Yesterday the newest members to be joining the Hall of Fame were announced, and yet again Barry Bonds was not on the list of those voted on by the BBWAA. Before we get too deep into this whole thing, I would like to congratulate those that did make it, including Pudge Rodriguez on his first ballot, and especially to Jeff Bagwell who took a couple of extra years to get in, and Tim Raines who had to wait until his final ballot to finally be enshrined. All three definitely deserve the honor--but so does Bonds.
As Ken Rosenthal pointed out in a piece shortly after the announcement, the steroid war is starting to fade. He details how some have accused Bagwell and Rodriguez of doping for years, but they have been able to make it in, while another alleged user, Mike Piazza, was voted in last year. Like Bonds, none of these three ever had a positive drug test, but none of these three compare to one of the greatest to ever play the game.
The problem that Barry has is twofold. Say that all four of these players used some kind of performance enhancing drugs. While the other three saw improvements in their game that may or may not have helped turned them into Hall of Fame players, Bonds tackled one of the most cherished records in the sport while not exactly being the friendliest with the media. The all-time home run record and the single season home run record held special places for many before Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and later on Barry Bonds, came and tarnished that record for many with allegations of PEDs. Why would this have an influence on the writers? Because they're the ones that have to stick up for these guys (sometimes) and deal with much of the fan feedback on behalf of these guys. If their trust has been betrayed, then that sense of betrayal could run deeper.
In a nutshell, that is why the Barry Bonds Hall of Fame debate is so tenuous. It may not be the performance enhancing drug aspect of it at all, but in a game that is so revered for its records, tarnishing not only an era, but also the history of the game by breaking some of the records set by the best to every play the sport--that's where the writers likely have an issue.
According to FanGraphs, Bonds ranks second in all-time WAR behind Babe Ruth, but even that margin is slim at 168.4 to 164.4. Willie Mays comes in third at 149.9. Without a doubt, the numbers Barry had put up before his alleged PED usage would have been enough to get him into the Hall. Sometime around 1998 is when the thought would have crossed his mind after seeing the love and adulation that Sosa and McGwire received. After hitting 34 home runs in 1999, Bonds' total jumped up to 49 in 2000, but he had previously hit 46 in 1993, granted he was only 28 when he did it, so we'll hold off on including the 2000 season.
If we're looking for a timetable on when he would have started, in all fairness to Bonds, lets say 2001, which is the year that he broke the single season record with 73 dingers. Per FanGraphs, the WAR he accumulated in each season since that time was 54.4. Even if you discount everything from his age 34 season on, he still ends up as a 110 win player, which would move him from 2nd all-time, to 15th all-time. Of course that would still be worthy of induction into Cooperstown.
So lets go back to the original question: Will Bonds make it into the Hall?
According to the BBHOF Tracker from Ryan Thibodaux, Bonds gained 24 votes this year over last. If he keeps up that pace, he'd get in on his 9th year on the ballot (four years down the line).
There are two ways this could really go. The first is that being attached to Roger Clemens as the poster boys for the PED allegations and the Hall of Fame could be detrimental, if only for the fact that they are a pair in most circles. Most writers aren't going to vote for one and not the other, so if there are enough deserving candidates on the ballot each and every year and a writer already has nine spots filled on their ballot, they may leave both off instead of selecting just one.
The other way this could potentially play out would be that the writers are waiting this thing out just a bit longer in order to make Bonds and Clemens sweat a bit with the intention of voting them both in as their eligibility runs out.
Ultimately I think they both get in whether or not their numbers improve over the next couple of seasons. It will be one big push that likely gets the job done in the end. We'll just have to wait for it.null