Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa on Hall Ballot

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa — three of the most polarizing characters in recent baseball history because of the speculation of steroids use — are all on the next Hall of Fame ballot,  making for an interesting vote, to say the least.

The drug allegations have smeared their reputations and dampened their on-field heroics in a way that makes their place among the sport’s all-time greats — which would not be questioned otherwise — pretty unlikely.

Baseball voters are among the most stringent, believing they are protectors or gate-keepers of “America’s favorite pasttime.” And so, all-time hits leader Pete Rose was shut out of the Hall and record-setting home-run hitter Mark McGwire was not even close to getting in on his first attempt last year.

“You could see for years that this particular ballot was going to be controversial and divisive to an unprecedented extent,” Larry Stone of The Seattle Times wrote in an email. “My hope is that some clarity begins to emerge over the Hall of Fame status of those linked to performance-enhancing drugs. But I doubt it.”

More than 600 longtime members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will vote on the 37-player ballot. Candidates require 75 percent for induction, and the results will be announced Jan. 9.

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

If recent history is any indication, the odds are solidly stacked against Bonds, Clemens and Sosa. McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro both posted Cooperstown-caliber stats, too, but drug clouds doomed them in Hall voting.

This vote essentially will be a referendum on the so-called Steroids Era. Voters are mad and disappointed that top-tier players like Bonds, Sosa and Clemens have been linked to the performance-enhancing drug.

Bonds is the all-time home run champion with 762 and won a record seven MVP awards. Clemens took home a record seven Cy Young trophies and is ninth with 354 victories. Sosa ranks eighth on the homer chart with 609.

And yet, they likely will be on the outside looking in when the final votes are tallied.

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