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Controversial Hall of Fame class could overshadow qualified candidates

Posted: February 21, 2012 10:32 a.m.
Updated: February 22, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Next year may go down as the year of the steroid user for Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Three players whose careers were given a proverbial black eye for using performance-enhancing drugs will be on 2013’s ballot.

The most prolific of the Hall of Fame contenders will be former outfielder Barry Bonds. Without the cloud of steroid use, Bonds would have undoubtedly been a first ballot selection.

He is considered by some to be the most feared hitter in all of baseball’s history.

One of his oddly astonishing statistics is the number of intentional walks he accrued over the years. For instance, of the record-setting 232 walks Bonds collected during the 2004 season, 120 of those free passes were intentional.

Baseball didn’t record a player’s number of intentional walks until the 1950s, but comparably, Bonds’ single season record of 120 shatters the records of every Hall of Famer. The previous high mark was 45 set by Hall of Fame first baseman Willie McCovey in 1969.

Additionally, Bonds has the most homeruns for a career, the most homeruns in a single season and the highest slugging percentage ever for one season. He also has twice as many MVP awards as any other player.

But do any of those records amount to anything if Bonds was juiced up on steroids for most of his career? That will be up to the voters in Cooperstown.

Former starting pitcher Roger Clemens will be facing similar scrutiny on the 2013 ballot. Considered one of the greatest pitchers ever, Clemens has the most Cy Young awards and ranks third all-time in career strikeouts. He also has the second most career wins, behind only Greg Maddux, of any right-handed pitcher since 1920.

But like Bonds, Clemens was at the center of the steroid era and was even charged with perjury for lying in his testimony to Congress during hearings on performance-enhancing drugs.

Former right fielder Sammy Sosa will also be on the ballot for the first time in 2013. During his career, he was a seven-time all-star and took home the National League MVP award.

But most of Sosa’s achievements came after the 1992 season. During his first four seasons, Sosa never hit more than 15 homeruns and didn’t have a batting average over .273. Fast forward six seasons later to 1998 and Sosa smashed 66 homers with a .308 average. Five years later he tested positive for steroids.   

To make up for the three players shrouded in steroid controversies, there also will be three players on the ballot -- Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, and Curt Schilling -- with virtually no ties to performance-enhancing drugs.

Biggio’s claim to Cooperstown may rest with his work-horse approach to the game. In addition to his 3,000 hits, he was, oddly enough, quite good at getting hit by pitches. He was hit 285 times, which is second most all-time. He was also a seven-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner.

Piazza was perhaps the greatest catcher ever, at least offensively. His 427 career homeruns are the most by any catcher. Additionally, he was a 12-time All-Star, the 1993 Rookie of the Year, and the 1996 National League MVP.

Schilling’s numbers are somewhat underwhelming when looking at his 216 wins and 20 shutouts in a two decades long career. His win total barely scrapes the top 100 all-time and his shutout total isn’t even in the top 200. He also never won a Cy Young award and went to only six All-Star games.

But Schilling is ranked in the top 15 for career strikeouts and posted a 4-1 record with a 2.06 ERA in 4 World Series appearances. He also ended his career with a World Series MVP award and three championship rings.

If Biggio, Piazza, and Schilling head to the hall, it would be a momentous day for baseball, but throwing any of the others into the mix could cast a dark cloud over Cooperstown for years to come.   

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