Mensching: Bonds, Clemens belong in the Hall

Kurt Mensching
Special to The Detroit News

When the Baseball Hall of Fame results are announced on Wednesday, two of the most iconic names of their generation probably will not hear their names — again.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, now in their fifth years on the ballot, have appeared on just under 65 percent of known ballots among electors so far (as tracked by Ryan Thibodaux), but shy of the figure required to enter Cooperstown.

They’ll fall a bit short of the 75 percent required, but will be closer than ever. That’s progress. Unless you stand for Truth, Justice and the American Way. In which case you are already seeking out ways to register your opinion that Clemens and Bonds are dirty, stinking cheats who do not belong within 100 miles of the Hall of Fame.

And you know what? They (allegedly) were dirty, stinking cheats and unsavory figures, but they belong in the Hall just like all the other cheats and unsavory figures already there.

On a possibly related note, former Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez stands a fair chance of being enshrined in his first ballot appearance, if the results of the vote tracker hold.

Pudge’s name appeared in Jose Canseco’s book in 2005 for being allegedly injected by the former Bash Brother. Pudge did not make any public denials of usage when given the chance, saying “Only God knows.”

Former Tiger Rodriguez is on the edge of immortality

Like Bonds and Clemens, he’s readily identified as one of the best players in the history of the game — for Rodriguez, “best catcher” is the identifier — during a dirty era. But unlike the other two his case doesn’t reach whatever legal standard some Hall of Fame voters are going by these days.

Reasonable suspicion? Preponderance of evidence? Beyond a reasonable doubt? Who knows.

So he’s in, while the others are — for now — out.

I don’t think we have to spend much time debating the credentials for any of the players. By the time Bonds was 28, he had already won three MVP awards. By the time Clemens was 29, he was named his league’s Cy Young Award winner three times and MVP once. All of those things began before the lockout of 1994-95 and the subsequent explosion of offense that followed.

Bonds went on to hit the most career home runs and take the most walks, because pitchers gave him the most intentional walks in history, too. Clemens finished his career with the 11th best ERA+ in history and third most strikeouts, among other notables.

Unlike Mark McGwire, Bonds and Clemens appear likely to both eventually be elected to the Hall. Their numbers are set to jump dramatically this year from the approximately 45 percent both received in 2016 and 40 percent they took in the year before.

Among the ballots of first-time voters this year, both topped 90 percent.

Over the years my own opinion on the Hall has admittedly changed from big hall to small hall to right back to where it started, a hall … of fame.

The Hall is a museum where we collect the accrued history of the sport. This player did some pretty incredible things in his era. And that one was absolutely incredible in his.

Should we also note that this guy was a raging alcoholic, that one an abuser, some of them took “greenies” in the clubhouse, and a whole bunch from the late-80s to the mid-aughts collected their stats on steroids — though against other players doing the same?

That’s a question for the curators of the Hall to consider.

But to me, the Hall of Fame should reflect an era, and any Hall that leaves out two of the players who defined it most is doing fans a disservice.

Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (www.blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at bybtigers@gmail.com.