|Will Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens ever get their plaques in Cooperstown? (Getty Images)|
There are no road maps for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. They're on the short-list of best players in the history of baseball, but they're heavily freighted with their ties to the so-named "steroids era."
The only thing we know is that Bonds and Clemens, in their first year on the ballot, didn't come close to election. Despite obvious statistical merits Bonds was named on just 36.2 percent of ballots, while Clemens was scarcely better at 37.6 percent.
|BBWAA Hall of Fame voting results|
Without question there are a number of "first-ballot penalizers" among those who didn't vote for the blighted duo. Therein lies the hope for Bonds and Clemens. Also in their favor is that each has another 14 years on the BBWAA ballot for their percentages to rise to the necessary figure of 75. To be sure, a number of veteran voters disinclined to support them will -- whether by choice or because of the dark forces of mortality -- be removed from the voting body. They will likely be replaced by younger, more Bonds/Clemens-friendly members, and so on. There's also a reasonable chance that the furor over the BBWAA's non-action this time around leads to structural reforms in way Hall of Famers are elected. There's time for that, too. As well, a number of candidates have risen from further depths to earn election -- Bert Blyeleven and Jim Rice, to name just two recent examples.
On the other, more critical hand, the ballot is only going to get more crowded with Cooperstown worthies -- much more crowded. To put a finer point on it, Bonds and Clemens finished, respectively, eigth and ninth this time around, so they were "end of the ballot" choices in the aggregate. Now consider that in 2014, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine and Jeff Kent (among others) will hit the ballot. The 2015 roll call includes Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz (among others).
Some of these players will be first-ballot choices, but some won't. And that's to say nothing of the holdovers presently in line ahead of Bonds and Clemens. Throw into the mix the 10-name limit on each ballot, and you've got a queue comparable to a Comerica Park men's room line.
At the front of that queue will be a point of congestion that will surely prevent Bonds and Clemens from reaching 75 percent any time soon. All of this is notable because a second-year bump is going to be critical to the chances of Bonds and Clemens. That would signify that the "not on the first ballot" penalty mentioned above is in play. The problem is that, even if it is in play, the greats and near-greats about to come online may drown it out. For Bonds and Clemens, there's likely to be a notable lack of momentum coming out of the critical 2014 vote. And when it comes to Hall of Fame voting, momentum is its own nourishment.
So it's going to take time, and it's going to take a change in voting demographic or voting procedures. My guess is that Bonds and Clemens will eventually be voted in by the writers, but I think it will be, at minimum, another six or seven years before that happens. More likely, it'll be a solid decade on the ballot for both. Regardless of whether you believe they belong in the Hall or not, you'd do well to entrench yourself. It's going to be a while.