2013 Hall of Fame class will be controversial, no matter the result

There was no little controversy Sunday in Cooperstown. That probably won't be the case next year. (Associated Press)

Sure, Pete Rose was in Cooperstown, N.Y., this weekend signing autographs on the outside instead of admiring his plaque inside and Mark McGwire was in St. Louis instead of on the dais at the Clark Sports Center -- but Sunday was truly the last Hall of Fame induction ceremony that will be more about the players inducted than the players no inducted for several years.

Barry Larkin and Ron Santo are officially Hall of Famers, but who will join them in 2013?

From now until January, when the next class is announced, the annual Hall of Fame debates won't center around numbers, but less concrete things -- like beliefs, morals, laws and character. Because the numbers of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who will be first-year eligible candidates for the Hall, have become the poster children for an inglorious era of baseball, their candidacy will be scrutinized and debated beyond any announcement.

The 2013 class will have an asterisk in some way, regardless of the outcome. If Bonds and Clemens are voted in, many will feel their inclusion will cheapen the Hall because of their suspected use of steroids. If they aren't voted in, the Hall will be without perhaps the greatest hitter and greatest pitcher of the post-World War II era.

Bonds and Clemens are the headliners of the first-year eligible candidates, but they're not the only ones whose numbers fail to tell the whole story. Mike Piazza and Sammy Sosa are also on the ballot. So too are Curt Schilling and Craig Biggio.

Jack Morris, who received 66.7 percent of the vote last year, will be on the ballot for the 14th year, joined by Jeff Bagwell for his third year of eligibility. Bagwell received 56 percent of the vote last season, followed by Lee Smith (50.6 percent), Tim Raines (48.7 percent), Alan Trammell (36.8 percent), Edgar Martinez (36.5 percent), Fred McGriff (23.9 percent), Larry Walker (22.9 percent) and McGwire (19.5). Don Mattingly will be on the ballot for the 13th year, while Dale Murphy is in his final year of eligibility for the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot. Rafael Palmeiro and Bernie Williams are also holdovers on the ballot.

If Bonds and Clemens aren't elected by the BBWAA, the ballot will likely continue to get crowded in the future years. Those not voting for them are probably doing so out of a principle, while others will vote for them because of their sheer numbers. Because the ballot only allows voters to vote for 10 players and there's the relatively high threshold of 75 percent a player must receive to be elected, we could see several years in the future without anyone elected as a backlog can clog the line into the Hall.

While Hall of Fame debates have been rampant since the first election in 1936, the upcoming class will certainly be the most hotly debated and one in which statistics will play very little role.

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