US Presswire file photo
Barry Bonds will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are the three biggest first-time nominees on the 37-player ballot released by the Hall of Fame, with Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling and Craig Biggio also making their first appearances.
Members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America with at least 10 years of consecutive service -- there are approximately 600 who qualify -- must cast their ballots by Dec. 31. The results will be announced Jan. 9, with any player who receives at least 75 percent of the vote inducted into Cooperstown next July.
Astute baseball fans and media have long known the 2013 ballot would be a major spectacle, the combination of so many great players having all retired following the 2007 season and so many of them accused of taking steroids, human growth hormone or other performance enhancing drugs.
Based purely on their on-field merits, Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Piazza and Biggio -- not to mention holdovers Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro -- would be slam-dunks for induction. Throw in Schilling, Jeff Bagwell and Jack Morris, and there are 10 players on this year's ballot with incredibly strong cases for election.
BBWAA members aren't allowed to vote for more than 10 players in a given year. There have never been more than five players elected by the BBWAA in any year since the Hall of Fame was established in 1936.
But voters have been dreading this ballot in particular because of all the connections to PEDs. No player even widely suspected of using PEDs has been elected in the past, with McGwire never receiving more than 23.7 percent of the vote, Palmeiro never receiving more than 12.6 percent of the vote and Bagwell (who has never been publicly accused of taking steroids) falling well short in his first year on the ballot with 56 percent of the vote.
Based on those precedents, many don't believe Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and Piazza will come close to the 75 percent threshold this year ... or perhaps ever. (Players remain on the ballot for as many as 15 years, provided they receive at least 5 percent of the vote each year.)
Will an entire generation of players, including some of the absolutely greatest who ever played the game, ultimately be left out of the Hall of Fame? That's the dilemma facing writers, who must decide for themselves how to interpret the Hall's voting criteria.
The instructions, which have barely changed in eight decades: "Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."
As many of you know, I am privileged to be a Hall of Fame voter. I'm not going to reveal my intentions for this ballot yet -- in part because I honestly haven't decided what I'm going to do yet -- but here are my explanations for how I voted in 2011 and 2012, if you'd like to re-read those.
Suffice it to say, this year's ballot presents the biggest challenges any Hall of Fame voter have ever experienced.
Here is the full 2013 ballot, with last year's voting percentages where applicable...
Sandy Alomar Jr.
Jeff Bagwell (56.0)
Edgar Martinez (36.5)
Don Mattingly (17.8)
Fred McGriff (23.9)
Mark McGwire (19.5)
Jack Morris (66.7)
Dale Murphy (14.5)
Rafael Palmeiro (12.6)
Tim Raines (48.7)
Lee Smith (50.6)
Alan Trammell (36.8)
Larry Walker (22.9)
Bernie Williams (9.6)