. ... What we are beginning to suspect, however, is that cheating the game is not a forever crime anymore. Maybe not even a crime. Let’s call it an infraction, if that. That, like in the NFL, the game is too demanding for the public to require an absolutely clean body. That, in baseball, the lure of fame and wealth is too strong, that it is unfair to also ask a player to resist the easier way.”
Andrew Baggarly, Bay Area News Group: “And although attitudes toward the game’s steroid era might be softening following last year’s induction of Mike Piazza, a suspected user, and Rodriguez, who was mentioned as a user in Jose Canseco’s book, there are many voters who continue to take a hard-line stance against candidates like Bonds for whom there is evidence of performance-enhancing drug use that go beyond innuendo.”
Ted Berg, For The Win, USA Today Sports: “Bonds and Clemens are going to get in. It’s happening. Both players fell well short of election in 2017, their fifth season on the ballot. But for the second straight year, both Clemens and Bonds saw big spikes in their balloting totals and, perhaps most importantly, 13 out of the 14 new Hall of Fame voters who made their ballots public voted for Bonds and Clemens both.”
Michael Silverman, Boston Herald: “The other reason to hold out hope that the Hall of Fame will be opening its doors for the Clemens and Bonds types in the baseball universe is that beginning next year, all voters will have their ballots made public. That will not happen until days after the election results are announced, so as not to make the writers the focus, but it means they will no longer be able to enjoy anonymity.”
Ken Davidoff, New York Post: “The BBWAA’s recent vote that will publicize all ballots starting next year should help Bonds and Clemens, too. While you’re going to get heat from fans no matter which side you take on this issue, it does seem like you’ll find fewer finger-wagging moralists – and more advocates for Bonds and Clemens – on social media.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.