The most polarizing Hall of Fame debate since Pete Rose will now be decided by the baseball shrine's voters: Do Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa belong in Cooperstown despite drug allegations that tainted their huge numbers?
In a monthlong election sure to become a referendum on the Steroids Era, the Hall ballot was released Wednesday, and Bonds, Clemens and Sosa are on it for the first time.
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.
Yet for all their HRs, RBI and Ws, the shadow of PEDs looms large.
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"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."
Candidates require 75 percent for induction, and 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. Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro both posted Cooperstown-caliber stats, too, but drug clouds doomed them in Hall voting.
Around the leagues
Reds: Jonathan Broxton was signed to a three-year, $21 million contract on Wednesday, giving the NL Central champions a potential closer and a chance to reconfigure their starting rotation.
Broxton came to the Reds last July in a trade with Kansas City and was part of their push toward the playoffs. He filled in as the closer when Aroldis Chapman came down with a tired shoulder and had four saves in six chances overall with a 2.82 ERA.
Now they have the option of turning Chapman into a starter, which was the plan last season until closer Ryan Madson tore up his elbow.
Angels: Ryan Madson agreed to a one-year deal. The Angels are hopeful the right-handed reliever will make a strong comeback from Tommy John surgery.
Yankees: Andy Pettitte signed a one-year deal worth $12 million Pettitte turns 41 in June. He retired after the 2010 season, then came back this year and signed a contract for $2.5 million. Pettitte went 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 12 starts. He missed almost three months because of a broken lower left leg, sustained when he was hit by a line drive.
Red Sox: Boston traded right-handers Zach Stewart (to Pittsburgh) and Sandy Rosario (to Oakland) and third baseman Danny Valencia (to Baltimore).