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Barry Bonds to be denied the Hall of Fame again

The Contemporary Era ballot might be just the loophole the all-time HR leader needs to get into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Cycling: Tour Of California 2013 / Stage 4 Photo by Casey Gibson/Getty Images

Barry Bonds hit the most home runs in Major League Baseball history. It’s an indisputable fact. If you’re reading this, you’re very likely a San Francisco Giants fan, which means you have at least a teeny bit of interest in seeing Bonds, the 2nd-best Giant ever behind Willie Mays, finally placed among the other greatest players of all-time. You might also have a measure of Hall debate fatigue that puts you on the same wariness level as the people who vehemently oppose a Bonds induction.

We’ve seen this before. The Major League Baseball Home Run leader has become eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York. His election requires 75% of the voting body. This time, it’s not baseball writers casting votes, though, it’s the Contemporary Baseball Era Players Committee (1980 to Present). That committee has been appointed by The Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors. So... it’s still a longshot. And the odds remain stacked against him.

From this morning’s announcement:

Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro and Curt Schilling are the candidates the Contemporary Baseball Era Players Committee will consider for Hall of Fame election for the Class of 2023. All candidates are living.

Any candidate who receives votes on 75 percent of the ballots cast by the 16-member Contemporary Baseball Era Players Committee will earn election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and will be inducted in Cooperstown on July 23, 2023, along with any electees who emerge from the 2023 Baseball Writers’ Association of America election, to be announced on Jan. 24, 2023.

Did the Hall of Fame Board of Directors set it up so that Barry Bonds could be denied the Hall of Fame twice in the same year? Sure seems that way.

Now, could 12 of the 16 committee members disrupt the Board’s 80s sports movie villain plan? Maybe. The committee is made up of other Hall members, executives, and veteran media members. We don’t yet know who’s a part of that group. We also know that the vote has already been decided.

There’s definitely some pressure for this committee to elect at least one person, because there’s a nonzero chance of zero players being elected on the BBWAA ballot, despite A-Rod, Scott Rolen (63.2% last year), Todd Helton (52%), Billy Wagner (51%), Jeff Kent’s (32.7%) final year and Carlos Beltran’s first year of eligibility all on the ballot... along with — and I can’t stress this enough — MATT CAIN (will he get the 5% needed to stay on the ballot beyond it?).

But I think that’s why Fred McGriff is on that list. He’s the ringer. Rafael Palmeiro bombed in front of Congress. Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling are lumped together as too toxic to touch. And, as Adam Darowski of Baseball Reference pointed out, Belle, Mattingly, and Murphy haven’t been able to break through:

2017 <5 votes
2019 <5 votes

2018 <7 votes
2020 <4 votes

2018 <7 votes
2020 <4 votes

So, Fred McGriff best represents the image of the “Contemporary Era.” Barry Bonds does not. Does it matter? Well, it’s a little silly for Giants fans to pretend as though it doesn’t matter, especially since this whole scheme seems setup to dunk on Bonds as much as possible, but it doesn’t matter in the sense that Barry Bonds hit the most home runs and is one of the best hitters to ever play Major League Baseball.