Character Counts: Baseball Hall of Fame Voters Reject Bonds, Clemens

Character Counts: Baseball Hall of Fame Voters Reject Bonds, Clemens

Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, two of the greatest players in the game’s history, did not get voted into the Hall of Fame this year, as baseball writers rejected them — and their accomplishments — because both players were tainted with allegations of steroid use.

Like with Pete Rose (though Rose gambled on games when he was a manager and did not violate the “character clause” while he was a player) before them, baseball writers did not vote for Clemens and Bonds because they felt they violated the so-called “character clause,” or Rule 5 in the voting guidelines.

The so-called “character clause” reads

5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

Bonds is the game’s only seven-time Most Valuable Player. He is the sport’s single-season (73) and career (762) home run king.  

Clemens is the game’s only seven-time Cy Young Award winner. 

Both players had put up numbers that would have qualified them for the Hall of Fame before they were accused of using performance-enhancing drugs. Clemens won three Cy Young Awards before he turned 29.

Before the 2000 season (Bonds broke the single-season home run record in 2001), when Bonds was 35, he had already won three Most Valuable Player awards, eight Gold Gloves, slugged 448 home runs, and made eight All-Star game appearances. 

For these reasons, Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News and others, like ESPN’s Buster Olney, voted for both Bonds and Clemens. But they were in the minority.

Clemens and Bonds received 37.6% and 36.2% of the vote, respectively. To be inducted into the Hall of Fame, a player needs to receive at least 75% of the votes from the nearly 600 baseball writers who participate in the voting.