Neither Barry Bonds nor Roger Clemens were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday, both falling short of the required 75% of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America. But both saw gains in support but small ones, leaving only a trace of hope that at some point in the next three years they could find their way to Cooperstown.

Clemens was named on 59.5% of the submitted ballots while Bonds received 59.1%, falling 66 and 68 votes shy, respectively.

This is up from 57.3% for Clemens and 56.4% for Bonds in 2018, and continues a path of steady growth in their time on the BBWAA ballot.

There are still gains to be made for Bonds and Clemens, but only three years to get to the required 75%. After 10 years on the BBWAA ballot, players are no longer eligible to be voted in by the writers. They fall into what used to be known as the veteran’s committee, a much more intimate selection process with a 16-person panel of Hall of Famers and contributors throughout the game.

With their primary contributions falling mostly from 1988 to the present, both Bonds and Clemens fall under the Today’s Era committee. Should they not reach 75% by their 10th election, in 2022, the next time that committee holds a vote is two years later, for the 2024 class.

But for now, let’s focus on the BBWAA selection process, with three more years remaining for Clemens and Bonds.

“Vote this guy in,” Hall of Famer Willie Mays said in August 2018 at Bonds’ number retirement ceremony with the Giants.

“Give somebody honor that deserves to be in the Hall of Fame,” Mays said. “The Hall of Fame is a type of fraternity that, when you get there, you’ll say, ‘Man, how did I get here?’ And I want him to have that honor be something that happens to him.”

Why the wait?

Bonds won seven Most Valuable Player awards and Clements won seven Cy Young Awards, both tops in major league history. They are widely considered two of the greatest players in the history of baseball. On pure numbers alone, they would be inner-circle Hall of Famers.