It's official. As announced by the Baseball Writers Association of America on Wednesday, retired greats Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are on the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot.
Getting on the ballot was the easy part. Now comes the hard part of actually getting in.
And unless you've been living under a rock on a distant planet in the last two decades, you'll know that none of the three stand a very good chance of getting in.
Not right now, anyway. Maybe not ever.
It's bad enough that Bonds, Clemens and Sosa are from the Steroid Era. The voters have made it pretty clear in the last few years that they want little to do with such players. Even players with no real ties to PEDs, such as Jeff Bagwell, have been given the cold shoulder.
Bonds, Clemens and Sosa, however, may as well be chained to PEDs. They are not just from the Steroid Era. They are the Steroid Era.
The actual voting results won't be announced until January, but I'll go ahead and take a few educated guesses right now as to what kind of voting totals these three players are going to end up with.
For Sammy Sosa
If you disregard context and just focus on his numbers and his accomplishments, Sammy Sosa is a lock to be enshrined in Cooperstown.
Sosa ranks eighth on the all-time home run list with 609 career homers. He's the only player in major league history to hit as many as 60 home runs in a single season three times, and he led the National League in homers in 2000 and 2002.
Sosa also made seven All-Star teams, won six Silver Sluggers and was named the NL MVP in 1998, the year in which he hit a career-high 66 home runs.
That was also the year that Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris' record for most home runs in a season with an even 70. Though they should have been rivals as they chased Maris that year, McGwire and Sosa were practically inseparable.
Unfortunately for Sosa, he and McGwire are probably still going to be viewed as inseparable in the eyes of the Hall of Fame voters.
McGwire has been on the ballot for six years already, and he's not getting any closer to being elected into the Hall of Fame. He got 19.8 percent of the vote in 2011 and 19.5 percent in 2012. You need 75 percent of the vote to get in, of course.
Because of how much he and McGwire redefined the game in the late 1990s, Sosa is going to be viewed as guilty by association when the voters sit down to fill out their ballots. They're not giving McGwire any respect, so why should give Sosa any respect?
It's actually a good bet that Sosa will be shown even less respect than McGwire. The perception of McGwire is bad, but the perception of Sosa is worse.
Voters can point to the 2009 report from The New York Times that Sosa tested positive for PEDs in 2003. He was never suspended by Major League Baseball, but that matters little seeing as how he tested positive two years before the league put its system of PED penalties in place.
At least McGwire has come out and admitted to using PEDs. Sosa hasn't done that, and he made a fool of himself when he swore to Congress in 2005 that he had never used PEDs. He's lucky that the government decided not to go after him for perjury for that.
Beyond Sosa's strong link to PEDs, voters may also remember the corked bat incident back in 2003. That, of course, was the same year he tested positive for PEDs, in which case he was basically doing everything he possibly could to cheat his way to big numbers.
Considering all this, I'm expecting Sosa to do worse than McGwire did the first time he appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2007, when he received 23.5 percent of the vote.
Prediction: 17.2 percent
For Roger Clemens
Like Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens' case to get into the Hall of Fame is overwhelming if you focus only on his numbers and accolades.
Clemens ranks ninth on the all-time list with 354 career wins and third on the all-time list with 4,672 career strikeouts. He also ranks third on the all-time list among pitchers in WAR, as calculated by Baseball-Reference.com.
Clemens is the only pitcher to ever strike out 20 hitters in a single game twice, and he's the only pitcher to even win seven Cy Young awards. He won seven ERA titles and five strikeout titles. He was the AL MVP in 1986 and a World Series champion in 1999 and 2000.
The greatest right-handed pitcher ever? As far as the numbers and accolades go, the answer is yes.
But those pesky PED ties, man. They ruin everything.
The case against Clemens isn't as strong as the case against Sosa, as it's not like there's a positive test that voters can point to as definitive evidence that he used PEDs.
What voters have to go off of is mainly the near-constant appearance of Clemens' name in the Mitchell Report, as well as the testimonies of Brian McNamee and Andy Pettitte. There's also the circumstantial evidence, as Clemens was seemingly washed up when he hit his mid-30s in the late 1990s and then went on to win four more Cy Young awards.
The problem is that none of this stuff was good enough to hold up in court, as Clemens was acquitted earlier this year of all the charges levied against him for allegedly lying to Congress about his alleged PED use. McNamee was revealed to be an unreliable witness, and the rest of the evidence against Clemens was pretty flimsy.
So despite the fact Clemens is perceived to be one of the main poster boys for the Steroid Era, the only thing voters really have on him are their own suspicions. Some voters will no doubt come to the conclusion that Clemens' accomplishments should outweigh their suspicions, but not enough for Clemens to get in.
For good or ill, simple suspicions hold a lot of sway in the voting for the Hall of Fame, and you have to think that everyone who is voting this year is suspicious of Clemens in some way.
Mere suspicions have held Jeff Bagwell out of the Hall of Fame so far. In fact, he only got 41.7 percent of the vote his first year on the ballot despite having Hall of Fame-worthy numbers.
I'm guessing Clemens will come in a little under that figure.
Prediction: 33.5 percent
For Barry Bonds
By numbers alone, Barry Bonds may be the greatest player in the history of baseball.
In addition to being the all-time home run king with 762 career homers and the holder of the single-season record for homers with 73 in 2001, Bonds is the only player in history to hit as many as 500 home runs and steal as many as 500 bases.
Bonds also won seven NL MVPs, was selected to 14 All-Star teams and won eight Gold Gloves. He won batting titles in 2002 and 2004, and he led the league in OPS nine times.
Per Baseball-Reference.com, the only player in history to post a higher WAR than Bonds is Babe Ruth.
But the perception, obviously, is that all of Bonds' accomplishments are tainted. And unfortunately for him, this perception has some legs. More than enough, in fact.
Unlike with Clemens, there actually is a positive steroid test on file for Bonds. A positive test for anabolic steroids was dug up by the government a few years back during a search of the BALCO lab. BALCO founder Victor Conte, who spent some time in prison for an illegal steroid distribution scheme, admitted that the test result likely came from his lab.
For the voters, this may be reason enough to keep Bonds out of Cooperstown. The government wasn't much more successful when it went after him for perjury than it was when it went after Clemens for perjury, but a positive test is a positive test is a positive test.
Not that the voters necessarily need a positive test to keep Bonds out of the Hall of Fame. The circumstantial evidence against him is even more damning than the circumstantial evidence against Clemens.
Bonds hit 445 home runs in his first 2,000 major league games and 317 in his last 986 games. All of those came after he hit his mid 30s, which is the kind of thing that's just not supposed to happen.
Plus, there's obviously something awfully suspicious about how Bonds went from being a slim, athletic outfielder to being a clone of the Incredible Hulk seemingly overnight. Coincidentally, that's when the ball started to jump off his bat with a lot of extra authority.
Just as important as the circumstantial evidence against Bonds in this case is how he treated the media throughout his career. He was infamous for being condescending to writers from the moment he entered the big leagues in the 1980s straight through to the end of his career.
He should have thought ahead. The writers he treated like dirt throughout his career now hold his Hall of Fame chances in their hands, and now it's time for them to exact their ultimate revenge.
Jason Whitlock said it best a few years ago in a piece for ESPN.com:
We still carry the hammer, and we used it to smash Bonds into a sports pariah. Bonds provided the colors and the brush, and we painted him as a weapon of mass destruction, a threat to truth, justice and the American way.
When the Hall of Fame voting totals come out, the writers will have smashed Bonds once again.
Prediction: 15.5 percent
So no, I don't think Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds will be getting into the Hall of Fame this year.
That shouldn't surprise you. The voters have sent a pretty clear message with their voting habits in the last few years, and this message clearly states that there's no way they're letting three (alleged) monstrous cheaters like Sosa, Clemens and Bonds in right away.
The three of them are going to have to be patient. There's already a train of thought out there that nothing should be held against stars like Sosa, Clemens and Bonds, even if they did indeed cheat.
After all, they come from an era when pretty much everyone in baseball was cheating, so the very definition of the word "cheating" may be loosely defined when it comes to the Steroid Era.
The majority of voters could come to sympathize with a notion such as this over time. You may also see more players make like Mark McGwire and hold themselves accountable for what they did, in which case the voters may not feel compelled to harden their hearts so much when it comes time to fill out their ballots.
But for now, haters gonna hate, as they say. Don't anticipate any of the Hall of Fame voters being nice to Sosa, Clemens and Bonds this year.
Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
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