Will Barry Bonds be a first-ballot Hall of Famer?
The 2013 ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame is a moment baseball fans have been simultaneously anticipating and dreading.
Barry Bonds has 756 career home runs and holds the single-season record for homers in a season with 73. Roger Clemens has 354 wins and seven Cy Young Awards. Mike Piazza hit 396 home runs, the most ever by a catcher. Sammy Sosa has 609 homers, the eighth-highest total in baseball history.
The numbers say each of these players should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Yet allegations and suspicion of steroid use hang over this quartet. Those concerns will almost certainly keep these four names from getting enough votes in their first year of eligibility.
But based on their achievements, there is certainly a chance one or two from this foursome could get the 75 percent of the vote required for entry into the Hall of Fame. Their careers are too impressive to be dismissed because of lingering questions or grudges.
For the sake of discussion, let's set an over/under on the percentage of votes these four players will receive in their first year on the Hall of Fame ballot. Post your picks for over or under in the comments or let us know if you think we're way off.
Baseball-Reference provides us with a potential 2013 ballot. As mentioned, 75 percent is required to be inducted. Will any of the newly eligible hit that magic number this year? Will any player suspected of PED use be part of the Hall of Fame class of 2013?
We might as well start with the biggest name, right?
Barry Bonds has 763 home runs in his career, the most any player has ever hit in baseball history. He also holds the record for most homers in a season with 73.
Bonds won seven Most Valuable Player awards. Three of those came when he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, years before his alleged steroid use began.
However, Bonds has a dual problem in his first year of eligibility. Not only will some voters not consider him because of alleged PED use, but others will hold a grudge against Bonds because of how poorly he treated the media during his career.
What better way to get some payback than to keep Bonds out of the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot? Being a first-ballot Hall of Famer carries an extra level of honor to it. Those are the best of the best. Making Bonds wait at least one year deprives him of that status.
I think enough voters are going to support Bonds based purely on his achievements that he'll get more than the 24 percent Mark McGwire received when he was first eligible. He'll get more than Jeff Bagwell's 42 percent also.
However, the steroid concerns and media grudges will be enough to keep him from getting 75 percent of the vote.
So I'm setting the over/under for Bonds at 60 percent. How do you see it?
Roger Clemens has already had his day in court.
Technically, he was on trial for perjury, accused of lying to Congress about his use (or non-use) of performance-enhancing drugs. But Clemens was acquitted of all charges, largely because jurors didn't find his accuser credible.
Of course, the court of public opinion is a different matter. Clemens wasn't found not guilty of taking steroids. He was acquitted of charges that he lied about using them. Will Hall of Fame voters make that distinction? The general belief still seems to be that Clemens cheated to gain an edge.
I actually wonder if Clemens stands a better chance of getting in on the 2013 ballot than Barry Bonds. Yet people remember the defiance and arrogance he showed during his testimony to Congress and in subsequent interviews when he tried to defend himself. And as great as Clemens was, he doesn't hold all-time records like Bonds does.
Clemens will get less than 50 percent of the vote because of this. So his over/under will be set at 45 percent. How do his chances look to you?
During his 16-year major league career, Mike Piazza hit 427 home runs. But more importantly, he hit 396 homers as a catcher, the most ever by a player at that position. The next closest player is Carlton Fisk with 351.
Piazza's .308 batting average is higher than other Hall of Fame catchers such as Fisk, Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra. His 1,330 RBI would be the third most among that hallowed group. Fisk and Berra had more hits than Piazza's 2,127. But that's some pretty exclusive company at the position of catcher.
Though not as publicized as the steroid accusations leveled at Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, suspicions of PED use by Piazza has been voiced before.
Former New York Times writer Murray Chass has written about Piazza's problem with back acne, typically considered a tell-tale sign of steroid use.
In his book about Clemens, The Rocket Who Fell to Earth, Jeff Pearlman includes a passage citing several sources that say Piazza took steroids. The New York Post's Joel Sherman publicly expressed suspicions as well.
Piazza wasn't involved in any court case in which he was charged with lying about steroid use. There haven't been any books such as Game of Shadows written about him.
But there are enough rumblings to cause doubt among Hall of Fame voters. Jeff Bagwell never had any articles or book passages linking him with steroid use, yet the suspicion has been enough to keep him out of Cooperstown. So how much will this affect Piazza?
Bagwell was on 40 percent of ballots in his first year of eligibility, so that seems like an appropriate number for Piazza's over/under.
Sammy Sosa has 609 career home runs, placing him eighth among baseball's all-time home run leaders. He hit more than 61 homers three times, surpassing the single-season record that Roger Maris held for 37 years.
Sosa hit more than 40 homers in seven of his 18 seasons. He hit 50 or more four times, including the aforementioned three years he hit more than 60.
Six hundred home runs used to be considered a milestone that automatically opened the door to Cooperstown. Obviously, the steroid era has put that number in a different context.
The jump in Sosa's power numbers is what raises eyebrows. Sosa was already a powerful hitter who showed he could hit 30-plus homers with regular playing time.
But his home run total went from 36 in 1997 to 66 in 1998. At the time, fans and reporters alike enjoyed the chase to beat Maris' record. But now, it's apparent that questions should have been asked.
Sosa tested positive for steroids in 2003, according to a report in The New York Times. Despite that, Sosa curiously never had to stand trial for lying to Congress about using performance-enhancing drugs.
With Mark McGwire never being named on more than 24 percent of Hall of Fame ballots, 25 percent seems like an appropriate number for Sosa's over/under. Can Sosa possibly receive a higher percentage of votes in his first year of eligibility than McGwire ever has?
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