Steroids era in play on Hall ballot

Updated: November 28, 2012, 6:49 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are listed on the baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, setting up an election sure to become a referendum on the steroids era.

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The 37-player ballot was announced Wednesday.

More than 600 longtime members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America will vote through next month. Candidates need 75 percent for induction, and the results will be announced Jan. 9.

Bonds is the all-time home run champion with 762 and won a record seven MVP awards. Clemens set a record with seven Cy Young trophies and Sosa hit 609 homers. The voters will now decide whether drug allegations that tainted their huge numbers should keep them out of Cooperstown.

Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling are among the 24 first-time eligibles. Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines are the top holdover candidates.

The upcoming election is certain to fuel the most polarizing Hall discussion since career hits leader Pete Rose's betting troubles put him on baseball's permanently ineligible list, barring him from the BBWAA ballot.

While many continued to debate whether Rose should be enshrined, it was moot because there is no way he can be considered.

On deck, though, are some of the game's biggest names -- along with a lot of the sport's biggest baggage.

Bonds, Clemens and Sosa each posted monster statistics, though their accomplishments were shadowed by accusations they used performance-enhancing drugs. And as baseball keeps trying to rid itself of PEDs, their impact on HRs, RBIs and Ws remains a prickly problem.

Schilling, who works as an analyst for ESPN, knows how he would vote if he had a ballot.

"I wouldn't vote for them ever," he told "SportsCenter" when asked about Bonds, Clemens and Sosa. "Here's the thing, it generally goes this way with people who are caught doing stuff: You generally never catch someone on the first go-around. These guys to some degree or another in different cases cheated and in some cases cheated for a lengthy period of time."

Mike Klis of The Denver Post agreed with Schilling.

"Nay on all three. I think in all three cases, their performances were artificially enhanced. Especially in the cases of Bonds and Clemens, their production went up abnormally late in their careers," he wrote in an email.

They'll do better with Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star.

"I plan to vote for all three. I understand the steroid/PED questions surrounding each one, and I've wrestled with the implications," he wrote in an email.

"My view is these guys played and posted Hall-of-Fame-type numbers against the competition of their time. That will be my sole yardstick. If Major League Baseball took no action against a player during his career for alleged or suspected steroid/PED use, I'm not going to do so in assessing their career for the Hall of Fame," he said.

San Jose Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy will reserve judgment.

"At the beginning of all this, I made up my mind I had to adopt a consistent policy on the steroid social club. So, my policy has been, with the brilliance in the way they set up the Hall of Fame vote where these guys have a 15-year window, I'm not going to vote for any of those guys until I get the best picture possible of what was happening then," he wrote in an email.

"We learn a little bit more each year. We learned a lot during the Bonds trial. We learned a lot during the Clemens trial. I don't want to say I'm never going to vote for any of them. I want to wait until the end of their eligibility window and have my best idea of what was really going on."

Bonds was baseball's premier slugger of his generation and Clemens ranks ninth in career wins with 354. Sosa is eighth on the home run chart with 609.

Fans, players and Hall of Fame members have all chimed in about whether stars who supposedly juiced up should make it to Cooperstown.

Many of those opposed say drug cheats should never be afforded baseball's highest individual honors. Others on the opposite side claim the use of PEDs was pervasive in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, and shouldn't disqualify candidates.

If recent voting for the Hall is any indication, the odds are solidly stacked against Bonds, Clemens and Sosa.

Mark McGwire is 10th on the career home run list with 583, but has never received even 24 percent in his six tries. Big Mac has admitted to using steroids and human growth hormone.

Rafael Palmeiro is among only four players with 500 homers and 3,000 hits, yet has gotten a high of 12.6 percent in his two years on the ballot. Palmeiro drew a 10-day suspension in 2005 after a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, and said the result was due to a vitamin vial given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada.

Biggio topped the 3,000-hit mark -- which always has been considered an automatic credential for Cooperstown -- and spent his entire career with the Houston Astros.

Schilling was 216-146 and won three World Series championships, including his "bloody sock" performance for the Boston Red Sox in 2004.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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