NEW YORK -- Barry Bonds didn't gain any ground as he came under the scrutiny of the Baseball Writers' Association of America in its annual voting for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his second year of eligibility.
The all-time leader with 762 career homers and 73 in a single season, Bonds slipped slightly from 36.2 percent of the vote in his first appearance on the ballot to 34.7 in voting announced Wednesday for the Class of 2014. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas, all contemporaries of Bonds, were overwhelmingly elected, with Craig Biggio falling just two votes short.
"He was the best hitter I ever faced, to be honest with you," Maddux said when asked about the former Giants and Pirates star left fielder during a conference call Wednesday. "When he was in Pittsburgh, he was good. He might have been the best player when he was a Pirate, too. As far as the Hall of Fame is concerned, I definitely respect Barry's ability to play baseball. It was always a privilege to face him. The game revolved around him."
As in any election to the Hall, a player must garner at least 75 percent of the vote to be elected. Last year, of the 569 ballots cast, 427 votes were needed for election. Bonds' name appeared on 206 of the ballots, finishing ninth overall. This year, Bonds earned 198 of 571 votes (429 were needed for election), finishing 10th just behind Roger Clemens.
Bonds knows he is considered one of the most polarizing players in baseball history. For 22 years, he did things his way, going against the grain inside and outside of baseball. The end of Bonds' career was marked by the BALCO investigation, suspicion of performance-enhancing drug use and the federal court case that resulted in a guilty conviction for obstruction of justice. He was exonerated on charges of perjury.
Bonds said that he wishes he had done some things differently.
"But I can't turn back the clock now," he said. "Time has passed. Wounds for me have healed."
On paper, Bonds would undoubtedly have been a first-ballot Hall of Fame contender simply on merit. Playing his first seven seasons for the Pirates and his last 15 for the Giants, Bonds holds the all-time records for homers in a career and a single season, as well as walks (2,558) and intentional walks (688). In the popular metrics of today, Bonds is third in overall Wins Above Replacement (WAR) behind Babe Ruth and Cy Young, third in offensive WAR, sixth with a .444 on-base percentage, sixth with a .607 slugging percentage and fourth with a 1.051 OPS, which combines on-base and slugging percentages. He won the National League MVP Award seven times.
The son of the late Bobby Bonds and the godson of Giants icon and Hall of Famer Willie Mays, Bonds is the only player in MLB history to amass more than 500 homers and 500 stolen bases, finishing with 514 steals. No one else is close -- not even Mays, who had 660 homers and 338 steals in 22 seasons. When his career ended in 2007, Bonds finished 65 hits short of 3,000, four RBIs shy of 2,000 and with 2,227 runs scored.
Hank Aaron, whom Bonds passed on Aug. 7, 2007, with his 756th homer to take the all-time lead, is the only player to amass more than 700 homers, 3,000 hits, 2,000 RBIs and 2,000 runs scored.
Bonds, 49, has said he'd like to get back into baseball as a hitting instructor.
"I'm an expert in baseball, and I don't even have a job," Bonds said. "I'm an expert, more so than a lot of people out there. It should be my career until I'm dead. I should be one of the instructors. I think I've earned it."
Meanwhile, he'll have 13 more times on the BBWAA ballot to see if his fortunes change, as long as he maintains the requisite 5 percent of the vote each year.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less