A day after, it feels like the Hall of Fame ballot has been power-washed.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling are gone, swept to the Cooperstown curb after 10 years of endless debate, indecision, and rancor.
As a voter who checked off Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling for 10 years, I believe they should be in the Hall. They played leading roles in the history of the game.
But support doesn’t equate to sympathy.
Bonds and Clemens made the conscious choice to use performance enhancers so they could remain dominant players into their 40s.
Bonds made $75 million over his final four seasons and Clemens $53 million. Bonds was 43 when he broke Hank Aaron’s home run record. Clemens was 42 when he won his seventh Cy Young Award. Their accomplishments carry no asterisks.
That they won’t be further honored isn’t something I consider a disgrace. That’s the risk they took.
Clemens wrote on Twitter that he played baseball “to make a generational difference in the lives of my family,” and not to make the Hall of Fame. Mission accomplished.
Schilling is a different story because the Hall of Fame does matter to him. He’s an avid student of the game’s history and appreciates those who came before him.
He is not a no-question Hall of Famer. His case requires an appreciation of more than wins, losses, and earned run average. It was clearly there if you looked.
Many voters did their homework. Schilling got 38.8 percent his first time on the ballot, then climbed to 52.3 percent in four years. He was on a clear trajectory to Cooperstown.
You know the rest. A series of vile social media posts and the misplaced belief that all the writers were out to get him sank his candidacy.
Schilling recovered many lost votes and climbed to 71.1 percent a year ago. But more bile followed, and he plunged to 58.6 percent.
Schilling was one of the premier big-game pitchers of his time and an excellent analyst on ESPN. He tweeted his way off television and then out of the Hall of Fame.
That was his decision. Don’t blame the writers.
Now Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling place their hopes in the hands of the Today’s Game Committee, a 16-member panel that will meet in December to consider players, managers, umpires, and executives whose greatest contributions came after 1988.
Think the writers had trouble deciding what to do with them? Buckle up.
The committee is made up of Hall of Famers, executives, and veteran media members. It meets twice every five years to consider 10 candidates. Twelve votes are needed for election.
But there are several trap doors. The ballot is chosen by a group of 11 writers and historians. Then once the ballot gets to the committee, voters are allowed a maximum of four choices.
There’s also no transparency. The votes are secret, and typically what happens in the room stays in the room.
White Sox outfielder and designated hitter Harold Baines, who never received more than 6.1 percent of the votes from the writers, was picked by this committee in 2019.
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, then-former White Sox manager Tony La Russa, and former White Sox executive Dave Dombrowski were on the committee.
There’s already a long line waiting at the door. Bruce Bochy, Jim Leyland, Fred McGriff, and the late George Steinbrenner are among candidates who deserve a look.
You could build a good case for David Cone and Kenny Lofton, too.
It feels like we all need a cooling-off period from Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling. It seems unlikely the Hall would want to revisit this fight in 10 months.
There’s a path to Cooperstown for Bonds and Clemens. As time passes, more people will make peace with the idea that the Steroid Era happened and pretending otherwise is fruitless.
The Plaque Gallery feels like baseball heaven. But there are plenty of scoundrels on those walls. Two more won’t tear the place down.
As for Schilling, would you want him in front of a microphone at your party?
I’m looking forward to the ballot for the Class of 2023. We can debate the merits of Scott Rolen and Todd Helton, and how to best judge Andruw Jones and Jeff Kent.
Yes, Alex Rodriguez has nine more years on the ballot and Manny Ramirez four. But Manny served multiple drug suspensions and is easily dismissed. A-Rod surely has a team of well-paid advisers preparing a charm offensive, but he’s not getting in any time soon given all his misdeeds.
Hopefully, the discussion a year from now is more about baseball. It would be a refreshing change.