Another chapter in the Barry Bonds-Roger Clemens National Baseball Hall of Fame saga has been written. And it's clear from the published votes that the two players, linked by allegations of performance-enhancing drug use, continue to track higher on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot.
The voting ended Dec. 31 and the official results will be announced Jan. 24 on MLB Network and MLB.com at 6 p.m. ET.
Neither player is likely to be elected this time, but with four more years of eligibility, there's a decent chance they ultimately may pass the 75-percent threshold. This year, the pair may settle just around 60 percent, up from 54 percent last year a whopping leap of about 16 percent since 2016.
The year to watch is 2021, when there are no apparent first-year candidates on the ballot. Next year's ballot will include Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Andy Pettitte and Todd Helton. The 2020 ballot belongs to Derek Jeter. But in 2021, the newcomers include Mark Buerhle, Tim Hudson, Torii Hunter and Barry Zito. Fine players, all of them, but no first-time electees.
It's a tweener year. Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz join the fray in 2022.
"Things are definitely turning around for the better," Bonds said. "I only have so many years left. So, 2021? That's going to be fun. And they're going to put us in together? That'd be great.
"I never ever even think about it. The only time I think about it is when you guys bring it up."
Bonds is the all-time home runs leader with 762, and won the National League MVP Award seven times -- twice for the Pirates and five times with the Giants, the latter team for which he now works in a community relations position. Clemens won 354 games, ninth most all-time and second in his era by one behind Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. Clemens won the Cy Young Award seven times, six times while pitching in the American League.
"I appreciate the guys that look at the facts and vote," Clemens said recently in a WFAN radio interview. "The writers have control over it, and I appreciate the guys that took the time to look at the facts and vote for me. I have zero control over it. So, if it happens, great."
The players' candidacy has been controversial since they joined the ballot in 2013, a year in which the BBWAA didn't elect a single candidate. Bonds and Clemens were named in the Mitchell Report, an independent investigation into the illegal use of steroids and other performance-enhancing substances by players in Major League Baseball. They were acquitted in federal court of perjury charges stemming from their alleged use.
As time has passed and the BBWAA voting body has changed, the perceptions toward the two players have altered. In their first year on the ballot, the duo garnered about 37 percent of the vote.
This voting season began with a note from Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan to all eligible BBWAA voters, asking them not to elect any known PED users.
"We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame. They cheated. Steroid users don't belong here," wrote Morgan, vice chairman of the Hall's board of directors.
"Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in MLB's investigation of steroid use, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in. Those are the three [criterion] that many of the players and I think are right."
I am a Hall voter and have been since 1992. In full disclosure, I have voted for Bonds and Clemens each year. While I respect Morgan immensely, his opinion didn't affect my vote this year and it seems not to have affected many other voters, as Bonds and Clemens are polling higher.
Other Hall of Famers have taken issue with Morgan's statement. Willie McCovey, who played on the Giants with Barry's late father, Bobby, and his godfather, Willie Mays, has known Barry since he was a kid.
"I just think it's a sin he's not in there," McCovey said. "If anybody deserved to be in the Hall of Fame, it's Barry."
During a conference call last week that included fellow Hall of Famers Gaylord Perry and Ivan Rodriguez, Tom Glavine said he was ambivalent about the whole question.
"I did not talk with Joe about the letter, but I can say that based on conversations I've had with guys since I've been in the Hall of Fame, I know there a lot of guys who feel the same way, that feel very strongly about it," said Glavine, who had 305 wins during the same era that Bonds and Clemens played. "I don't know that I can sit here and tell you that I'm one of those guys.
"I'm kind of indifferent to it, and I think that's because it was such a large part of my era in baseball. When I played, you knew guys were doing stuff. But it didn't affect what I was doing. I just went about doing my own job the best I could. I don't want to sound like I don't care, but it probably desensitized me because it was such a big part of my era."
It's also a big part of the Hall of Fame voting and it will continue to play itself out on the BBWAA ballot for the next four years.