Recent ballot updates show several suspected PED users are making progress toward induction in the Hall of Fame. Which former Red Sox could be impacted?
We’re less than a month away from finding out the next class of inductees into the baseball Hall of Fame. A few former Boston Red Sox players are on the ballot and for some of them, their chances of making it to Cooperstown depend on voters softening their stance on penalizing suspected performance-enhancing drug users.
PED has become the dirtiest word in baseball. It’s a dark stain on the reputation of any player associated with MLB’s most polarizing scandal in decades. You don’t even necessarily need to have failed a drug test in your career. Being accused of cheating on the basis of circumstantial evidence can be enough to sway the court of public opinion.
The debate over how to treat suspected PED users has tormented Hall of Fame voters for the last several years. There are some who refuse to reward a cheater with baseball’s highest honor. Others view the Hall of Fame as a museum that can’t ignore the shameful elements of baseball’s history. There’s also a middle ground that attempts to rationalize which players were on track for Cooperstown before PEDs came into the picture.
This dilemma has led to a backlog as players tainted by the PED era continue to receive enough votes to remain on the ballot but not enough to get in. Writers who are willing to vote for PED users may struggle to narrow down their ballot to the maximum total of ten players, costing a few clean candidates some votes.
We may be reaching a conclusion to this problem. Based on the latest results revealed by noted Hall of Fame tracker Ryan Thibodaux, some of the most notorious suspected PED users are on the verge of reaching the 75 percent of votes they need for induction.
One of those players is former Red Sox ace, Roger Clemens. He’s already been inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame but Cooperstown was more of a long shot. He certainly has the numbers for it, as Clemens was statistically one of the greatest pitchers of all time. His tainted past is what’s holding him back. While it’s never been proven, we’ve seen enough evidence to convince most of us that he’s guilty.
Accusations of PED use began long after Clemens left Boston and there’s never been any evidence he was cheating during his time here. A case can be made that Clemens is Hall of Fame worthy based on what he accomplished during his 13 seasons with the Red Sox.
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It’s unclear if we’re seeing a shift in how voters view PED users or if more have found that middle ground of estimating what the player’s career was projected for before they started using. Either way, the results are trending in favor of Clemens. The latest update shows he’s included on 74.2% of the ballots tallied thus far, putting him just shy of qualifying for induction. That’s a significant increase from the 57.3% that he received last year.
Fellow PED poster child Barry Bonds is in the same boat, jumping from 56.4% last year to 73.2% so far this year. Bonds is another example of a player who probably would have gotten in without the aid of PEDs.
The case for former Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez is a bit different. Manny actually served multiple suspensions for failed drug tests after MLB initiated a strict policy. While Clemens and Bonds played in an era when the league overlooked rampant PED use, Ramirez knew better and still got caught. Voters have understandably been harsher on him yet he’s still seen a bump from 22% to 29.9% this year. He’s not close to getting in but Ramirez has made progress.
Keep in mind that only about a quarter of the ballots have been counted so far. While Clemens and Bonds seem right on the edge of induction, it’s possible their percentages could plummet once the majority of ballots come in.
However, even with only a limited sample to evaluate, it seems likely that these suspected PED users will see a significant increase in votes when the final results are revealed. It may not be enough in the end but the progress leads us to believe it will happen soon.