SAN DIEGO – Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were rejected by baseball writers in their bids for the Baseball Hall of Fame 10 times. On Sunday, the duo chased by steroid suspicions got another rebuke from a panel that included many of their peers.
The door hasn't formally shut on their Cooperstown chances. But the latest letdown means the pair — with eight MVPs and seven Cy Young Awards between them — may never be celebrated with the sport's greatest individual honor.
Fred McGriff was the only player elected Sunday to the Hall of Fame by a 16-member contemporary era committee, one of several groups credentialed to seal a player's enshrinement. McGriff was chosen unanimously, while neither Bonds or Clemens received more than three votes.
When it comes to the Baseball Hall of Fame, there are several potential avenues to induction, but it can be a very bumpy road for all but the most straightforward cases.
HOW CAN PLAYERS BE ELECTED TO THE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME?
Players are first considered by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America no sooner than five calendar years after their big league career ends. A BBWAA screening committee creates the annual ballot, and members who have been active baseball writers for at least 10 years are eligible to vote.
Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot appear on BBWAA ballots, the mechanism by which Pete Rose has been excluded from consideration. Voters are instructed to base their decisions on “the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
The result of this year's writers' vote — which requires 75% for induction — will be announced Jan. 24.
Players are removed from the BBWAA ballot if they receive less than 5% of the vote. They also are taken off after 10 appearances. Bonds (66%), Clemens (65%) and Curt Schilling (58.6%) fell well short in their final chances on the BBWAA ballot last January.
Once a player is no longer being considered by the BBWAA, his case shifts to the Hall's committee system — divided into the contemporary and classic eras. The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. The classic panel examines players who had their most significant impact on the game prior to 1980.
The committees rotate yearly. The contemporary committee approved McGriff on Sunday at baseball's winter meetings in San Diego. Another contemporary committee meets next year to consider managers, executives and umpires. The classic committee votes in December 2024.
The ballot for each panel consists of eight candidates selected by a BBWAA-appointed historical overview committee. There is no limit when it comes to how often a candidate can appear on an era ballot.
Rose also is ineligible for era ballots because of his inclusion on MLB’s ineligible list.
The 16 members of each era committee — comprised of Hall of Famers, executives and writers — are appointed by the Hall's Board of Directors. Voters can select as many as three candidates, and the support of 75% of ballots cast are required for induction.
WHAT NOW FOR BONDS, CLEMENS AND SCHILLING?
The next time Bonds, Clemens and Schilling could be considered would be by a contemporary committee for the 2026 Hall of Fame class.
Bonds and Clemens look like no-doubt Hall members on the backs of their baseball cards, and Schilling has a strong case, as well.
A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts. Schilling went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.
But Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others. Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs.
Schilling got seven votes Sunday, and it's possible a future committee may swing in his favor. For Bonds and Clemens, that now seems unlikely.
There was a thought that maybe Bonds and Clemens would get more sympathy from their peers than writers for their suspected steroid use during an era tarnished by the stain of PEDs. That clearly wasn't the case.
This year's contemporary committee included Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell, plus executives Paul Beeston, Arte Moreno, Kim Ng, Theo Epstein, Dave St. Peter, Derrick Hall and Ken Williams; and media members Steve Hirdt, LaVelle Neal and Susan Slusser. Chipper Jones was supposed to be on the committee but missed Sunday's vote due to COVID-19. He was replaced by Hall.
The Hall of Fame did not reveal all down-ballot totals, saying only that Bonds and Clemens received fewer than four votes — a strong indication that unless new evidence exonerates them from PED charges, they might never get their day in Cooperstown.
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