Hall of Fame debate begins with ballots out

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NEW YORK — 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, RBIs and Ws, the shadow of PEDs looms.

“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.

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