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January 3, 2013

Controversy looms over 2013 baseball induction ballot

Election results will be announced Jan. 9

The votes have yet to be cast, but already there is a debate about the Class of 2013.

The steroids stigma hangs over some of the names on the list of eligible candidates.

Next Wednesday, the ball will be in the hands of the more than 600 voters as members of The Baseball Writers’ Association will determine who on the 2013 National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot will be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Among the first-timers with proven or suspected ties to performance-enhancing drugs are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. All have put up Hall-worthy numbers (Bonds is the all-time home run king; Clemens ranks third all time in strikeouts and ninth all time in wins; and Sosa is eighth all time in homers), but will that be enough to get them elected?

Not if the voters are using Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro as examples of intolerance to those tainted with their connection to using performance-enhancing drugs. McGwire has been turned away by the writers for six years, and Palmeiro since 2010.

Will a player get in on his initial ballot for the first time since Rickey Henderson did so in 2009? According to National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum President Jeff Idelson, it is very hard to get elected into the baseball shrine on the first attempt.

“Look at players like Joe DiMaggio. Even high-caliber players like him don’t always get elected right away,” Idelson said during a phone interview while in Dallas for the Baseball Winter Meetings last year.

Forty-four players have been elected in their first year of eligibility (11 pitchers, seven right-fielders, six left-fielders, four center-fielders, five shortstops, three second-basemen, four third-basemen, two first-basemen, one designated hitter and one catcher; position based on where electee played the majority of his big league games). In seven of the last 12 elections, at least one player has been elected in his first year of eligibility. Other than the inaugural Hall of Fame election, 1999 is the only year where as many as three first-year candidates were elected at once. It should be noted that Lou Gehrig (who received votes in 1936 while active and then was elected by acclamation in 1939) and Roberto Clemente (by special election in 1973) were each elected through a non-traditional process and are not counted in the 44.

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