The sound and the fury begins

This year's Hall of Fame ballot includes some of the biggest stars from the so-called steroids era -- Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. US Presswire

The Hall of Fame ballot was officially released on Wednesday. Jack Morris is the leading returning vote-getter, having received 66.7 percent of the vote last year. He has two years remaining on the ballot, but history suggests he should get in this year. In the past 25 years, the Baseball Writers' Association of America has eventually elected every player who got to 60 percent except Orlando Cepeda (who didn't get there until his final year on the ballot) and Jim Bunning, and both of them eventually made it in via the Veterans Committee.

This year's ballot is loaded with new names with Hall of Fame credentials: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling and even Kenny Lofton. Besides Morris, they join holdovers Jeff Bagwell, Lee Smith, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Larry Walker, Mark McGwire, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro and Bernie Williams. Whew. Which all leads to this:

Ah, yes, 'tis the season. On the other side of the spectrum, the excellent columnist Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes this:

    If you enjoy inflated egos, posturing, moralizing, self-righteous sermons, brazen double standards, conveniently shifting principles, glaring inconsistencies, selective justice and the general delusions of sportswriters who believe they’re as important as Chief Justice John G. Roberts or Pope Benedict XVI -- Wednesday was your lucky day.

"This is the ballot we have all been waiting for, and dreading," Miklasz adds. "It’s notorious. It’s naughty. It’s controversial. It’s being portrayed as a referendum on the so-called Steroids Era."

Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe has -- reluctantly -- changed his view this year:

    Last year I moved my line and decided that unless there was some kind of tangible connection to PEDs, I would consider voting for a player. I changed because of Jeff Bagwell, a guy who sure looked the part of a drug user but was never linked to it. It seemed unfair to exclude him based only on suspicion.

    Now I've decided to erase the line completely.

    Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and the rest of the scoundrels will get my vote.

OK, then. Still, Pete's reasoning is sound, and it's where I wish all voters would come around to, a sense of logic instead of those self-righteous sermons: "The Hall of Fame is a wing in a museum, a place to go learn about the game. PEDs were part of the game and my ballot will reflect that."

At MLB.com, Richard Justice remembers his days covering Roger Clemens with the Astros:

    I mention these stories about Clemens as a way to balance the battering his reputation has taken in the wake of performance-enhancing-drug allegations. I have no firsthand knowledge about whether Clemens used PEDs. But I trust the Mitchell Report that named him as a user.

    Clemens was so competitive in looking for every edge that he allowed his judgment and ambition to get mixed up. ...

    But these stories are complicated. Even if he used terrible judgment, Clemens did plenty of things right.

    He wasn't just the best pitcher of his generation. He was also the hardest working and most competitive. He was determined to be as good as he could be for as long as he could be.

And then there's Ross Newhan, a member of the writer's wing at the Hall of Fame:

    My son, David, played parts of eight years in the major leagues and almost six in all. He did not use PEDs, and I believe him on that, having seen him lose roster spots and salary to players who were proven to have used PEDs (or later admitted to it) while their union did nothing to protect the non-cheaters.

    I recognize that the Hall is not comprised entirely of saints, but my criteria -- born in full disclosure by that personal attachment and my long experience -- is that where there is reasonable belief of PED use I will/would withhold my vote unless, in subsequent years, by some means, I could be convinced otherwise.

    I also disagree with the view of some colleagues that voting members are not the morality police.

    If they are not, who is?

As I saw a user comment on another site, welcome to Ballotgeddon. Pick your side and dig in. It's going to be a long and dirty fight.