The Bonds/Clemens Rule

The BBWAA rule to be able to vote for players for the HoF is a writer must have been an active baseball writer and BBWAA member for 10 years. As of 2015 another rule took effect—once you no longer actively/regularly covered baseball, the clock started ticking. After 10 years of not covering baseball, the writer loses his/her vote.

The first year of the voter purge, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens saw their vote percentage jump from the mid thirties to the mid forties.

By 2016 the HoF instituted a new rule: players could no longer remain on the ballot for 15 years—henceforth the term of eligibility would be 10 years. They denied it was due to any particular players, but the math and logic are obvious.

The logic: older writers, the ones getting retired from eligibility to vote, are the ones who hate Bonds, Clemens, and other specific named alleged PED users. This was seen clearly in the percentage boost Bonds and Clemens received from the initial voter purge. The math? The new voters, ones less likely to use the HoF character clause as a bar to entry, were supporting the two at an 85% clip.

Last year Bonds and Clemens got 248 and 247 votes out of 400, respectively. Induction requires 75% of the vote. Their support has continued to increase a couple percentage points each year—just under 62% last year. That 2% comes from the new voters each year. Very few voters flip their votes on these two players each year. About 20 voters are culled each year and 20 added, with the total remaining about 400. That 85% support I mentioned earlier among new voters has also remained consistent.

This is now the 10th and final year on the ballot for Bonds and Clemens. They aren’t going to get to the necessary 75% for induction, even if a few voters who’ve withheld support previously vote for them now on their final chance. …but what if they still had five more years? Well they could count on around 85 more votes. Granted, they’d lose a few from retirees too—that’s why the increase each year has averaged around 2% and not over 3.5%. 5×2 = 10. Another 10% would get them to about 72% of the vote. At that range, a few final year flips could get them the needed 75% for HoF entry.

In short, it seems pretty obvious to me the shortening of the ballot eligibility period from 15 to 10 years was personal and intentional, not just coincidence. Next year Bonds and Clemens will be on the Today’s Game era (veterans committee) ballot, which so far has not been kind to Mark McGwire.

5 thoughts on “The Bonds/Clemens Rule

  1. Happy New Year, friends!

    I could be wrong, but I thought one of the reasons for shortening the ballot from 15 to 10 years was because with a 10 player vote limit, some new players were not acheiving the 5% minimum to stay on the ballot. The thought was cutting the duration to 10 years would clear out the dead wood that constistently garnered maybe 20% with no hope of getting more.

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    1. I hadn’t heard that but would counter that the only players with over 10 years on the ballot when the rule was enacted were Lee Smith and Alan Trammel…and both of them are now in the Hall.

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  2. Is anyone not in the Hall because of personal shortcomings outside of baseball, such as DUIs, domestic violence incidents et.? That didn’t stop Kirby Puckett and his case was arguable to begin with because of a relatively short career.

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    1. It’s my opinion that is why Bill Dahlen is not in the HoF. He has 75 WAR, was clearly a HoF quality player in the late 19th/early 20th century. He was also a drunk and surly person who was not well liked by teammates and sportswriters, according to things I’ve read.

      It’s also possible that Steve Harvey’s carefully crafted golden boy image being found to be false helped keep him out of the Hall until realization that he actually also didn’t belong statistically caught up.

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      1. Back in 2002 – 2003 my Dad was in in a hospital bed that was one step away from his death bed. A game came up on his hospital TV screen involving Kurt Schilling and Barry Bonds. Bonds was nearing 70 home runs while drawing 100 walks and having the best offensive year since peak Babe Ruth. Schilling was one of the best 5 pitchers if not the best in the world. He bragged before the game that Bonds didn’t scare him and that he was going after Bonds with nuttin but fastballs. I told my dad about this – that we were watching the best in the world versus the best in the world. He appreciated this as he had always appreciated exceliiance . Schilling struck out Bonds in the first two at bats in the game. In the third at bat Bonds bounced one high off the right field wall for a double. In the fourth at bat Schliling mixed in some breaking balls.

        When I was a kid my dad and I played catch. I caught his throws in my carefully oiled Ted Williams glove. He caught my throws in his bleeding Psoraiasis bare hands. Not PEDs – yes or no, not career WAR, that is what the Hall of Fame means to me.

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