The deadline has passed for 10-year members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) to submit their ballots for 2022 National Baseball Hall of Fame voting, meaning the enshrinement fate of SF Giants legend Barry Bonds is in sealed envelopes traversing the country through the mail.
In his 10th and final year on the ballot, Bonds - Major League Baseball's all-time home run leader with 762 circuit clouts - is being projected to miss the 75% threshold needed for induction, as he has for the previous nine years, thanks to a general disdain from the electorate supposedly spurred by his "tainting" the game with steroid use (though many who don't vote for him are voting for David Ortiz, who also had performance enhancing drug connections but was more open to the press - the same people voting - than the surly Bonds).
It's likely most voters sent their ballots in at least a few days before the December 31 deadline for the envelopes to be postmarked, but the procrastinators were given one more nugget in their consideration of Bonds at the last minute: a former federal agent who helped investigate PEDs in sports made the case that the home run king should be in the Hall of Fame.
In a December 30 opinion piece in the New York Times, Jeff Novitzky - who "dug through the trash" of BALCO, Victor Conte's Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative that supplied Bonds with his alleged PEDs, and then assisted with the Mitchell Report that chronicled MLB's steroid issues - argued that Bonds and pitching great Roger Clemens are taking the brunt of the penalty for an era in which "baseball itself didn't live up to Hall of Fame standards."
Neither Bonds nor Clemens failed a drug test
Novitzky, who now works for Ultimate Fighting Championship and helped develop their antidoping program, points out that Bonds and Clemens were charged in federal court with making false statements rather than the use or possession of PEDs, and that both were later cleared of those allegations. Thanks to his investigations, Novitzky believes "a major portion of MLB players used P.E.D.s" before the implementation of a testing program in the sport - meaning Bonds and Clemens weren't outliers in their alleged usage and were on more of an even playing field than many believe.
"Bonds and Clemens represented the best on-field performers in baseball — and represented the era in which they played. When you add that up, they should be in Cooperstown, enshrined in the Hall alongside the game’s other greats."- Jeff Novitzky
It remains to be seen how close Bonds and Clemens come to induction this year, and whether voters give extra consideration and leeway because it's their final year on the writers' ballot (as has happened many times in the past). We'll know on January 25 whether Giants fans can celebrate Bonds earning his rightful place next to the game's greats in Cooperstown, or if we have to continue to lament the inconsistent voting practices of many in the BBWAA.