If you had asked me before 2pm today I would have guessed that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens would have received around 50% of the vote. Not a lot given their baseball accomplishments, but a healthy vote for two players so thoroughly associated with PEDs. But they fell far short: Clemens received 37.6% of the vote, Bonds 36.2%.
I think there are two distinct groups of voters who voted no on these guys this year (1) the never ever voters; and (2) the not this year voters. The never ever voters will, obviously, never-ever vote for a PED user. They have drawn a bright moral line and will not consider these two no matter what happens. The not this year voters are voters who took Bonds’ and Clemens’ first year on the ballot as an opportunity to lodge a protest vote. I recall reading many columns by these sorts, all of whom said some version of “I may vote for them in the future, but I don’t know what to do with them now …” or something like it.
For Clemens and Bonds to make it in, that second camp has to be gigantic. And frankly, I can’t see it being such a large group of people that it will allow them to jump up by nearly 40% in the vote be it next year or ten years from now. Given how low their vote totals are the never ever camp has to comprise more than 25% of the electorate, and it only takes one more than 25% of the electorate to block a player.
Maybe attrition changes this, but I have my doubts. It’s fashionable to say that the “old man” voters oppose Bonds and Clemens and then assume that, over time, those voters will die off while younger, more progressive voters fill the BBWAA’s ranks. But I don’t necessarily buy that. There are a lot of “old man” voters who don’t think PEDs are a mortal sin. Maybe because they remember segregation and its after effects, greenies, cocaine and all manner of other bad things and know damn well that there are worse things in baseball than someone taking steroids. Meanwhile, there are a lot of Hall of Fame voters south of 50 who are among the most virulent anti-PED guys as you’ll find anywhere. Even if you’re counting on attrition, it’s going to take longer than the 14 years Bonds and Clemens have on the ballot to make a difference.
No, the only chance those two have to make the Hall of Fame is for some sort of fundamental change in the process to happen. For the BBWAA to alter the composition of its electorate, for MLB and the Hall of Fame to come out with some sort of formal diktat that PED use should not be considered in Hall of Fame voting or for the BBWAA to have the Hall of Fame vote taken away from it altogether.
I don’t see any of those three things happening. And for that reason, I don’t see Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens getting into the Hall of Fame without a ticket any time soon.