MLB Steroid-Era Players Like Barry Bonds Face Reckoning in Next Year’s Hall-of-Fame Vote

Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are now entering their final year of voting eligibility

MLB's Steroid-Era Players Face Reckoning in Next Year's Hall-of-Fame Vote
Barry Bonds hits home run No. 756 to break Hank Aaron's record.
Doug Duran/Contra Costa Times via Getty

When the late Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run to break Babe Ruth’s record, he weighed no more than 190 pounds soaking wet.

When Barry Bonds broke Aaron’s record decades later in 2007 to become baseball’s new home run king, he outweighed him by more than 50 pounds.

But the biggest difference between the two sluggers wasn’t their weight … it was what they did to put it on.

Aaron, who is still MLB’s all-time leader in RBI and total bases, didn’t take steroids. Bonds, who admitted as such in court testimony, did.

Next year, we’ll find out if that is enough to keep him out of the Baseball Hall of Fame, at least as far as the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) is concerned.

Bonds (61.8 percent), along with fellow assumed steroid users Roger Clemens (61.6 percent) and Sammy Sosa (17 percent), is entering his 10th and final year on the BBWAA’s ballot after failing to get 75 percent of the vote on the 2021 ballot. And if he isn’t voted into the Hall in 2022, the only way he’ll end up in Cooperstown is if the Eras Committee — formerly known as the Veterans Committee —  puts him in.

Complicating matters in next year’s vote, which also will offer a referendum on the play (and probably politics) of pitcher Curt Schilling (71.1 percent), will be the arrival of David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez (along with players including Mark Teixeira, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon) on the ballot.

Ortiz has never admitted to using steroids, but his name allegedly appeared on a list of players who tested positive in 2003. As for Rodriguez, he admitted to using PEDs while with the Rangers from 2001-03 and was suspended for the 2014 season due to his role in the Biogenesis scandal.

On paper, Rodriguez (696 home runs, 3,115 hits, three AL MVP awards and 14 All-Star appearances) should be a shoo-in for Cooperstown. Since he was primarily a designated hitter, Ortiz (541 home runs, 2,472 hits, one World Series MVP award and 10 All-Star appearances) has a slightly more complicated case, but should also probably get in.

But as the voting thus far for Bonds, Clemens and Sosa indicates, neither Ortiz nor Rodriguez should be betting the farm, or anything else, on getting a bust in upstate New York.

Prior to this year, the BBWAA had elected at least two Hall of Fame candidates in seven straight years and a total of 22 candidates during that time. No similar period in history resulted in as many BBWAA electees. But, almost certainly due to steroid allegations, 2021 was a shutout. In all likelihood, 2022 will be more of the same.

“Look, I pray every day I get a chance to get in,’’ Rodriguez said in 2019. “The Hall of Fame is the ultimate place. If you think about Roger and Barry specifically … if you stopped their career at the age of 33 or 34, they were both first-ballot [Hall of Famers] and then the noise [about PEDs] started. For me, it’s just a shame. I am certainly cheering for both of them. Of course I want them to get in, because that would mean that I have an opportunity to get in one day.”

Rodriguez’s chance may (and should) come one day, but it probably won’t be in 2022. Just ask Bonds, Clemens and Sosa. Don’t ask Schilling — unless you want an earful.

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