Let’s start with what we know about the ballot for the Hall of Fame class of 2022: One way or another, it’s the last hurray for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa.
The ballot class of 2022 represents the trio’s tenth and final year of eligibility, so they will be elected to Cooperstown with 75 percent of the vote or their fate in the Hall will be left to the Modern Era Committee within a few years. For Bonds and Clemens, the choice is indeed possible, although far from probable. Sosa, realistically, has zero chance of being chosen by the Baseball Writers Association of America; he has yet to reach 25 percent in his first nine years on the ballot. (It is also the last year for Curt Schilling, but his candidacy is a completely separate topic from what we are going to discuss today.)
MORE: Classic Sporting News covers of Baseball Hall of Famers
In the past five years, three players have been chosen in their 10th and senior year: Tim Raines (class of 2017), Edgar Martinez (class of 2019) and Larry Walker (class of 2020). Last year’s pothole is a very real thing, but don’t assume that that pothole will cause Bonds and Clemens, who have been around 60 percent in recent years, to roll out of the pothole.
The Bonds and Clemens nominations are unique, in many ways. Their career statistics are historic, but both have long played the role of baseball villains, earning that reputation as cheeky and surly young stars and building a legacy of negativity as rumors of PED surrounded them towards the end of their careers. and towards the end of their careers. Retirement.
But the arrival of two equal but different newcomers to the ballot class of 2022 could have a major impact on how voters view Bonds and Clemens in their senior years. Those two: Alex Rodríguez and David Ortiz.
Unlike Bonds and Clemens, baseball loves A-Rod and Big Papi. Rodriguez calls for ESPN games and works for Fox during the postseason as an on-air talent. He almost just bought the Mets. Ortiz is everywhere too, in promotions and on the set of October Fox. He has long been loved or respected by baseball fans throughout the sport, a popularity that has only grown since his retirement. A-Rod has spent his five years in retirement rebuilding and reshaping his public image, to the point where he is today. It’s hard to watch baseball in October without seeing any of those guys smiling, laughing, and talking about baseball.
I’m really fascinated to see how voters treat Ortiz and A-Rod, and how their arrival impacts last year’s votes for Bonds and Clemens. And not just those two, but Sosa, Manny Ramirez, and Gary Sheffield. Don’t overlook those guys. They also have Hall-worthy resumes, but they have been withheld by PED connections.
Before we continue, two things: One: I have voted for Bonds and Clemens in the five years that I have had a ballot. I also voted for Ramírez and Sheffield. I will vote for both A-Rod and Ortiz. Two: here’s a quick look at the PED connections for all seven players …
Barry Bonds: The bonds were never positive or suspended for PED use. He admitted to using two steroid products in court, during BALCO trial testimony that it was illegally leaked, but claimed not to know they were steroids at the time he was taking them.
Roger Clemens: Like Bonds, Clemens never failed a drug test, but like Bonds, his connections are strong. His teammate Andy Pettitte testified that Clemens used HGH and a trainer, Brian McNamee, testified that Clemens used a steroid beginning in 1998. Clemens has aggressively denied everything.
Manny Ramirez: Ramirez served a 50-game suspension at age 37 in 2009 after testing positive for a prohibited substance, and tested positive again in 2011, opting to retire at 39 rather than serving a 100-game suspension.
Gary Sheffield: Sheffield never failed a test, but was named in the Mitchell Report and admitted to using a cream given to him by Bonds’ coach that was a steroid, although he claimed he was told it was a cortisone-type cream.
Sammy Sosa: Sosa never officially tested positive for PED, but was listed in a 2009 New York Times report among the 100 player names who tested positive in 2003.
Alex Rodriguez: In 2009, Rodriguez admitted to using PED with the Rangers from 2001 to 2003, and MLB suspended him for the entire 2014 season for his role in the Biogenesis scandal (he went back on steroids from 2010 to 2012).
David Ortiz: Ortiz never failed an official PED test, but his name was leaked in that 2009 New York Times report that identifies players who tested positive as part of a 2003 survey that MLB used to determine the need to implement a process. test. It should be noted that some of the substances tested in 2003 were not illegal in MLB at the time.
Considering the nuances and external reasons, more on that in a moment, there are four basic schools of thought when voting for tied players in the PED.
1. “I am not going to vote for anyone connected to the PEDs.”
This is the toughest of the hard lines. Any player known – through a positive test / suspension – or suspected of having taken PED is an automatic “no” vote. At least this is consistent, right? It’s not consistent with players already in the Hall having various levels of connections to PEDs and other performance enhancers over the decades, of course, but at least it’s consistent within the individual ballot.
2. “I am voting for players based solely on resume.”
The idea here is simple: If the player’s name is on the ballot, he is in good standing with both MLB and the Hall of Fame, and the only consideration should be his performance on the field. Pete Rose, as you know, is not on the ballot because he is not in good standing with MLB; he bet on baseball and was found ineligible. But Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Ramírez, Sheffield, Rodríguez and Ortiz have not been deemed ineligible. They will all be on the ballot for the promotion of 2022, so their candidacy should be judged solely on their performance on the field throughout their careers. On this line of thinking, it is not the job of the BBWAA to play the morality police when MLB and the Hall have already refused to do so.
3. “I will not vote for anyone who has been suspended by PED.”
This line of thinking says, “I’m only voting based on what has been proven.” This basically sets the line for the use of PED in 2005, when the MLB testing program was instituted. It is very likely, almost certainly, that there are already immortalized players in Cooperstown who used PED during their careers, but never failed an actual test. So if they are in the Hall despite speculation, how can they not vote for others that it is only speculated that they used? Voters who adhere to this theory will check the box next to Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, and Sheffield, because they never failed an actual PED test, but not Ramirez because he did (twice). It is logical that they will vote for Ortiz, but not for A-Rod.
4. “I will only vote for players who were Hall-worthy before I start using PED.”
I’m glad they feel confident knowing exactly when the players started. I haven’t seen that memo yet. This is how some people justify voting for Bonds and Clemens but not Sosa. I suppose these voters will check the box for A-Rod (he was amazing in Seattle before starting the PEDs in Texas) but maybe not Ortiz, depending on what they think about his alleged use.
As most of those who have voted for the Hall of Fame will tell you, filling out a ballot is not as simple as choosing one of those three schools of thought. There are layers. There are nuances. There are external factors. It is a challenge. Some who have voted for the Hall in the past have stopped voting (ESPN’s Buster Olney is one) and others have questioned whether they will continue (The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, this year).
It’s also worth noting that, for decades, players were allowed at least 15 years on the ballot, and those last five years were important to Hall of Famers like Bert Blyleven (elected in his fourteenth year at the ballot), Jim Rice (15th year) and Bruce Sutter (13th year). However, as of the 2015 ballot, players were only eligible to remain on the ballot for 10 years. It is not a coincidence that this measure was enacted while the PED-related candidates were being discussed.
This is where it starts to get messy, with A-Rod and Ortiz joining Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and Sheffield on the ballot. Let’s focus on A-Rod, because his PED crimes rival anyone who has ever known the game. For some, it will be an easy no. He took PED, admitted to taking PED, and was suspended from baseball for a full year. Case closed.
And I understand it. But here’s the thing: Alex Rodriguez was punished for his baseball crimes and served his suspension, the entire 2014 season. Then, admitted back to baseball’s good graces, he returned for his 39-year season and hit 33 home runs for the Yankees, producing a 3.0 bWAR in his 151 games, primarily as a designated hitter. He played 65 more games in 2016, hitting the last nine home runs of his career. He has been intimately involved in the sport and has embraced it almost completely since he retired.
A-Rod’s suspension was not a lifetime ban from baseball. It wasn’t “a year and then whatever the BBWAA writers want to tackle in retirement.” It was a very specific punishment, and it was even appealed and amended: originally 211 games, up to one baseball season.
So it makes sense that, in theory at least, some voters would look at A-Rod and his transgressions and conclude that he served his punishment and vote for him. These voters could use the same logic to abstain from voting for Manny Ramírez; He served his first suspension, but decided to retire at 39 instead of serving the second.
And if we talk about punishments carried out, it is natural to bring that logic to Bonds and Clemens. None failed an official PED test, so none were officially suspended. But they have absolutely been punished. For nine years, they have been punished by voters who feel it is their duty to protect the integrity of the Cooperstown plaque gallery. Maybe it is. I do not know. But if it’s okay to vote for A-Rod after serving his official one-season punishment, shouldn’t Bonds, Clemens and Sosa be okay after nine years of unofficial punishment? Sheffield after seven? Ramírez after five? What is the line there?
And I know at this point, half of you are yelling “WHAT’S UP WITH PETER EDWARD ROSE? WASN’T PUNISHMENT ENOUGH?!?!? “To that, I will say this: It is not the same. In the eyes of baseball, Rose’s transgression, betting on the baseball games in which he participated, is much, much worse than taking PED. That is the cardinal rule in the sport, and has been since the 1920s. Do not bet on baseball if you are involved in sport. Period. And the punishment was set long ago: If you get caught betting on baseball, you will be banned from the game for life There is no gray area.
But when it comes to cheating to try to gain an advantage? Baseball has long become the blind eye possible, punishing players only when forced to punish them. There were not even official PED tests until 2005. The punishments have changed several times and only included exile after multiple positive tests. Trying to compare Rose’s sins to Bonds / Clemens’ sins etc is silly.
Like I said, I am really fascinated to see how the vote unfolds next winter. Ballots will be mailed in November, as always, and must be postmarked by December 31, 2021. Let the discussions begin.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.