In his 10th and final appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot, Barry Bonds fell short of receiving the necessary votes required for enshrinement in Cooperstown.
The Baseball Hall of Fame announced Tuesday that former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was the lone player to receive support from more than 75% of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America electorate on the 2022 ballot, meaning Ortiz will be inducted despite his own ties to performance-enhancing drugs.
The 66% of votes Bonds earned in 2022 marked his best showing yet, but the former Giants left fielder’s Hall of Fame fate will now be decided by a committee.
The percentage of votes Bonds received increased in each of the 10 years he was eligible for enshrinement on the writers’ ballot, but with a significant share of the electorate pledging never to support a player who purportedly used steroids, the seven-time National League Most Valuable Player and 14-time All-Star appeared destined to fall just shy.
Bonds and several other stars linked to performance-enhancing drugs including Roger Clemens and Alex Rodríguez did not meet the three-quarters threshold of support on this year’s ballot, but Ortiz got 77.9% of votes even as circumstances surrounding a reported positive test for a banned substance have been called into question by Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred.
In 2009, multiple publications including the New York Times reported Ortiz was among the players who tested positive for a banned substance during a 2003 testing survey conducted by the league that was expected to remain anonymous.
In recent years, Manfred has cast doubt on the legitimacy of the reports and noted Ortiz could have been among the players who tested positive for a supplement and not a banned substance. “I think it’s really unfortunate that anybody’s name was ever released publicly,” the commissioner said in 2016.
“You can’t tell the story of baseball without David Ortiz. Congrats to him,” Giants pitcher Alex Wood tweeted Tuesday. “But if he can get into the HOF on the first try with a positive test on his résumé then how in god’s name does Bonds and Clemens not get in? The system is now officially broken in my eyes.”
Ortiz lobbied for Bonds’ inclusion to the Hall, telling reporters following the announcement, “I know there are a lot of things going on, but to me, the guy was a Hall of Famer way before everything, all the talk, all the things. This is a guy who played the game at a whole different level.
“Not having (Bonds and Clemens) join me at this time is something that’s hard to believe, to be honest with you. Those guys did it all. It is what it is, and there’s nothing I personally can do about it.”
Ortiz’s induction as a first-ballot Hall of Famer creates a fascinating juxtaposition for the Hall of Fame, particularly because Bonds never tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in a league-sanctioned test. Bonds did not speak publicly following Tuesday’s announcement, but Clemens released his own statement on social media.
“My family and I put the HOF in the rear view mirror ten years ago,” Clemens said. “I didn’t play baseball to get into the HOF. I played to make a generational difference in the lives of my family. Then focus on winning championships while giving back to my community and the fans as well. It was my passion. I gave it all I had, the right way, for my family and for the fans who supported me. I am grateful for that support.”
How does the Hall of Fame square having Ortiz and former commissioner Bud Selig, who largely turned a blind eye during the steroid era, among its inductees while keeping Bonds, Clemens and others with ties to performance-enhancing drugs out of its ranks?
The most common objection to Bonds’ candidacy and others believed to have used steroids cited by voters is the Hall of Fame’s “character clause,” which states that players “shall be chosen on the basis of playing ability, sportsmanship, character, their contribution to the teams on which they played and to baseball in general.”
Bonds did not release a statement regarding his own Hall of Fame status, but he posted a graphic to his Instagram account congratulating Ortiz with the caption: “CONGRATULATIONS Big Papi on your induction into the Hall of Fame! Well deserved…I love you my brother.”
Of the other former Giants who appeared on this year’s ballot, five-time All-Star and 2000 NL MVP Jeff Kent performed best as he received votes from 32.7% of the electorate.
Two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum only garnered nine votes, and by failing to reach a 5% threshold, the 2022 ballot will mark the last on which the three-time World Series champion will appear.
Bonds’ chances of eventually being enshrined in Cooperstown were made more difficult Tuesday, but they did not disappear altogether. With the Hall of Fame’s “Today’s Game Committee” scheduled to meet in December, it’s possible the eight-time Gold Glove Award winner may not even have to wait a calendar year before earning a coveted spot.
According to the Hall of Fame’s website, the “Today’s Game Committee” refers to the electorate that considers retired Major League Baseball players no longer eligible for election by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), along with managers, umpires and executives, whose greatest contributions to the game were realized from the 1988-2016 era.
The 16-person committee, which will meet again in December, 2024, will consist of members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, executives and veteran media members.
Twelve votes are needed for induction.
“So Bonds, Clemens and A-Rod have to get in too then right?!” former Giants pitcher Kevin Gausman tweeted Tuesday. “I would love to be a fly on the wall for some of these convos.”
While it remains unclear which former players, managers, umpires and executives will appear on the ballot, it’s possible Bonds could be joined by legendary Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who is widely considered a lock to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Curt Schilling, who also appeared on his 10th and final ballot this year, is holding out hope a committee can salvage his legacy.
“I’ll defer to the veterans committee and men whose opinions actually matter and who are in a position to actually judge a player,” Schilling wrote on his Facebook page.
It’s uncertain how a small committee will view Bonds’ legacy in comparison to the way it was judged by a voting body of roughly 400 writers, but the oldest living Hall of Famer, Willie Mays, is an outspoken supporter of his godson’s candidacy.
When Bonds’ No. 25 was retired at Oracle Park in August, 2018, Mays walked to the podium in the middle of the diamond and stumped in front of 40,000-plus fans.
“On behalf of all the people in San Francisco, and all over the country, vote this guy in,” Mays said.
The 2022 Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place July 24 and includes four Golden Days Era committee inductees –Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Miñoso and Tony Oliva– and two Early Baseball Era committee inductees, Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neil.
Giants catcher Buster Posey, who retired following the 2021 season, will be first eligible to appear on the 2027 BBWAA ballot.
In a statement released Tuesday, the Giants recounted Bonds’ accomplishments, credited his impact for helping pave the way for the construction of Oracle Park and said, “We remain hopeful that he will gain election into the National Baseball Hall of Fame through the next phase of the voting process.”
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