Say it ain't so
Barry Bonds isn't entering the Hall of Fame. So now, like Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson, he's going to overshadow every Hall of Fame conversation and vote.
Major League Baseball's career leaderboard is filled with fascinating numbers.
Those numbers represent the all-time records for hits, home runs, games played, walks, and at-bats.
Rose. Bonds. Rose. Bonds. Rose.
Check the all-time career batting average leaders, and among them is .3558 by Shoeless Joe Jackson.
Those three players, Barry, Pete and Shoeless Joe, are undoubtedly among the finest players to ever take the field. But for a myriad of reasons — their own actions, failure to show remorse, scapegoating and/or MLB’s inability to let things go — they have all been denied inclusion to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
What do the numbers mean if the men who achieved them aren’t celebrated?
What credibility does the Hall of Fame have if the Hit King and Home Run King aren’t enshrined?
Bonds -- along with Roger Clemens, who also belongs in Cooperstown -- fell short on his 10th and final ballot, the results of which were announced Tuesday. Bonds finished with 66 percent of the vote, with 65 percent for Rocket Clemens.
All of Bonds’ statistics, all of his mashing, all of his dominance, and it all came down to some baseball writers who didn’t check a box.
Which is a damn shame.
Even if Bonds gets some demerits for his PEDs usage and surly personality, he was the most electrifying hitter in the game for the better part of two decades. MLB wasn’t taking PEDs seriously at the time, and he didn’t fail a drug test. And while Bonds and Clemens have been forced to endure 10 years of Hall of Fame limbo, only to fall off the ballot, their less accomplished contemporaries, some of whom have also faced steroids whispers, have already been enshrined.
Barry will have future opportunities to get elected through committees made up of former players and personnel, but I think it will be difficult to get 12 of 16 of them to vote for him. His best chance came and went with this year’s vote.
Which leaves Bonds in select company.
In the case of Rose, who’s been the subject of incessant calls for his induction for the past three decades, he’s a sentimental favorite, a throwback, an original.
It’s worth remembering that Charlie Hustle agreed to a settlement that banned him from baseball.
Bonds, meanwhile, was simply brushed aside. Teams could have signed Bonds after he slugged 28 home runs and led the National League in OBP in 2007, but they never did. He was too much of a headache, I guess.
Like Bonds, Jackson — ensnared in the 1919 Black Sox scandal and accused with his teammates of throwing the World Series — has faced comeuppance where others have been given a pass. Hall of Famers John McGraw, Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker have all been linked in some way to betting scandals.
But to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, reconsidering Jackson’s ban "would not be appropriate.”
Meanwhile, a century later, baseball is cashing in on gambling because it’s good for the bottom line. Your next call to the bullpen is brought to you by FanDuel Sportsbook, and MLB will giddily use Shoeless Joe’s name and legacy and likeness when it suits the league, but where it matters most, Jackson is still on the outside.
Rose has similarly been used as a prop for MLB, most notably in 1999 when he was honored before a World Series game with other members of the All Century Team sponsored by Mastercard. Rose, Bonds, and Jackson — along with Clemens — were voted among the 100 greatest players. Rose got the longest ovation of any player, even longer than Hank Aaron.
Had Bonds been enshrined in Cooperstown, there would have been no reason to talk about his Hall of Fame case anymore, as there’s no reason today to spend time discussing the merits of, say, Harold Baines or Edgar Martinez or Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown. They’re in. It’s over.
But now Bonds, just like Rose and Jackson before him, will overshadow every Hall of Fame conversation and vote. Every January, when a new induction class is announced, someone will inexplicably talk about Barry.
Every time there's a committee vote ... Barry.
Every time a less esteemed contemporary is enshrined, what about Barry?
Barry. Barry. Barry.
It's worth considering the Hall of Fame's mission, which, among other things, contains these lines:
The Hall of Fame's mission is to preserve the sport's history, honor excellence within the game and make a connection between the generations of people who enjoy baseball.
Honoring, by enshrinement, those individuals who had exceptional careers, and recognizing others for their significant achievements.
Excellence within the game and exceptional careers. Sounds a whole lot like Bonds, Jackson and Rose.
Barry Bonds was unforgettable as a player. And now, as a Hall of Fame pariah, he's achieved a type of immortality that even enshrinement can't provide.