For the second year in a row, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America decided that there was no room in the Hall of Fame for baseball’s all time home run king. In his second year on the ballot, former Giants slugger Barry Bonds garnered votes from just 34.7% of the BBWAA electorate, falling far short of the 75% threshold needed to gain entry into baseball’s hallowed institution. Bonds’s vote total represents a slight decrease in voter support from last year, when he earned 36.2% in his first time on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Bonds, of course, holds the career record for home runs, with 762, as well as the record for most home runs in a single season, with 73. He also holds the all time record for most career bases on balls (2,558), as well as most career intentional bases on balls (688). In 22 major league seasons, Bonds finished with an imposing career slash line of .268/.444/.607, and his career OPS+ landed at an exorbitant 182. He won a record seven MVP Awards and is the only player in major league history with 500 home runs and 500 stolen bases. He won eight Gold Glove Awards for his work in left field, and was a member of fourteen All-Star teams. In his lone World Series appearance, in 2002, he went 8 for 17 with four home runs, thirteen walks, and eight runs scored.
In a vacuum, his Hall of Fame credentials would be almost without peer. However, as we all know, Bonds was strongly suspected of being a PED user in the early-2000’s when he was breaking all kinds of records. Despite never having failed a drug test, the circumstantial evidence against Bonds (i.e. leaked grand jury testimony, his “big head”, etc.) has been more than enough to convince many voters to bar him from entry.
Winning election into the Hall of Fame this morning were Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas. The selections marked the first time since 1999 that three players have been voted in to the Hall by the BBWAA in one season. Maddux came as close to a unanimous vote as possible, with 97.2%. Glavine landed on 91.9% of voter ballots, while Thomas earned 83.7%.
Maddux was largely seen as an inner-circle Hall of Fame candidate as far back as the 1990’s. Maddux, pitching primarily for the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs, won 355 games to go along with a 3.16 ERA, which is a doubly impressive figure when you take into account that Maddux played a large portion of his career in the offense-inflated late-90’s and 2000’s. In his two best seasons, 1994 and 1995, Maddux went a combined 35-8, with a 1.60 ERA (that’s an absurd 265 ERA+, folks), and surrendered just 12 home runs in 411 innings.
In 22 seasons in the bigs, most of them spent with the Braves, Tom Glavine won 305 games, won two Cy Young Awards, and won 20 or more games five times. He was also named the MVP of the 1995 World Series after twirling a dominant eight innings in the clinching Game Six. To date, it is the only championship the Atlanta Braves have ever won.
Thomas is remembered as one of the most fearsome hitters of the 1990’s, with a career slash line of .301/.419/.555 and a 156 career OPS+. In his prime, he was something to behold, and he’s widely regarded as one of the five best right-handed hitters in baseball history. From 1991 to 1997, Thomas hit .330/.452/.604, with 250 home runs. In that span he averaged a 182 OPS+. By comparison, only one player, Miguel Cabrera, has managed to reach the 180 mark in each of the past two seasons.
Falling heart-breakingly short of induction was Craig Biggio, who missed election by a mere .2%. Biggio, in his second year on the ballot, earned 74.8%, missing the 75% mark by the thinnest of margins. Also falling short but crossing the 50% threshold were Mike Piazza, Jack Morris, and Jeff Bagwell. It was Morris’s fifteenth and final year on the ballot, meaning he’ll have to rely on the Veterans Committee for election in future years.
Also falling off entirely was Rafael Palmeiro, who received just 4.4%, falling short of the 5% necessary to stay on the ballot. Palmeiro put up gaudy power numbers in a long career, but will forever be tainted by a failed drug test and a notorious finger-wagging display in front of Congress, in which he insisted he was clean of any PED use, only to fail a test months later.
Two other candidates with strong Hall credentials, but hurt considerably by steroid accusations, are Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire. Clemens garnered 35.4%, while McGwire earned 11%. Like Bonds, they’ll have to hope many voters have a change of heart on PED use in ensuing years if they want to get elected. It isn’t going to get any easier next year, however, as Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Gary Sheffield, and John Smoltz will all be joining the fray.