After a decade of waiting to see if he would reach 75 percent of the vote, Barry Bonds will now ... wait to see if he can get 75 percent of the vote.
Bonds can no longer get voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the writers, but his path to Cooperstown is not permanently blocked. One door closed Tuesday, when Bonds finished his 10-year run on the ballot at 66 percent, but another one opened.
Bonds is likely to end up on the Today's Game ballot this December, meaning his fate will now be in the hands of 16 committee members who will meet to consider retired players no longer eligible for the BBWAA vote, along with managers, umpires and executives. The committee is made up of players already in the Hall of Fame, executives and veteran media members. The election will be held at the Winter Meetings in December, although that event has been canceled the last two winters so it's possible the details might change a bit.
The Today's Game committee is likely about to become a hot topic, but it actually has been around in some form for nearly 100 years. The Hall of Fame has Era Committees, which used to be known as Veterans Committees, to consider players who fell off the ballot. Along with David Ortiz, this year's Hall of Fame class will include Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Miñoso and Tony Oliva, all of whom were voted in by the Early Baseball Era Committee last December.
The emphasis rotates, meaning Bonds -- along with Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and others who have fallen off recently -- will have a chance to get voted in by the Today's Game Committee both this December (for 2023 enshrinement) and in December of 2024 (for 2025 enshrinement). Today's Game covers 1988 to the present, and on the surface, it seems like Bonds should be a lock to clear that bar. But he again could find himself dealing with disappointment.
The committees are much, much smaller than the BBWAA and are mostly made up of people who actually were involved with the game, but that doesn't mean this vote is any less political. It can get far more contentious than the yearly BBWAA vote, which consists of about 400 writers simply putting ballots in the mail.
Bonds' hopes rest almost entirely on the makeup of the committee, and oftentimes it's clear that favors are being done. In 2018, the committee elected Lee Smith and Harold Baines, the latter of whom peaked at six percent before falling off the traditional ballot. Baines played in the big leagues for 22 years, spending the majority of his time as a DH, and finished with 2,866 hits and 384 home runs. He never finished higher than ninth in MVP voting and was worth just 38.7 WAR in those 22 seasons (by comparison, that's about where current big leaguers Lorenzo Cain and Jason Heyward sit in about half as many seasons).
Baines had a secret weapon, though: The committee that year included his former White Sox manager, Tony La Russa, and owner, Jerry Reinsdorf. Roberto Alomar, a former teammate, was also on that committee, along with Pat Gillick, the GM in Baltimore when Baines played there. Afterward, Baines said the makeup of the committee "probably helped me." La Russa passionately defended that vote, saying the arguments against Baines were "weak-ass superficial bulls---."
Bonds will need that kind of support in the room, although he'll be fighting for air with many similar cases. Others eligible this December include Clemens, Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, Curt Schilling, Johan Santana and Kenny Lofton. If the room is particularly opposed to steroid use, Fred McGriff provides an intriguing alternative, along with non-players. That group, ironically, will include Bruce Bochy. Bonds could find himself fighting for votes against his former manager, and Bochy seems like a lock to make it in his first crack at the Hall of Fame.
The Hall says the term for committee members is renewable, so the voters should largely be the same as the ones who put two veterans in Cooperstown two years ago. That committee included Ozzie Smith, who has been public in his disapproval of the steroid era, along with Greg Maddux, who played in it and has been effusive in his praise of Bonds in recent years.
So, it once again will be tricky and hard to predict, and Bonds -- and the rest of the nominees -- will again need 75 percent (12 of 16 votes) to get into the Hall of Fame. The decade on the BBWAA ballot wasn't an easy one for Bonds, but the road ahead isn't necessarily much smoother.