2022 will be Barry Bonds’ and Roger Clemens’ final years on the Hall of Fame ballot. The two baseball superstars of the ‘90s and ‘00s have garnered more and more votes each of their last eight years on the ballot — increasing their percentages from about 35 percent each in 2014 to approximately 61.5 percent each in 2021. The immortalization of Bonds and Clemens lies in the pens of the BBWAA in 2022. And while next year’s vote means a lot for those two, it will also set the precedent for players like Alex Rodriguez — who is making his first appearance on the ballot in 2022 — and this generation of pitchers now caught up in the spider tack/sticky substance scandal right now.
If Bonds and Clemens do not receive the 75 percent of votes needed, Alex Rodriguez can pack his bags and thank everyone for coming out. The three-time MVP and 1996 batting champ admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs in 2009. While I respect Rodriguez for coming out and confessing to his alleged usage, Mark McGwire also admitted to using steroids when he broke Roger Maris’s home run record in 1998. However, the closest he ever got to the Hall of Fame was in 2010 when he received 23.7 percent of all possible votes.
As for today’s pitchers, there are several who will be up for Hall of Fame consideration who’ve had ties to illegal sticky substances. During the infamous Brian “Bubba” Harkins case, Harkins named several pitchers who used his homemade substance including Corey Kluber, Adam Wainwright, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez, and Justin Verlander. Those are all pitchers with considerable Hall of Fame-caliber resumes and accolades. However, with the recent epiphany across Major League Baseball that dozens — maybe hundreds — of pitchers across the league have been using illegal sticky substances to increase their grip, how will their cheating methods affect their Hall of Fame cases?
If the BBWAA is consistent with how they’ve treated Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, and McGwire, then none of the famed pitchers named in the Harkins case should make the Hall either, right? During the case, Harkins provided numerous text messages and other pieces of evidence proving that pitchers were using his substance, so no one can say that there wasn’t enough hard evidence to prove their cheating. Then, of course, there’s also the video evidence, the game-used-ball evidence, the spin rate data, and much more that all points to the same conclusion… these guys were all using substances.
So, the “burden” again lies on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Will they allow these pitchers into the Hall of Fame? In doing so, they would be recognizing the greatness of these pitchers — allowing them to be immortalized after careers worthy of all-time recognition. At the same time, by allowing these pitchers into the Hall, the BBWAA would be metaphorically slapping Bonds, Clemens, and company in the face — basically saying, “Hey, it’s okay to cheat in certain ways, but what cheating methods are okay are solely determined by us, and they aren’t determined until after you finish your career.” That would severely damage the integrity of Hall of Fame voting.
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All I want to see is consistency. If PED users can’t be enshrined, then neither should these pitchers. MLB executives and members of the media have stated that the use of sticky substances can be more effective than steroids altogether. Not to mention that pitchers using sticky substances give themselves an advantage on every single pitch, whereas steroids only help a hitter when he makes contact.
If Bonds and Clemens earn Hall of Fame bids, then I’d be more than happy to see pitchers like Hernandez and Wainwright walk into Cooperstown when their time comes as well. If they don’t, though, all eyes will be on the BBWAA waiting to see just how hypocritical or non-hypocritical they are.