NEW YORK (AP) — For several years, baseball fans have argued whether Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa belong in the Hall of Fame.
Starting on Wednesday, the voters who will actually decide that debate can get to work.
Bonds, Clemens and Sosa are set to show up on the Hall ballot for the first time, with all sides eager to find out whether drug allegations will block the former stars from reaching the shrine.
The 2013 ballot will be announced at noon EST.
Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling are certain to be among the other first-time eligibles. Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines are the top holdover candidates.
Longtime members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will vote through next month. The much-awaited results will be announced Jan. 9, with players needing to be listed on 75 percent of the ballots to gain induction.
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 in Cooperstown, it was moot because there is currently 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 huge numbers, but all were tainted by accusations that 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.
Bonds is baseball’s all-time home runs leader with 762 and won a record seven MVP awards. Clemens ranks ninth in career wins with 354 and took home a record seven Cy Young Awards. 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 during the Steroids Era 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.