Longtime Baseball Hall of Fame voter David Ginsburg, who has been covering Baltimore sports for the Associated Press since 1990 and is retiring from full-time work next month, told Glenn Clark Radio Jan. 14 that he voted for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Sammy Sosa on his 2021 ballot.
Bonds and Clemens are holdovers from Ginsburg’s ballot last year, while Pettitte and Sosa are newcomers. Ginsburg dropped Curt Schilling, who pitched 35 games in relief for the Orioles in 1990, from his ballot.
The statistical cases for Bonds and Clemens are unassailable. Bonds, who played in the big leagues from 1986-2007, is the all-time home run king with 762 round-trippers. His 2,558 walks are also the most ever. He posted an on-base percentage higher than .400 in 17 seasons and higher than .500 in four seasons. The left fielder won seven MVP awards, the most ever.
Clemens, who pitched from 1984-2007, is third all-time in strikeouts with 4,672. His 354 wins are ninth all time. His 4,916.2 innings pitched are 16th all time. He won seven Cy Young awards, the most ever. He helped the New York Yankees win World Series in 1999 and 2000. He also led the Yankees and Houston Astros to World Series appearances in 2001 and 2005, respectively.
Both, however, have long been connected to performance-enhancing drugs, which is why neither player is in the Hall of Fame. They’re both in their ninth year on the ballot and have one year left after this one. Clemens earned 61 percent of the vote in 2020, while Bonds got 60.7 percent. They will need to earn 75 percent of the vote this year or next to get in via the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
About 38 percent of this year’s vote is currently known, according to Ryan Thibodaux’s tracker. Bonds’ name has been checked on 72 percent of known ballots, while Clemens’ name has been checked on 71.3 percent. However, those numbers will drop once all the ballots are revealed.
“As I get older I’m just realizing, ‘You know what, I don’t care. You used steroids, whatever. Your numbers are too darn impressive, and everyone used steroids,'” Ginsburg said, adding that “you still had to be a skilled athlete to do what you did. If you hit 762 home runs, you used steroids, but that’s still darn impressive.”
The next two names on Ginsburg’s ballot, Pettitte and Sosa, are also connected to PEDs. Pettitte admitted to using hGH to recover from an elbow injury, while Sosa was reportedly one of the players who tested positive for a PED as part of MLB’s anonymous survey in 2003. Sosa was also caught with a corked bat in 2003.
Pettitte got 11.3 percent of vote last year, while Sosa got 13.9 percent. Both players would presumably get more support if not for their connections to PEDs. Sosa hit 609 home runs during his career (1989-2007) and 60-plus home runs in three separate seasons. The right fielder won the NL MVP award in 1998, when he carried the Chicago Cubs to the postseason with 66 home runs.
“If you hit 609 home runs and you topped 60 three times, that’s pretty impressive,” Ginsburg said of Sosa, who spent the 2005 season in Baltimore. “Previously I was against Sosa because he also was caught corking his bat. To me, that goes even beyond the fact that he used steroids. But the fact is, I’m not going to ignore 609 home runs. I don’t think he was a bad guy. And what a thrill it was when he fought [Mark] McGwire for the home run title [in 1998]. I just think with those numbers, steroids or not, you deserve a place in the Hall.”
Pettitte, meanwhile, won 256 games during his career (1995-2013). The left-hander posted a 3.85 ERA and 2,448 strikeouts while finishing in the top six of Cy Young voting five times. He is No. 91 in JAWS among starting pitchers, well below the typical Hall of Fame standard, but that measure compares Pettitte to starters of yesteryear who were asked to throw many more innings than pitchers of recent vintage.
Ginsburg was also impressed with Pettitte’s postseason resume; he won 19 playoff games and five World Series rings.
“I think he’s really Hall of Fame-worthy,” Ginsburg said. “I looked it up and it was written that since 1901, only five [other] pitchers with more than 256 wins are not in the Hall of Fame. You know what, Andy Pettitte’s solid in the regular season, solid in the postseason, Hall of Famer.”
Ginsburg didn’t have any first-year candidates on his ballot this year — pitchers Tim Hudson and Mark Buehrle and outfielder Torii Hunter are the most notable players in their first year — but he’ll have tougher decisions next year when Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz come on the ballot. Rodriguez hit 696 home runs and is considered one of the best infielders ever. Ortiz hit 541 home runs and was the pulse of two Boston Red Sox World Series-winning teams.
Rodriguez and Ortiz are both connected to performance-enhancing drugs. Rodriguez admitted to using PEDs from 2001-2003 and was suspended for the entire 2014 season for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, and Ortiz reportedly tested positive as part that anonymous 2003 survey.
Ginsburg said he won’t vote for Rodriguez next year but will eventually do so. He’s more likely to vote for Ortiz next year.
“Their numbers, certainly to me, are worthwhile,” Ginsburg said. “I would probably vote Ortiz ahead of A-Rod even though A-Rod was a superior player simply because A-Rod was suspended an entire year for his use of steroids. To me, no, that is not a first-ballot Hall of Famer. If you had to ask me now and the ballot was in front of me, I couldn’t do it.”
For more from Ginsburg, including why he dropped Curt Schilling from his ballot, listen here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles