The Cooperstown case for Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, once and for all

This will happen.
Illustration: Eric Barrow (Getty Images)

Call me naive, an optimist.

But I believe my fellow Baseball Writers Association of America voters will finally get it right.

The ballots are in. All had to be postmarked by midnight New Year’s Eve.

On the ballot for the final time to gain entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame, slugger Barry Bonds and ace Roger Clemens will both get in on their 10th and final try.

The punishment — from some writers who have held their votes because of the steroid controversy attached to both superstars — will come to an end.

The writers will finally get it right, putting in two of the greatest players who have ever played the game.

These two are different from some of the other star players that have Hall-worthy credentials but didn’t muster up enough support to come close to getting in.

They both could have been done in by the voters long ago, eliminated from the ballot long before their 10 years were up.

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It happened to slugger Rafael Palmerio. Despite being just one of just four players in MLB history with 3,000 hits and 500 homers, he fell off the ballot in his fourth year after getting less than five percent of the vote.

Palmerio — who was suspended by MLB for failing a performance-enhancing drug test — went from 11.0 percent of the vote in 2011 to only 4.4 percent in 2014.

In the case of slugger Mark McGwire — who would have gotten in easily if not for the steroid use, something he copped to in 2010 — on his final ballot on his tenth try in 2016, he finished with only 12.3 percent of the vote. McGwire was never named on more than 23.7 percent of the ballots since he first became eligible in 2007.

On the flip side, Bonds and Clemens have had solid solid numbers from jump that continued to climb year after year.

And that’s with good reason. The Hall wouldn’t seem whole, or right, without these two.

Bonds, arguably the greatest slugger we have ever seen and MLB’s home run king, and Clemens, arguably the greatest righty pitcher we have ever seen and owner of a record-setting seven Cy Young awards, haven’t been dismissed by voters.

Think about it. If there wasn’t any support for either guy, their percentage of votes would have been low from the beginning like in the case of Sammy Sosa (just 13.9 percent last year). And it would indicate they had no shot of going to Cooperstown.

Better yet, their numbers wouldn’t have increased over the years like they have in the previous four cycles of voting.

Here’s a look:

Image for article titled The Cooperstown case for Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, once and for all

Graphic: Getty Images

The writers’ history of rallying to vote players in on their last try is well documented. Enter Larry Walker in the 2020 Class. In his 10th-and-final try, Walker got 76.6 percent of the vote, a 22- percent jump from 2019. It was the biggest increase by any player in his last year of eligibility in 65 years.

I can see this happening for both Bonds and Clemens.

You can’t tell the story of baseball without these two. Plus, all their numbers and awards count. They haven’t been stripped of anything.

And the truth remains, Bonds and Clemens never tested positive for PEDs or were suspended by the game for being caught.

That’s why newcomers to the ballot — Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz — will be hurt. Easily they have the numbers, but A-Rod was suspended by the game for PED use and Big Papi reportedly tested positive for the stuff.

Hard to blame writers in the case where players were clearly busted.

And if all the players in the Steroid Era were tested and just Bonds and Clemens came back dirty, there would be a real reason to exclude them from the Hall.

But the water is muddy. With that being the case, the numbers should be taken at face value.

Plus, and more importantly, there are other players either linked to PEDs or to have been rumored to have used the stuff who were voted in by the same writers keeping Bonds and Clemens out. Enter Mike Piazza, Pudge Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell.

I’ve voted for Bonds and Clemens all nine years they have been on the ballot. This time, we have to believe that at least 75 percent of the voters will finally agree.