The letter that arrives with the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot includes a short set of guidelines and a link to player bios. There's a reminder that ballots must be put in the mail by December 31. Near the top of the letter, there's a motto in big, bold letters.
Preserving History. Honoring Excellence. Connecting Generations.
For the 10th consecutive year, a significant portion of the Baseball Writers Association of America ignored those words. In his final year on the ballot, Barry Bonds once again fell short of induction, and it wasn't particularly close. Bonds finished with 66 percent of the vote, well shy of the 75 percent needed for a plaque in Cooperstown.
Preserving history? Nobody who has ever played the game hit more home runs or drew more walks. Honoring excellence? Bonds won seven MVP awards, made 14 All-Star teams, owns 12 Silver Slugger Awards and even added eight Gold Gloves. Connecting generations? Few, if any, have ever done that better than Bonds, one of the biggest reasons the sport's most stunning ballpark sits at Third and King.
Bonds is a regular there these days, always receiving a standing ovation from different generations of fans, but in recent years he has shied away from speaking about his Hall of Fame fate. In the middle of his decade on the ballot, Bonds was made a special advisor to Giants President and CEO Larry Baer. He indicated at that time that he had no interest in having in-depth conversations about the yearly vote.
"To keep talking about it doesn't do any good," Bonds said back then.
Bonds knew there was nothing he could do, not when such a large number of voters had stubbornly dug in. Bonds lingered on about a third of the ballots his first three years, and it took him until his fifth year to be listed on at least half of them. He has gained support each winter, but the progress has been too slow, oftentimes highlighting the hypocrisy of this all.
In 2016, former commissioner Bud Selig was put in the Hall of Fame by the Today's Game Era Committee. The MLB.com story about his election does not include any mention of PEDs. The only time performance-enhancing drugs were brought up was when Selig was praised because he "championed a new drug-testing program." The man who turned a blind eye to the PED era because it was good for business is in the Hall of Fame; the players who thrived during it are not, although it's clear some managed to sneak by.
Bonds is not alone in being punished for his connection to PEDs. He is falling off the ballot at the same time as Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa, but the group's 10th year came with an added twist. The only player elected Tuesday was David Ortiz, who reportedly tested positive in 2003 during what was supposed to be anonymous testing to pave the way for today's stricter rules.
In his first and only year on the ballot, Ortiz finished 47 votes ahead of Bonds. You had to work through some serious mental gymnastics to check one box on your ballot and not the other.
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Bonds and Clemens were tracking not far behind Ortiz in early voting, but as has so often been the case in recent years, Bonds tumbled once the full results were released. Last year, there was a 23 percent difference in the amount of support Bonds received from public and private ballots, which puts a perfect cherry on top of this flawed process. There's a large group of writers who were all too happy to grab a front row seat during the steroid era, but many of them have opted to anonymously keep the best players they watched out of the Hall of Fame.
All of the writers -- those who voted for Bonds and those who didn't -- got the same letter late last year. At the very top, about an inch above the motto, are the words "National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum." That should have served as a reminder.
This is, quite simply, a museum about baseball, but the most feared hitter the game has ever seen somehow won't be included.