Ten years Barry Bonds has been on Hall of Fame ballots sent to Baseball Writers Association of America voters, and ten times he’s fallen short.
Bonds’ decade of Cooperstown eligibility is over without induction. He received 66% of votes in his 10th and final year on the ballot — 9% ballots short of enshrinement. David Ortiz was the only player elected in the 2022 class, appearing on 77.9% of ballots.
The game’s all-time leader in home runs now has to wait for an era committee to nominate him for a backdoor entry into the Hall, a road that may never open.
Voters have taken more consideration into Bonds’ integrity than his unparalleled baseball resume. Bonds earned seven MVP awards; nobody else has ever cracked three. He holds MLB records for career home runs and walks; single-season homers, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and walks.
But the character clause, Rule No. 5 for the BBWAA electorate, states that “voting shall be based upon a player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
The character clause, then, is clear? Not particularly. There are players with links to PEDs already enshrined; and before them, amphetamine users. There are domestic abusers (and objectionable characters of all walks) celebrated. Bud Selig, the commissioner who oversaw the era with the most rampant steroid use, has a bronze plaque.
But BBWAA writers have the power to write history — with Cooperstown as the ultimate baseball encyclopedia — and they’re allowing Bonds’ absence in the Hall to speak louder than a 10th-year induction.
Bonds can still be nominated by the Today’s Game Era Committee, a contingent of Hall of Famers, executives and media members tasked with considering players overlooked by scribes. But he’d still need 12 of their 16 votes even if he’s ever put under their microscope.
For now, though, the most feared hitter ever remains shut out of the Hall of Fame.
In San Francisco, where Bonds helped the Giants find a renaissance when he signed with the franchise in the winter of 1992, fans weren’t expecting a Hall call for their favorite antihero. After nine years of falling short, they’re begrudgingly used to it, if not baffled by it.
They know Bonds helped keep the Giants relevant through the 1990s, and is as responsible for building the ballpark on the shores of McCovey Cove as anyone. They know how much he did for the city and organization.
Bonds’ No. 25 is retired by the Giants, plastered in left field next to his godfather Willie Mays’ 24 and legendary pitcher Juan Marichal’s 27. Of the 12 retired numbers in Giants franchise history, 11 are Hall of Famers.
Yet in his city, in his ballpark, he belongs.