Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

MLB HALL OF FAME ; Bonds, Clemens Making Slow Gains with Changing Electorate

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

MLB HALL OF FAME ; Bonds, Clemens Making Slow Gains with Changing Electorate

Article excerpt

Hall of Fame voters are still sharply divided on Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

The electorate is changing, however, and that could be good news for both.

Bonds and Clemens inched past the 50-percent mark for the first time Wednesday, each appearing on about 54 percent of ballots cast by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. For a fifth straight year, Bonds and Clemens fell short of the 75 percent needed for induction, but their support is slowly climbing.

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were elected to the Hall on Wednesday.

Bonds and Clemens remain on the outside looking in because of drug suspicions, but they could continue to gain ground as more new voters are welcomed into the process.

"I think, just generationally, people in their 20s and 30s look at this different than people in their 50s and 60s, said Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star, a first-time voter who supported Bonds and Clemens. "Maybe we're missing something - I'm not one of these people that thinks, like, I'm right and they're wrong. It's just different viewpoints.

A writer can receive a Hall of Fame vote when he or she has been an active member of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, so newcomers are always on the way. In 2015, the Hall of Fame eliminated voters who had been inactive for more than 10 years - a move that further boosted the influence of newer voters.

The closest thing to a Hall of Fame exit poll is Ryan Thibodaux's online vote tracker, which has charted over half the ballots from this year's election. Of the 14 first-time voters identified on the site as of Wednesday night, 13 supported Bonds and Clemens.

One of those first-time voters was Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News, who said he supported Bonds after former Commissioner Bud Selig was elected as part of this class by a veterans committee. Selig presided over the era in which drug suspicion became so rampant.

"The last few years in my Sunday column in The Buffalo News, I refused to use Barry Bonds' name. In my column, it became kind of a trademark. I just referred to him as No. 25, Harrington said. "So now people see my article in The Buffalo News - Wait a minute, how did you vote for Bonds and Clemens?' I explained in my column a couple weeks ago: To me, I felt, the Bud Selig thing was a tipping point.

Bonds and Clemens are back on the ballot next year, along with newcomers such as Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Andruw Jones, Scott Rolen, Johan Santana and Omar Vizquel. Here are a few more things to watch:

PUBLIC BALLOTS

The BBWAA voted to release each voter's Hall of Fame choices to the public, starting next year. That change will add transparency to the process, although there are some concerns about groupthink and peer pressure.

"I'm very conflicted about this, Mellinger said. "I applaud the reasons that they are public. …

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