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Bonds, Sosa, Clemens on Hall of Fame Ballot

Charles E. Sutton | 12/2/2012, 3:44 p.m.

The most controversial Hall of Fame discussion since Pete Rose is now in the hands of the baseball shrine's voters.

The question is obvious: Do Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens belong in Cooperstown in spite of drug allegations that tainted their career numbers?

In a month-long election which will probably become a referendum on the Steroid Era, the Hall of Fame ballot was recently released, and for the first time, Bonds, Sosa and Clemens are on it.

Bonds won a record seven MVP awards and is the all-time home run leader with 762. Sosa is eighth all-time on the home run list with 609. Clemens captured the Cy Young award a record seven times and is ninth with 354 wins.

However, a cloud of performance-enhancing drug use looms large over all their home runs, RBI's and victories.

Baseball fans have known for quite some time that this particular ballot would be very controversial. Most are hopeful that some degree of clarity will start to emerge over the Hall of Fame status of those connected to performance-enhancing drugs. It remains to be seen.

The 37-player ballot will be voted on by more than 600 longtime members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Candidates must receive a minimum of 75 percent for induction, and the results will be announced Jan. 9.

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

Recent history would suggest that the odds are stacked against Bonds, Sosa and Clemens. Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire both tallied Hall of Fame numbers, too, but the cloud of possible drug use made it very difficult for them in Hall voting.

Supporters of Bonds and Clemens feel the bulk of their career accomplishments came prior to baseball getting deeply involved in drug scandals. They assert that performance-enhancing drug use was so prevalent in the 1980s, '90s and early 2000s that it's unfair to exclude anyone because so many questions remain about who used performance-enhancing drugs and who didn't.

Whatever your opinion, this election is Major League Baseball's current hot button, generating the most Hall of Fame discussion since Rose. The argument about Rose, however, became moot because he agreed to a lifetime ban in 1989 after an investigation found he bet on games while managing the Cincinnati Reds, and that kept him off the Hall of Fame ballot.