The Hall of Fame ballot that's probably the most controversial ever is out, and it's going to mask the debate that actually matters -- who is really going to get into Cooperstown this year.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa have the statistics, but all three are indelibly connected to performance-enhancing drugs, which will keep most of the baseball writers from casting their ballots on them. How many votes they get will be interesting, but it's not expected that any of the three will make it.
Said voter Scott Miller of CBSSports.com, to the New York Times: "I know it isn't the Hall of Choirboys. I know the stories about Ty Cobb and others who at times were miscreants. But I also know that the Steroid Era was one of the most shameful chapters in the game's history. It made a mockery out of the record book. It pushed retired legends into the shadows when they should have remained in the spotlight, and it put the spotlight on others who never should have been there."
Sure, Bonds and Clemens were probably Hall of Famers before they were even connected to steroids, but it's highly unlikely any of the voters will use that as their rationale, especially on their first ballot and with other good options on the ballot this year.
There are two other players in their first year on the ballot who should make it, however: Mike Piazza -- the greatest offensive catcher ever, or at least since Yogi Berra -- and Craig Biggio, who had 3,000 career hits.
And there's also Curt Schilling, who was also considered a clean player but might not have the career numbers, at least not on the first ballot.
The Astros -- a franchise eager for a Hall of Famer who played a majority of his career in Houston -- held a news conference for Biggio on Monday. They could have a double celebration if Bagwell gets the votes, too. He had 56 percent of the vote last season.
"Hopefully, the writers feel strongly that they liked what they saw, and we'll see what happens," Biggio said to the Houston Chronicle.
The results of the voting will be announced Jan. 9.