Even though David Ortiz was a relatively close call in his first year of eligibility, there were no real surprises when the results of baseball’s 2022 Hall of Fame election were announced Jan. 25.

Ortiz made it with 77.8 percent of the vote share, 307 of the 394 votes cast by eligible members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America with at least 10 years experience. The more intriguing numbers, however, revolved around Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling, all on the ballot for the 10th and final time.

Shilling basically talked his way out of the conversation this time around, having asked the Hall of Fame to remove his candidacy after he came close last year and stated his preference to be judged by a Veterans Committee. The HOF rejected that request, but it was fulfilled by the BBWAA electorate.

Meanwhile Bonds and Clemens, both tied to their suspected use of performance-enhancing drugs, continued a slow but steady climb with their biggest jump in the last five years, but still fell considerably short with 260 and 257 votes, with approval ratings of 66 and 65.2 percent, respectively.

It was after the second year on the ballot for Bonds and Clemens (2014) that the Hall of Fame reduced the “waiting time” from 15 to 10 years before candidates were passed on to a Veterans Committee. Neither cracked 50 percent in those first two years, and both were trending below 40 percent when the change was announced with the intention to avoid a ballot logjam that inevitably occurred.

There has been one other significant change in the voting process over the last six years — the BBWAA voting has gotten significantly younger, while the approval ratings for Bonds and Clemens have shown steady improvement.

Of the 14 known first-time voters in this year’s election, 85 percent (12) included Bonds and Clemens on their ballots. Those numbers mirror the impact of first year voters in each of the last six years, when 63 of 74 first-timers (85 percent) have included Bonds and Clemens.

Interestingly enough, of the 14 known first-year voters this year, Bonds and Clemens both fared slightly better (12 votes) than Ortiz (11).

The recent trend naturally raises the question of whether Bonds and Clemens would eventually have made it via the BBWAA route had the eligibility time remained at 15 years. Since there has been little deviation among returning voters on Bonds and Clemens, and considering the approval rating has improved 20 percent (from mid-40s to mid-60s) since 2017, it’s at least a reasonable assumption that time would’ve worked in their favor.

We’ll never know how that would’ve worked out, but it won’t be long before we get an inkling from a Veterans Committee, which is comprised of a revolving 16 member panel of Hall of Famers, baseball executives and veteran BBWAA members. Since Bonds and Clemens fall into the “Today’s Game” era, which will meet again in December, they are immediately eligible to be part of the 2023 class.

Which means the debate isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com

Photo Credit: Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum