After various rumors that he might sign with some sufficiently desperate team failed to pan out, it seems increasingly likely that Barry Bonds has played his last major league game. If so, then Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa will all be appearing on your Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 2013. Raphael Palmiero will show up the year before (correction — in 2011).
Are any of these guys going to get in? Should they? Sosa and Palmiero are strongly if not overwhelmingly qualified according to the traditional voting criteria. (I think these criteria need to be adjusted somewhat to account for the offensive explosion of the last 15 years — for example I doubt many people would rank Palmiero as one of the top 50ish players in history, given that he’s a first baseman who never led the league in almost any major offensive category). Bonds and Clemens, of course, are arguably the greatest player and greatest pitcher in the history of the game, respectively.
The most relevant evidence so far is the voting for Mark McGwire, whose overall level of qualification is similar to Sosa’s and Palmiero’s. McGwire has been on the ballot for two years, and received shockingly (to me) little support, appearing on just 23% of the ballots (75% is necessary for election).
In fact all these guys certainly would have made it absent the steriod thing, and Bonds and Clemens would have been very close to unanimous first-ballot choices (there are always a handful of Typical White Middle-Aged Sportswriters — TWMAS for future reference — who won’t vote for anybody on the first ballot because Babe Ruth wasn’t a unanimous pick or somebody slighted Jim Bunning in the balloting or whatever).
My guess is that the only guy who makes it out of this group is Clemens. This will lead to a big argument about how much Bonds’ race was a factor, which will be just one more domestic crisis that President Obama will have to deal with.