Hall of Fame first baseman and San Francisco Giants legend Willie McCovey threw his support behind Barry Bonds on Friday, telling John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle that “it’s a sin” the all-time home run leader isn’t in the Hall of Fame. That was just part of an article in which McCovey also stated he doesn’t want his name attached to Joe Morgan’s now infamous letter that encouraged Hall of Fame voters to leave steroid users off their ballots.
“I just think it’s a sin he’s not in there,” McCovey said of Bonds being on the outside looking in entering his sixth year on the ballot. “If anybody deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, it’s Barry. You talk to anybody who played against him at that time, they’ll say he was the best hitter they ever saw in their lives.”
Bonds’ numbers speak for themselves. He was an on-base machine, drawing an MLB record 2,558 walks for his career. He’s one of seven players to finish his career with an OPS higher than 1.000. That list includes Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. But he was also named in the 2006 Mitchell Report, which has caused voters to shy away from giving him the nod. In all, 89 MLB players were named in 20-month investigation carried out by former United States Senator George J. Mitchell. The investigation focused on the use of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone in MLB.
It’s possible though that the tide is starting to turn in Bonds’ favor. After finishing with 45.3 percent of the vote in 2016 and 53.8 percent last year, Bonds entered Friday named on 72.6 percent of votes made public, according to Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame Tracker. The number to get in is 75 percent, so Bonds has at least a decent shot of finally getting over the hump.
If nothing else, Bonds’ chances are definitely trending up. With that becoming apparent even last year, some believe the letter signed by Morgan was designed to squash Bonds’ momentum. That group includes McCovey.
“That letter Morgan wrote sure is not going to help Barry,” McCovey said. “But I’m glad to hear a lot of the writers say the letter is not going to influence their vote because I know a lot of it is aimed at him. I wasn’t too happy about it.
“You’re naïve if you don’t think it was aimed at Barry.”
The letter in question was emailed to voters on Nov. 21. In it, Morgan pleaded with voters to not support players who admitted using steroids, flunked drug tests or were mentioned as users in the Mitchell Report. Many viewed the letter as a desperate and even hypocritical ploy based on the Hall’s previous standards. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan thoroughly dissected the hypocrisy he found in the letter, while announcing his decision to give up his Hall of Fame vote.
The letter also stated that many Hall of Famers had agreed to skip the Hall of Fame ceremony in Cooperstown next summer if a steroids user was voted in. That was another bone of contention for McCovey that he personally let Morgan know about.
“Joe and I are really close, too. He’s one of my best friends,” McCovey said. “I went back and forth with him on it. I told him how much I disagree with him. I told him I won’t let that hurt our friendship. But don’t include me on the ones who are not going to show up if they go in.”
McCovey’s quotes prove again that there’s a clear divide among those already in the Hall of Fame when it comes to how accused PED users are viewed. Those against accused PED users getting in are often more vocal and forceful in sharing their opinion. But McCovey’s hard-hitting words show there’s support to be found in Cooperstown and beyond.
Ultimately, it’s up to the voters to do what they feel is right. But the trends do suggest that for the first time in this process, Bonds and his supporters have real reason for optimism.
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