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A vote for Bonds and Clemens


By Joe Rutter

As I was filling out my Hall of Fame ballot — voters can choose up to 10 candidates — I decided it was difficult to check the names of four holdover candidates and three newcomers without giving serious consideration to arguably the greatest left fielder of all time and right-handed power pitcher of several generations.

Which is how I came to reverse course and vote for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

I did not vote for Bonds and Clemens last year in their first year of eligibility. I decided long ago never to give a first-ballot vote to someone with integrity issues and Bonds (BALCO) and Clemens (Mitchell Report) had an abundance of qualifications in that category.

I strongly considered keeping them off my ballot again. After all, I had voted for Mark McGwire until he came clean on steroids use. And I’d never voted for Rafael Palmeiro because of his positive test. Or Sammy Sosa because of his flawed Congressional testimony.

However, I don’t think all players from the Steroids Era should be painted with the same broad brush. Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza were big-bodied, right-handed sluggers but they never were publicly associated with steroids, so they have gotten my vote.

Considering a player from the Steroid Era’s merits is the most difficult decision a Hall of Fame voter faces. And I, like other BBWAA voters, take it seriously.

I don’t subscribe to the theory that if you vote one PED user in, you vote them all in. Nor do I believe that if you shun one, you have to shun them all. There is too much gray matter in this discussion, and it’s a subject I have pondered greatly when formulating my ballot.

Last year, I had a former major league player familiar with my voting history message me to say that I unwittingly have voted for a performance-enhancing drug user. He wouldn’t divulge the name or names.

It got me wondering. How would I know or not know if a player used or didn’t use steroids. Answer: I wouldn’t, unless there was a conviction or admittance of guilt. This former major leaguer, unless he had direct knowledge, wouldn’t know with 100 percent certainty, either.

Which brings me back to Bonds and Clemens. Bonds, of course, testified that he unknowingly used the Cream and the Clear. Clemens, despite vehemently denying PED use, faced a mountain of evidence in the Mitchell Report.

Yes, they are the two faces of the Steroid Era. But Bonds did hit 762 home runs, and Clemens did win 354 games. Bonds won the MVP seven times. Clemens won the Cy Young seven times. And that was hard for me to ignore.

Am I hypocritical for voting for them? Probably. But as we get further away from the Steroid Era, my stance on such players has evolved (and softened). So, if I was going to open my ballot to tarnished players from that era, I was going to start by voting for the best of the best.

The rest of my ballot:

Holdovers (4): Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, Jack Morris

Newcomers (3): Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas





Author: Joe Rutter

After 13 years covering the Pirates -- the first 13 of their losing streak from 1993-2012 -- I moved away from PNC Park and into an assistant editor's position. Proud member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America and an annual voter in the Hall of Fame process.


  1. Steelkings says:

    I absolutely hate the argument against players during the steroid era not being eligible for the hall of fame. Never mind that those players in particular that you mentioned, Sosa, Palmeiro, Bonds, Clemons, McGuire, Ect. were primarily responsible for the rescue of the game as a whole. Fans wanted those HR’s. They wanted to see baseball in the grandest fashion. Those guys just did what they had to do. Which BTW at the time was not illegal. Do you suppose we will be talking about the hero’s of the NFL the same way we talk about the MLB steroid era players when the NFL really takes HGH out of the game?
    Bagwell > Bonds? He’ll get more votes by the moral Majority. Its insanity. We are talking about the hall of Fame. I’ve never seen guys like Ted Williams play. But I sure as heck know who he was. Mantle, Maris, Robinson…My kids, kids will know who they are. But Bagwell? No way. Bagwell didn’t put anymore fear in pitchers than most any other ordinary slugger. My kids wont have any clue who he is or was. Its the hall of Fame! FAME!!
    Ted Williams struck out 49 times in 517 at bats during the season he was 39 years old. That is absolutely remarkable. The season Barry Bonds was 39 he struck out 41 times in 617 at bats. That’s an insane number. Bonds that year hit .362 while Williams hit .328.
    Back to Bagwell…only 4 seasons during his 20 year career did Bagwell walk more than he struck out. Bonds walked more than he struck out 18 times in his 22 year career. In 5 of those seasons it was more than a 2-1 ratio. Barry Bonds is one of 5 players in the history of baseball to be walked intentionally with the bases loaded. He’s the only one to be walked intentionally with the bags full more than once. In 2004 he walked 232 times. 120 times intentionally. That’s staggering. NO PLAYER in the history of baseball has been more intimidating to a pitcher than Barry Bonds. For him to not go first ballot was wrong. Its the “Baseball Hall of Fame”, Not the “Hall of Noble Men”

    Would you like me to discuss my thoughts on Pete Rose?

  2. NMR says:

    Bravo, Steelkings!!!

    The way these steroid users get treated is an absolute shame. Baseball used these guys to save their sport for over a decade and now treats them as pariahs.

    I don’t think the author is hypocritical at all for adding Bonds and Clemens after hearing from the former major league player. If a voter were to remove a player from his ballot for admitting steroid use but take no effort to make sure the unkown user was also removed, does he really care about keeping steroid users out of the hall or does he care about how his own personal ballot looks to others?

  3. 21sthebest says:

    “Its the “Baseball Hall of Fame”, Not the “Hall of Noble Men”

    Character and integrity are part of the voting criteria.

  4. 21sthebest says:

    “Baseball used these guys to save their sport for over a decade and now treats them as pariahs.”

    NMR, are you blaming the BBWAA for using these guys to save the sport?

  5. piratemike says:

    Parents should teach their children to cheat. Why not it, works for politicians, drug dealers, car salesmen , Etc.
    Why not baseball players?
    You wonder how women who murder their children and boyfriends walk away free? Well why not? There are people out there who have committed crimes and never got caught and tried so it’s not fair to guilty people who got caught, after all those other people are walking around free.
    No I am not equating taking steroids to committing murder.

  6. NMR says:

    No, but I do blame them for turning a blind eye.

    If they really cared this much, why not a peep while these players were obliterating records?

  7. Steelkings says:

    You have to read this article

    In a nut shell, based on your argument you would have to take a lot of players out of the Hall of Fame.

    From the Article
    ” Finally, you could demonstrate, as virtually everyone with two brain cells to rub together has done over the last 10 years, that the Hall of Fame has long been the home of such lizard-brained reprobates as Cap Anson, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, and Tris Speaker, guys who (to borrow from Harlan Ellison), if they visited your house, you would have doorknobs cauterized.”

  8. 21sthebest says:

    In a nutshell, I wouldn’t take anyone out if they were voted in except for convicted murderers.

  9. Steelkings says:

    ***”No I am not equating taking steroids to committing murder.”***

    You just did.

    Competition is not for everyone. And as long as there is competition people will try and find a way to gain a, more times than not, an unfair advantage.

    Let eliminate the following players from the possibility of ever entering the hall of fame.
    John Smoltz
    Chris Carpenter
    Tim Hudson
    Steven Strasburg
    Adam Wainwright
    Josh Johnson
    Charlie Morton

    You see they all gain an (unfair?) advantage by having Tommy John surgery. Most of those guys had career type years after coming back. They all threw harder and they took years of wear off their arms.

  10. Steelkings says:

    Its hypocritical…Completely!

    In 1961 Mickey Mantle miss the end of the season because a botched amphetamine shot became infected and effectively ended his season.

    Pete Rose cant get in and yet Dutch Leonard self admitted to gambling on baseball


  11. Steelkings says:

    Quite frankly the best part of the SB article is the part where the writer says that the Hall of Fame is in reality the museum of baseball. The Hall of Fame tells the story of baseball and that those in the steroid era are very much a part of it

  12. 21sthebest says:


    I did not know that about Mickey Mantle. If I were a voter, I could only vote based on what I know at the time I vote. I think the whole PEDs thing makes this very complicated but with almost 600 voters, I don’t have a problem with the process.

    As to Pete Rose, he has never even been on the ballot. Every baseball clubhouse has a sign saying that gambling gets you banned from baseball but he gambled anyways. He made his own bed and then he lied, and lied, and then he kept lying about it.

    I’m not saying the process is perfect, but good luck trying to make it perfect.

  13. LeeFoo says:

    I received an answer from Tim W about JaCoby Jones and the retooling of his swing:

    Tim….when he was drafted, several outlets said he needed a swing overhaul, yet you don’t speak of it.
    Is that because Pirate coaches determined he didn’t need one?

    Tim Williams
    JANUARY 7, 2014
    They usually don’t do that kind of thing right away with players. They also didn’t really get a chance to do anything with Jones, since he went down with an injury early. I haven’t heard that they were planning on doing this, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t. It just means he was still in the “no touch” period.

  14. LeeFoo says:

    John Shea ‏@JohnSheaHey…HOF vote:

    Maddux: 97.2%, Glavine 91.9%, Thomas 83.7%, Biggio 74.8%, Piazza 62.2%, Morris 61.5%.

    Biggio missed by TWO votes, including the asinine Ken Gurnick’s vote.

    Bonds and Clemons both dropped in votes.

  15. LeeFoo says:

    I enjoyed this tweet:

    Zeus Moscow ‏@LOLPhillies

    Tom Glavine’s Hall of Fame plaque will be eight inches wider than all the other pitchers’ plaques.”

  16. LeeFoo says:

    My HOF ‘thesis”….I can’t stand Big Head Barry, so I hope he never gets in.

    Roger Clemons belongs in the HOF.

    Niekro, Rice and other “Hall of the Very Good” players should not be in the HOF.

    But, it is like the Rock N Roll HOF…after awhile, you just shake your head and say “Whatever” and it becomes ‘dead to me’.

  17. Steelkings says:

    Graig Nettles was the best defensive 3rd baseman to ever play the game. He also set a career home Run record for American League 3rd basemen. Been on the ballot 4 times.

    Phil Garner (Old Scrap iron Himself) Received 4 votes last time on the ballot

    What do these two cheaters have in common? They were both caught with corked (actually super Balled) bats

  18. LeeFoo says:

    Then, is anything of Shoeless Joe’s in there? I’ve been there twice and I don’t remember if his stuff was in there or not.

    Shoeless SHOULD be in the HOF….but as I said below, it has become ‘dead to me’.

    There’s just so much ‘chit’ swirling around the voting, there’s no point in getting worked up about it anymore. It seems like every argument from every side has validity. So….what to do?

    ApatheticalLee yours,


  19. LeeFoo says:

    I think Brooks was better than Nettles. He was the Bill Mazeroski and Ozzie Smith of 3b.


  20. Steelkings says:


    “I was into power, not prison,” Piazza said of illegal steroids.

    The strongest concoction he admits taking was androstenedione — also called “andro,” a muscle-building supplement bought over the counter at nutrition stores in a “Monster Pak” that also contained creatine and amino acids.

    When andro was found in Mark McGwire’s locker in 1998, Piazza said he decided to phase it out of his own regimen. In 2004 the FDA banned it.

    Piazza admits that every team had a treasure chest of drugs.

    “I used Vioxx because it was an intense anti-inflammatory and it made me feel good,” he writes in the book, which is set to go on sale Tuesday.

    “When I caught for 22 straight days and could hardly drag myself out of bed to get to the ballpark, Vioxx picked me up. I’d sing, ‘It’s gonna be a Vioxx morning.’ ”

    Piazza admits he took “greenies” — stimulants that were once common in baseball — usually in his coffee. But they made him too jittery. He preferred Dymetadrine, a light asthma medication that sends more oxygen to the brain. He also used Ephedra, an over-the-counter fat burner. It was later added to the banned list.

  21. Steelkings says:

    Pete Rose makes 1 million a year selling autographs. It kind of funny. His original Charlie Hustle fame came as the guy broke Cobb’s hits record. But the Current Pete Rose fame is the fact that Rose isn’t in the hall. And what keeps it current year after year is Seligs refusal to rule on the appeal Rose filed in 1997. Bud Selig has yet to formally rule on Rose’s application for reinstatement. When asked recently if he planned to make a ruling before his term ends in 2014, Selig said, “I keep saying it’s under review, and that’s where it is. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.”

    So Rose remains current and continues to rake in the dough. He may not be in the hall but he makes more annually not being in the hall than any player currently in it.

  22. Steelkings says:

    You know…Looking at the numbers, you are right!

  23. 21sthebest says:

    No disrespect Steelkings but I’m not sure why you’re giving out a history lesson on Pete Rose. I don’t know what your point is or what that has to do with him being banned from the game.

  24. Steelkings says:

    The Human Vacuum

  25. Steelkings says:

    It is simply an on topic example of how being banned is extremely valuable for his pocket book. Did I mention Hit King Inc is a 60 million dollar business that he is a co owner of?

  26. 21sthebest says:

    Yeah but TJ surgery isn’t against the rules.

  27. 21sthebest says:

    Honestly, if he were wealthier than Bill Gates, I really wouldn’t care.

    Hopefully he’s paying taxes this time.

  28. Pet roster says:

    Bonds is a cheeter. Cheeters don’t get in. What he did and the results that he produced were a direct and or indirect result of him cheeting! Should he get in because of his accomplishments? I say, why the hell should we compromise the integrity of the game or why the hell should we compromise our integrity? Sports is not all about winning and losing. Is it? It’s how you play the game. The hall is about the best players and its about the integrity of the game. Pete Rose is the best player that I ever saw. But he cheeted. Therefore, he’s out.

  29. Thundercrack says:

    I believe that fans and certain members of the media treats them as pariahs.
    Some people don’t like cheaters. (me included).

    And most of those pariahs were paid very very well by MLB.

  30. Thundercrack says:

    ‘Did I mention Hit King Inc is a 60 million dollar business that he is a co owner of?’

    $60 million?!?! How can that be?

  31. Andrew says:

    I have no problem with PED, or suspected PED users being voted in the Hall of Fame. Mainly because it is absurd to try and determine who and who did not use PEDs, and define when the era actually occurred. Additionally, amphetamines, a performance enhancer by definition, were used by players for decades, before the ill defined steroid era began.

    However, when did baseball need saving? I am a younger fan but when was baseball dying? The NFL passed the MLB in popularity in the 1970s. Let us not lionized athletes, Sosa, Palmeiro, Bonds, Clemons, McGuire, did nothing more than play the game at an extremely high level, as far as saving the game that sound like something invented by writers, possibly the same ones who scorn voting for the one-time saviors.

  32. Andrew says:

    Steelkings you made some great points above and below but you lost me on comparing UCL reconstruction and anabolic steroids.

    And no pitcher throws harder after UCL reconstruction, the elbow is not stronger, it only looks that way when comparing post-surgery performance to performance just prior to surgery when the ligament was likely compromised.

  33. NMR says:

    Speaking only from my personal recollection, the difference between post-strike MLB and ’98-McGuire-Sosa-bashing-baseballs-a-mile MLB was night and day.

    Maybe not for avid fans like you and I, but unquestionably (IMO) for casual fans and the general public.

  34. Joe Rutter says:

    I was surprised Bonds and Clemens both dropped. I figured there would be a slight uptick from voters such as myself who ignored them on the first ballot (in 2013) out of principle. I attribute the drop to perhaps more BBWAA members finally getting a vote and not wanting to pick Bonds and Clemens on their first time submitting a ballot.

  35. NMR says:

    I can’t find it right now, but I saw video from 2013 and he actually added a big leg kick to all that wasted movement, if you can believe it.

  36. NMR says:

    Joe, thanks very much for sharing your ballot and explanation.

    Nobody is ever going to reach consensus on this issue, but greater transparency can only improve the process.

  37. Joe Rutter says:

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to post your thoughts!

  38. Steelkings says:

    Bonds is a Cheater? Or a cheetah? He is certainly not a Cheeter. Are you a pet roster or a pet Rooster?.Or do you know?

  39. Steelkings says:

    In 1994 and 1995 teams on average put 1 million less fans in the stands.

  40. Steelkings says:

    Neither was steroids in the steroids era

  41. Steelkings says:

    That,s not true anymore at all.

  42. Steelkings says:

    They have been in business for 17 years. they amass 3.56 million in sales a year.

  43. Steelkings says:

    I don’t think they thought they were cheating. An advantage through chemicals was …..New back then. It certainly wasn’t against the rules.

  44. joel says:

    These players earned the right to be inducted but they all violated the morality clause of the hall of fame. Just ask Marge Schott who even lost her season tickets at Cincy. If I ran the HOF I would construct a small second building away from the true HOFers to house the junkies. There would be their busts in an unheated and no janitorial service provided. They want into the HOF, that would be it.

  45. 21sthebest says:

    Steroids were against the rules and are illegal without a prescription.

  46. 21sthebest says:

    That doesn’t make them a $60M business.

  47. LeeFoo says:


    It just so happens that Connor Glassey of BA released a study today, looking at how many scouts have actually played pro ball. The number he came up with from the 2013 scouts was 52%.

  48. LeeFoo says:

    On the topic of AJ. From the Fan….convo with Searage. Ray says his family wants him to retire. Ray believes he still has the competitive edge in him.

    That’s what I’ve been saying all along……we’ll know AJ’s decision when his wife lets him know.

    And, you guys thought I was joking. :) :) You must not be married….lol.

    It’s that old joke: My wife has me so well trained, I think I’m getting my way.

  49. LeeFoo says:

    News about Jeff Locke in that same interview:

    “Ray says in his opinion, Jeff tired. He had one intense start after another, then hurt his back. He had to quit his weight training so the back would heal. He just never regained his strength or form both mentally and physically”.

    I am a big Locke fan, btw.

  50. LeeFoo says:


  51. LeeFoo says:


    By that math, now that I am retired, I can say I am a millionaire a coupla times over….(govt and consulting work pays well).

    Actually, my wife is the millionaire, since I give her most of it.

  52. LeeFoo says:

    BP on “A Vote for Transparency
    How Secret Ballots Skewed the Hall of Fame Election Results
    by Lewie Pollis

    Every once in awhile, I can stay on topic…

  53. Nate83 says:

    Wait, Jeff Locke lifts weights???? He has the same body as my 10 year old son.

    Seriously it is nice to hear that there had been some issues last year that may have contributed to his dramatic second half decline. Maybe there is some hope that he could become a solid number 4 or 5 starter on this 2014 team. We definitely could use some insurance against Volquez not turning it around and or injuries.

  54. Andrew says:

    Yes, but teams lost 48 games in 1994, and 18 in 1995, some 920 games, so of course total fans are going to be down. I’ll give you this point, attendance hit an all time high 1993 that was not reached to 2006. However, that all-time high was driven by having Rockies and Marlins expansion teams opening in football stadiums. Work stoppages have not affected the long term trends in attendance in any sport.

    I will agree with NMR that the homerun chase definitely brought national attention to baseball for an entire summer that was unequaled, so I’ll concede this point. Moreover, I agree with your larger points and support the indignation; if the goal of the Hall of Fame is to recognize the greatest players then the greatest players should be recognized.

  55. NMR says:


  56. NMR says:

    Haha. Dejan had this one pegged, btw. Always said Locke was fatigued.

  57. LeeFoo says:

    Your welcome?

  58. Gary says:

    It was wrong for players to use steriods, and it was wrong for baseball to turn a blind eye to the use of steriods. Two wrongs do not make a right. It’s a shame that you cast your vote for two wrongs being committed.

  59. LeeFoo says:

    NMR….you’re the one who asked the question, so I just got you the link.

    Otherwise, I’d have never looked for it.

    You wrote this and I got an answer:
    “I didn’t read a single scouting report about Jones after that draft that DIDN’T think he needs a major swing overhaul to be a big leaguer. I mean this literally.”

    You wrote this:
    “I’m questioning his scouting ability.” “Tim Williams ain’t exactly impartial OR a scout, Foo. Think about your source.”

    and I gave you that link which states that half of those scouts out there are writers, etc. But, yeah, you’re right. Tim is NOT a scout, although he HAS been approached to become one. He wants NO part of the travel.

    Just doing my duty in presenting the facts. :) :) :)

  60. Skip says:

    NMR – Are you saying Jones has “all that wasted movement” in his swing on this particular video you linked to?

    I’m asking because I don’t see any wasted movement. From that angle, his swing looks just fine – other than maybe a little too much muscle tension in his left hand and arm.

  61. LeeFoo says:

    NMR…and nobody is doubting your word about his swing (altho, like Skip, I saw NOTHING wrong with his swing in that video) because I’ve read the same thing.

    I was merely replying to why you wondered why Tim didn’t mention it. He told me because the Pirates (AND the scouts he trusts) didn’t mention it to him. The Bucs wait for awhile before changing ANYTHING anyway, coz you know, gasp, it might just work.

    Also, (and this is just conjecture), despite what the ‘scouts’ said, maybe the Bucs had no problem with his swing (and judging by that YouTube video, I can see why).

  62. piratemike says:

    steelkings… You are wrong …I said I did not equate steroid use to murder and that is what was written.
    Point to a place where I said that Bonds or Clemens use of steroids was equal to murder.
    I used some court cases as an example of some people’s thinking or justifying their decisions, if I was equating their actions to murder that would have been what my post would have been about and examples would not have been necessary.

  63. Terry says:

    I don’t understand the logic behind keeping Bonds or Clemens out of Cooperstown. If the baseball world truly believes that Bonds or Clemens were only able to dominate their competition due to the fact that they cheated is absurd. Let’s examine what we know, both played during the period that baseball labeled “The Steroid Era”, and for that reason isn’t it fair to also assume that this era got its name because the evidence has showed that the majority of players during this time were on the juice? and if this is true, isn’t it also fair to assume that each time Clemons pitched or when Bonds came up to hit they too would be facing an opponent that was most likely putting the same chemicals into their own bodies? So please explain again to me the reason why two of the most dominating players (Hmmm…Hitter & Pitcher) of all time aren’t in the Hall of Fame yet.

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