Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are among eight finalists whose names have made the Contemporary Era ballots. In doing so, these eight players are eligible for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, with their fates being decided by a 16-man committee.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame recently restructured their era committee process, which has allowed players to remain eligible for Cooperstown beyond the 15 years on the regular ballot. In the new structure, the Contemporary Baseball Era Players Committee decides on players who played the majority of their career after 1980.
Any candidate who receives votes on 75 percent (12 of 16) of the ballots cast by the 16-member Contemporary Baseball Era Players Committee will earn election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and will be inducted in Cooperstown on July 23, 2023.
Alongside Bonds and Clemens are Albert Belle, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro, and Curt Schilling. Lou Whitaker and Dwight Evans are among the notable exemptions from this list.
Steroid usage remains a major topic of conversation among this particular group of finalists. Bonds and Clemens are two of the most notorious names from baseball’s steroid era, and both have been on the ballot 10 times prior to 2023 and have yet to receive the required 75% of the votes.
Below is a full breakdown of the eight finalists.
Albert Belle, Left Fielder
Belle played 12 season in MLB, a relatively low number for a Hall of Fame candidate. However, from 1989 to 2000, he was a hitting machine. He won five Silver Slugger awards and was a five-time All-Star.
Belle played a majority of his career with the Cleveland Guardians — formerly the Indians — while having shorter stints with the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles. He slashed .295/.369/.564 for his career, with the 1994 season being his best in the Majors.
It is Belle’s third time on a ballot, and he did not receive even 10% of the vote in his first two go-arounds.
Barry Bonds, Left Fielder
Bonds is one of the greatest and most productive players in the history of baseball. One look at his career would have anyone baffled as to how he is not yet in the Hall of Fame despite 10 tries on the ballot. However, the back half of his career has been marred by the usage of steroids.
Even still, there is no denying that Bonds is perhaps the greatest player to ever step into the batters’ box. In 22 seasons — seven with the Pittsburgh Pirates and 15 with the San Francisco Giants — he was a seven-time MVP, 14-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glove, and 12-time Silver Slugger.
His career OPS is an absurd 1.051, posting an OPS above 1.000 in 15 of his 22 seasons and in 14 consecutive seasons from 1992 to 2005. His 2001-2004 campaigns are historic, with 2001 being the year in which he hit 73 home runs ( a still-standing record). He was walked in 31% of his plate appearances in this four-year span.
Roger Clemens, Pitcher
Another one of the steroid era’s most famous names, Clemens is another all-time great, dominating on the mound for 24 seasons, spending the majority of his career with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. If posting a 3.12 ERA and 1.173 WHIP isn’t impressive enough, try 118 complete games and 46 shutouts in that span.
Clemens won seven Cy Young awards, and was an 11-time All-Star. He secured two triple crowns, won two World Series championships, and was named the 1986 MVP.
Clemens, like Bonds, has been on the ballot 10 times, and has steadily increased his vote percentage. Perhaps 2023 is the year that both finally break through to their rightful place in the Hall of Fame.
Don Mattingly, First Baseman
Mattingly is a tried and true Yankees legend, spending 14 seasons in the pinstripes between 1982 and 1995. Mattingly won the 1985 MVP award, and was a six-time All-Star, nine-time Gold Glove, and three-time Silver Slugger.
For his career, Mattingly slashed .307/.358/.471, and has been on the ballot a complete 15 times. He has yet to exceed 30% of the vote in any of his times on the ballot, making him an unlikely choice to advance to the Hall of Fame, but one whose career can and should be celebrated.
Fred McGriff, First Baseman
McGriff played for six franchises in 19 years between 1986 and 2004, but is likely best known for the five seasons he spent with the Atlanta Braves. McGriff was a five-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger, and was an integral piece in the Braves 1995 World Series championship.
McGriff posted an impressive .886 OPS for his career, and has been on the Hall of Fame ballot 10 times. While he has yet to crack 50%, his numbers steadily rose from around 11% in 2014 to nearly 40% in 2019.
Dale Murphy, Outfielder
While Murphy’s career .815 OPS and 121 OPS+ certainly don’t scream Hall of Fame, his peak was undoubtedly Hall of Fame-worthy. From 1980-87 with the Braves, Murphy was named to seven All-Star Games, won five Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers, and two MVP awards.
In total, Murphy played 18 seasons, 15 of them with the Braves. He has been on the standard ballot the maximum 15 times, and had yet to receive 25% of the vote in a single year.
Rafael Palmeiro, First Baseman
Palmeiro began his 20-year career with the Chicago Cubs, then spent 1989-2005 jumping between the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles. In that time, he was a four-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove, and two-time Silver Slugger. He slashed .288/.371/.515 for his career.
He has not been on a standard Hall of Fame ballot since 2014.
Curt Schilling, Pitcher
Schilling is another player — like Bonds and Clemens — who are the most likely to get their Hall of Fame inductions in 2023. He has come within five percent of induction two times (2020 and 2021) after an elite 20-year career with five teams.
Schilling is a six-time All-Star that won three World Series championships. He won in 2004 and 2007 with the Red Sox, and won World Series MVP in 2001 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has a 3.46 ERA and 1.137 WHIP for his career.