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Barry Bonds and the Hall of Fame, Year Seven

Seventh time will probably not be the charm.

Barry Bonds San Francisco Giants Number 25 Retirement Ceremony Photo by Jeff Chiu/Pool via Getty Images

The Baseball Hall of Fame announced the official ballot for 2019 induction this Monday morning. There are 20 new candidates and 15 returning, but we’re all here to talk about how we already know that Barry Bonds won’t be one of the new inductees when the results are announced on January 22nd.

Despite Willie Mays’ stump speech at Bonds’ retirement ceremony —

— the baseball stalwarts and gatekeepers just aren’t interested in admitting this particular ornery cheater into their ranks, no matter what a living legend or exemplar Hall of Famer might say. So, we know on an emotional level that Bonds won’t be getting in before the arbitrary only 10 years on the ballot rule kicks in, but here are the practical reasons why it won’t happen this year.

There is somewhere in the range of 420-430 potential voters for the Hall of Fame. Players need 75% of the votes for induction. For the sake of round numbers, let’s round up to 424 possible voters this year — up from last year’s 422 — so that it’s clear just how many votes will be needed. 318 is 75% of 424. Now let’s look at all those potential Bonds votes that will be hoovered up by the newly eligible players (remember: voters can only select 10 players).

First years

  • Rick Ankiel
  • Jason Bay
  • Lance Berkman
  • Freddy Garcia
  • Jon Garland
  • Travis Hafner
  • Roy Halladay
  • Todd Helton
  • Ted Lilly
  • Derek Lowe
  • Darren Oliver
  • Roy Oswalt
  • Andy Pettitte
  • Juan Pierre
  • Placido Polanco
  • Mariano Rivera
  • Miguel Tejada
  • Vernon Wells
  • Kevin Youkilis
  • Michael Young

Halladay is virtually assured a posthumous election, and that’s totally fine. He’d very likely have a great chance of induction even if he had not died tragically, but we know that the emotional circumstances surrounding his strong candidacy (his career bWAR is a bit below the average, but his peak years are right in line with a Hall of Famer’s). He’s Roy Halladay — he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

And the other bolded player on this first-year list is Mariano Rivera. He belongs in the Hall of Fame. He’s Mariano Rivera.

Ken Griffey, Jr. got 99.3% of the vote in 2016. Let’s assume both of these players do the same, given their legacies. That means they’d be on 420 out of 424 ballots together. They’re not the only locks...

Returning (2018 vote, year on ballot in parenthesis)

sorted by percentage of vote
  • Edgar Martinez (70.4%, 10th)
  • Mike Mussina (63.5%, 6th)
  • Roger Clemens (57.3%, 7th)
  • Barry Bonds (56.4%, 7th)
  • Curt Schilling (51.2%, 6th)
  • Omar Vizquel (37.1%, 2nd)
  • Larry Walker (34.1%, 9th)
  • Fred McGriff (23.2%, 10th)
  • Manny Ramirez (22%, 3rd)
  • Jeff Kent (14.5%, 6th)
  • Gary Sheffield (11.1%, 5th)
  • Billy Wagner (11.1%, 4th)
  • Scott Rolen (10.2%, 2nd)
  • Sammy Sosa (7.8%, 7th)
  • Andruw Jones (7.3%, 2nd)

Martinez and Mussina are probably assured of reaching the 75% threshold, so that’s 318 votes apiece. Fred McGriff will probably see a surge in votes for his final year of eligibility, even if he winds up falling short, and Larry Walker will probably experience the same if only because a lot of sabermetricians have been arguing his case for some time.

It’d be hard to ignore a lot of the other first-year players, too. Roy Oswalt, Todd Helton, Lance Berkman, and Andy Pettitte are all likely to see nice first-year results. That vote-shifting won’t necessarily take away from Bonds, but it won’t help him. He could very well hold around that 55% mark and in exchange, Manny Ramirez and Curt Schilling could experience drops, if not Jeff Kent and Andruw Jones.

Not every voter uses all ten spots, some vote for one player out of protest, and others just won’t vote for players from the PED era, period. Which, if actually true, means that Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay will have a much more difficult time of being inducted. But we all know that’s not true — a chunk of the electorate just doesn’t like Barry Bonds.

Compounding all of this need for revenge, the Hall has limited the degree of interest. The 10-vote limit means that we talk about a lot of players for far fewer years than we ever would before. Andruw Jones is probably not a Hall of Famer, but he’s on the cusp. He should have more votes! Instead, voters must resort to strategy when working their ballots.

Jay Jaffe mentions

Already, the 16 players elected from the past five cycles exceeds the record of 13 elected in either of the two overlapping five-year spans within that earlier stretch. And once again, this will be a fairly top-heavy ballot; the five holdovers who have received at least 50% of the vote could prevent some of the candidates further down the ballot from gaining momentum.

And this is where Baseball’s biggest problem presents itself: by limiting the focus to the debate and controversy, the rich history of the game — which the Hall and the league itself purports to care about above all else — gets totally ignored, and we’re left to argue our own beliefs instead of expressing admiration for the accomplishments.

MLB has its own cable network and can’t devote airtime to every player on the ballot? You could do a profile of each guy and that could fill an hour of programming. Some of these players have deep stories of their own even if they’re ultimately not Hall of Famers. Does that mean they get lost to history? Why should they? What’s the point of an omnipresent media narrative if you only know how to make noise in one way?

GIVE ME MY JEFF KENT DOCUMENTARY. Spend an entire segment on the broken wrist. An entire segment on the fight with Bonds. An entire segment on that mustache.



There’s a whole world of possibilities out there, but we’re limited to this lame argument about Hallworthiness and the grinding of axes. All that said, definitely follow Ryan Thibodaux as he tracks all the public ballots for the Hall of Fame. We won’t see Barry Bonds inducted this year, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop talking about him or anyone else.