The Ballot: Bonds and Clemens

Barry Bonds

Hitting: 1,135 points

Baserunning: 20 points

Fielding: 75 points

Bonus league leader points: 115 (runs once, homers twice, RBIs once, batting average twice, on-base percentage 10 times, slugging percentage 7 times)

Baseball’s best player in the 1990s: 100 points

Broke the game with excellence in 2000s: 100 points

Was intentionally walked 120 times in a season (!): 10 points

Seven-time MVP (!): 25 points

Hit more homers in a season and a career than anyone ever: 25 points

Was wildly disliked because he was a jerk: minus-?????

Used PEDs: minus-??????

Race to 400 points: 1,605, minus whatever you want to knock off for his two great sins

* * *

Roger Clemens

Pitching: 860 points

Bonus league leader points: 140 (wins four times, ERA 7 times, innings once, strikeouts five times, FIP nine times, WHIP 3 times)

Seven-time Cy Young winner (!): 25 points

Won MVP as a pitcher: 10 points

Only member of 350-win, 4,000-K club: 25 points

Best pitcher of the 1980s: 100 points

Was wildly disliked because he was a jerk: minus-?????

Used PEDs (less certainty about it than with Bonds): minus-?????

Race to 400 points: 1,160, minus whatever you want to knock off for his two great sins

* * *

I've written about this particular topic so many times that I simply don’t have the strength to do it again. I don’t know if I EVER had anything interesting to add to the conversation, but if I did, I certainly wrote it long ago.

One thing I like about the Race to 400 system is that it has some objective stuff in it (the hitting and pitching points, for instance, are based on runs above average) and some subjective stuff where you can add or subtract points for anything you like. It’s YOUR Hall of Fame, after all.

Clemens and Bonds are objectively two of the five greatest players in baseball history.

Subjectively, you can dock them as many points as you want, so many that you would be more likely to put my old pals Dee Brown and Brian Bannister in the Hall of Fame before you would put in Bonds and Clemens. It really is up to you.

[caption id="attachment_23893" align="aligncenter" width="473"] PEDs aside, Clemens and Bonds are two of the five greatest players in history.[/caption]

My view is that as the years go on and emotion begins to lift like fog, there will be a chance for Bonds and Clemens to get into the Hall. I think that process has begun, but I don’t think we’re close to there yet. As I’ve written before, I don’t think the Hall of Famers want them in (made clear in a public plea by Hall vice chair Joe Morgan). I don’t think the Hall of Fame itself wants the headache. I think many fans want SOMEONE to pay for baseball’s sins, and it isn’t especially satisfying to have that someone be the owners or executives or managers or the players union as a group or the whole collection of baseball players who probably used PEDs when there was no one testing (in large part because we won’t ever know the whole story).

So Bonds and Clemens it is … along with the rest of the Steroid Seven (Sosa, McGwire, Palmeiro, Sheffield and Ramirez).

As long as we’re here, let’s just make a handful more quick points about Bonds and Clemens as players:

— At age 42, Bonds still had such a good eye and was so feared that, even though he hit just .276, he led the league in on-base percentage. There’s no equivalent in baseball history.

— If you break Clemens’ career into two parts — Boston and after Boston — you basically have the careers of Pedro Martinez and Sandy Koufax. The comparison isn’t exact, but it’s close enough to blow your mind.

— In 2004, after April 17, Barry Bonds had only ONE DAY where his on-base percentage dipped below .600 (it dropped to .599 on Aug. 2, and he promptly got on base 50 times in his next 71 plate appearances).

— In 1986, Clemens' first full year, he won the Cy Young and MVP awards. In 1987, he won the CY Young Award again. So everyone knows that. He was BETTER in 1988 than he was in either of those two years — by FanGraphs WAR he had the best season that any American League pitcher had in decades. And he was better in 1990 than ever — by Baseball Reference WAR he had the best season that any American League pitcher had in decades.

— Barry Bonds had five 30-homer, 30-stolen base seasons, tied for most all-time with his father Bobby (one of the cooler bits of baseball trivia). But Barry also had two 30-homer, 29-stolen base seasons, which tells you that he didn’t even CARE about such things. In 1993, he didn’t even try to steal his 30th base over the last four games of the season.

— Clemens leads all pitchers in Win Probability Added. It’s a limited statistic that shouldn’t be used as a catch-all … but it does tell you that Clemens was absurdly valuable through the years.