“So, Daddy, it says Hank Aaron broke baseball’s all-time home run record. Does he still have it?”
“Ah, I’m not sure. … So, do you want to wrap this year and get some ice cream?”
Unless the baseball writers perform a U-turn, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will swing and miss at Hall of Fame membership for the 10th consecutive year.
From there, the 16-member Veterans Committee will decide, and that requires 12 ayes from grouchy former players and gatekeeping owners and executives.
Bonds and Clemens are Satan and Lucifer because they are heavily suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs in a time when such use was widespread, if you believe the Mitchell Report, and when Major League Baseball had no PED policy.
They are also derided because they, unlike most users, stayed healthy and got better.
David Ortiz makes his debut on the ballot and is expected to sail into Cooperstown because he was the soul of Boston’s three World Series victories from 2004-13.
He also failed a drug test in 2003 during a survey that would determine the necessity of anti-drug legislation. Ortiz claims the results were tainted and has an odd advocate in MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who points out that Ortiz did not test positive afterward.
Alex Rodriguez also joins the ballot. He told DEA investigators that he bought PEDs from Biogenesis for two years. Later, he lamented that it cost him $40 million and his “reputation,” although he and Ortiz are regulars on MLB-sanctioned telecasts.
Bonds and Clemens remain radioactive. Their numbers are numbing and well-known.
Clemens and Greg Maddux are the best pitchers since Warren Spahn. Clemens won seven Cy Young Awards, two more than anyone in baseball history, and an MVP. Those are decided by the same panel of writers (although the writers change) that has zip-tied his march to Cooperstown.
The writers also want to give a name to the MVP award and have considered Frank Robinson, a nobleman who was the first to win it once in each league. Bonds won it seven times, four more than anyone else, and won it three times before he is alleged to have sampled the forbidden fruit.
It’s interesting that Bonds led the National League in home runs only twice. He hit 46 in 1993, long before Magic Beans , and hit 73 in 2001. He never reached 50 home runs otherwise. If he was a creation of the elixir, why didn’t he stick with it?
The book “Game Of Shadows” is the essential account of Bonds’ conquests. Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams were the meticulous authors.
Now Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn have produced an ESPN.com piece that features Dan Szymborski, a baseball analyst who purports to show what Bonds and Clemens would have done without steroids.
Szymborski “uses past performance and trends on how performance degrades with age to predict a player’s future performance.”
The solemn conclusion is that Bonds would have hit only 23, not 73, homers in 2001 if he’d been “clean,” would have played one fewer season than he did, and would have wound up 15th on the home run list.
Clemens went 18-4 in 2004, when he was 42, with a 2.98 ERA. Szymborski says he should have gone 8-5 with a 3.35 ERA and should have won 298 career games, not 354.
So if a voter was fishing for another excuse, here it was, just a couple of weeks before the required Dec. 31 postmark.
It’s superfluous to add that these are theories and equations, not facts, and that they aren’t extended to all “cheating” suspects, some of whom made the Hall with no problem.
It also compares two undeniably great players to the average player when it comes to aging gracefully. If Bonds and Clemens weren’t special, we wouldn’t be discussing them. How to explain Tom Brady or Bernhard Langer or LeBron James or Mike Smith?
Joey Votto, 37, hit 36 home runs in 2021. Nelson Cruz, 40, hit 32, and two years ago he hit 41. Adam Wainwright, 39, was 17-7 with a 3.05 ERA.
There was no effort to determine the effect of amphetamine testing, but we do know that Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield has the longest current streak of consecutive games, at 443. Cal Ripken really must have been superhuman.
If public disapproval must follow Bonds and Clemens, let’s include it on the plaque. Let’s mention they were suspected drug users. Let’s also note that former Red Sox hero Curt Schilling, also in his 10th and final year on the ballot, defrauded the state of Rhode Island and that Kenesaw Mountain Landis reinforced baseball’s color line.
Taboos change. Reason usually prevails. Next month, we’ll discover if Bonds and Clemens, dominators beyond argument, must stay in shadows they didn’t create.