On the same evening all-time home run leader Barry Bonds learned his ties to performance-enhancing drugs would keep him out of the Hall of Fame, No. 4 on that list learned he’ll almost certainly meet the same fate.
Alex Rodriguez, a three-time MVP whose 696 home runs trail only Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth and are the most for a shortstop or third baseman, received just 34.3% of the 394 votes cast in balloting released Tuesday by the Baseball Writers’ Assn. of America.
Only David Ortiz, A-Rod’s longtime pal and Fox Sports colleague, earned election, easing over the 75% barrier by just 11 votes despite a reported positive drug test in 2003.
Yet Ortiz’s transgression occurred before Major League Baseball had a leaguewide testing program with penalties. Rodriguez, we’d learn years later, was using steroids from 2001-2003 and later earned a one-year suspension for his involvement in the 2013 Biogenesis scandal.
In short, Ortiz did not break baseball’s rules – we’re also not privy to what substance for which he tested positive – while Rodriguez blasted through them like a sports car doing 100 mph in a 25-mph zone. A-Rod’s later-career usage, which per documents obtained from the now-defunct Biogenesis clinic, began in his third MVP season of 2009.
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Rodriguez eventually sued MLB and the Players’ Assn. in an effort to fight his one-year suspension, but relented and saw his 2014 season (and some $25 million in salary) wiped away.
A-Rod returned for the 2015 season, performed ably and was a model citizen in 2015-16 for the Yankees before retiring, fully back in baseball’s good graces. As an analyst for ESPN and studio host on Fox, he’s tough to miss.
But he can probably forget about a plaque in Cooperstown. Bonds received 36.2% of the vote in his debut year, eventually climbing to 66% for 2022, his final year on the ballot.
Yet Bonds benefited from a significant turnover in BBWAA membership during his 10 years, with many older voters purged and a younger guard slightly more tolerant toward PED use joining the rolls. Rodriguez won’t see such a shift in voter complexion, and it appears his rule-breaking will place him closer to Manny Ramirez’s category – the great slugger twice tested positive for PEDs and got just 28.9% of the vote Tuesday – than Bonds.
Or, for that matter, Ortiz. The two avatars of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry of the 2000s will still share plenty of old yarns on TV sets and pregame klatches. Just one, though, figures to do so as a Hall of Famer.