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Controversial Hall of Fame ballot released

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Controversial Hall of Fame ballot released

The most noteworthy and controversial Hall of Fame ballot in history was released this afternoon, one that includes several of baseball's all-time bests, many of them linked to performance enhancing drugs.

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are the three biggest first-time nominees on the 37-player ballot released by the Hall of Fame, with Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling and Craig Biggio also making their first appearances.

Members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America with at least 10 years of consecutive service -- there are approximately 600 who qualify -- must cast their ballots by Dec. 31. The results will be announced Jan. 9, with any player who receives at least 75 percent of the vote inducted into Cooperstown next July.

Astute baseball fans and media have long known the 2013 ballot would be a major spectacle, the combination of so many great players having all retired following the 2007 season and so many of them accused of taking steroids, human growth hormone or other performance enhancing drugs.

Based purely on their on-field merits, Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Piazza and Biggio -- not to mention holdovers Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro -- would be slam-dunks for induction. Throw in Schilling, Jeff Bagwell and Jack Morris, and there are 10 players on this year's ballot with incredibly strong cases for election.

BBWAA members aren't allowed to vote for more than 10 players in a given year. There have never been more than five players elected by the BBWAA in any year since the Hall of Fame was established in 1936.

But voters have been dreading this ballot in particular because of all the connections to PEDs. No player even widely suspected of using PEDs has been elected in the past, with McGwire never receiving more than 23.7 percent of the vote, Palmeiro never receiving more than 12.6 percent of the vote and Bagwell (who has never been publicly accused of taking steroids) falling well short in his first year on the ballot with 56 percent of the vote.

Based on those precedents, many don't believe Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and Piazza will come close to the 75 percent threshold this year ... or perhaps ever. (Players remain on the ballot for as many as 15 years, provided they receive at least 5 percent of the vote each year.)

Will an entire generation of players, including some of the absolutely greatest who ever played the game, ultimately be left out of the Hall of Fame? That's the dilemma facing writers, who must decide for themselves how to interpret the Hall's voting criteria.

The instructions, which have barely changed in eight decades: "Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."

As many of you know, I am privileged to be a Hall of Fame voter. I'm not going to reveal my intentions for this ballot yet -- in part because I honestly haven't decided what I'm going to do yet -- but here are my explanations for how I voted in 2011 and 2012, if you'd like to re-read those.

Suffice it to say, this year's ballot presents the biggest challenges any Hall of Fame voter have ever experienced.

Here is the full 2013 ballot, with last year's voting percentages where applicable...

Sandy Alomar Jr.
Jeff Bagwell (56.0)
Craig Biggio
Barry Bonds
Jeff Cirillo
Royce Clayton
Roger Clemens
Jeff Conine
Steve Finley
Julio Franco
Shawn Green
Roberto Hernandez
Ryan Klesko
Kenny Lofton
Edgar Martinez (36.5)
Don Mattingly (17.8)
Fred McGriff (23.9)
Mark McGwire (19.5)
Jose Mesa
Jack Morris (66.7)
Dale Murphy (14.5)
Rafael Palmeiro (12.6)
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines (48.7)
Reggie Sanders
Curt Schilling
Aaron Sele
Lee Smith (50.6)
Sammy Sosa
Mike Stanton
Alan Trammell (36.8)
Larry Walker (22.9)
Todd Walker
David Wells
Rondell White
Bernie Williams (9.6)
Woody Williams

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Nationals beat Braves, snap losing skid behind Stephen Strasburg's strong start

Nationals beat Braves, snap losing skid behind Stephen Strasburg's strong start

ATLANTA (AP) -- Stephen Strasburg struck out a season-high 11 and kept up his recent domination of the Atlanta Braves, leading Washington to a 3-2 win Sunday that stopped the Nationals' four-game losing streak.

Strasburg (5-1) allowed five hits in 7 2/3 innings, beating Atlanta for the second time this season and improving to 7-1 in his last nine starts against the Braves. He is 10-8 overall against Atlanta.

He reached double digits in strikeouts for the second time this season after fanning 10 Braves on April 20.

Strasburg faded in the eighth, when Dansby Swanson hit a two-run double. Koda Glover struck out Nick Markakis to end the inning and finished the six-hitter for his third save.

Daniel Murphy hit a second-inning homer off Jaime Garcia (1-3) and the Nationals added two unearned runs in the third.

Matt Adams was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and hit into a ninth-inning double play in his debut for Atlanta, a day after he was acquired from St. Louis. Matt Kemp led off the ninth, and Adams hit a line drive that was caught by Ryan Zimmerman, who stepped on first base.

Garcia allowed three runs -- one earned -- and seven hits in eight innings with no walks.

Washington took a 3-0 lead in the third following fielding errors by Markakis in right and Garcia. Bryce Harper had a run-scoring single.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: 3B Anthony Rendon and C Matt Wieters were given days off from the starting lineup. Rendon entered at third base in the eighth.

Braves: RHP Kris Medlen allowed one hits in six scoreless innings Saturday in his first start for Class A Florida. He missed most of 2016 with shoulder problems after his second Tommy John surgery. "That would be a real nice piece to have," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. Medlen pitched for Kansas City in 2015-16 and his last season with Atlanta was in 2013, when he was 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA.

UP NEXT

Nationals: Following an off day, RHP Jacob Turner (2-2) is expected to start when the Nationals will open a series against Seattle on Tuesday.

Braves: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (2-4) will take a 0-3 career record in three starts against Pittsburgh into Monday night's series opener against the Pirates.

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2017 MLB Power Rankings: As Bryce Harper goes, so do the Nationals

2017 MLB Power Rankings: As Bryce Harper goes, so do the Nationals

A week ago, the Nationals were looking unstoppable. Bryce Harper was hitting walkoff dingers left and right, there were multiple winning streaks, and the bullpen was only sorta bad. 

2017 MLB POWER RANKINGS

A week's worth of games later - against the Braves, Pirates and Phillies, no less - and the Nats don't look nearly as stainless. Harper's hitting under .200 since his Mother's Day walkoff, the team lost 5 of 6, and the bullpen turned back into a pumpkin. Because of that, there's a new team at the top of the Power Rankings this week. Who is it? To the rankings! 

30. MIAMI MARLINS

2017 Record: 15-28
Previous Ranking: 24
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Notable Performance: Dee Gordon (.318/.400/.364 last week)

Stanton hasn't homered in over two weeks, a stretch of 12 games. After going 2-8 over the last 10, including that weird Dodgers game, the Marlins have seen better weeks.  

29. SAN DIEGO PADRES

2017 Record: 16-30
Previous Ranking: 29
Last 10 Games: 3-7
Notable Performance: Brad Hand (.300/.500/.600 last week)

Wil Myers' underwhelming season continues. The outfielder is hitting .150 over the last week, and only .219 over the last month. The Padres best position player is only worth .6 bWAR, and that's 5th-best on the team.

28. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

2017 Record: 15-26
Previous Ranking: 23
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Notable Performance: Daniel Nava (.429/.429/.571 last week)

They ran into Texas at exactly the wrong time. Getting starts that are consistently like Aaron Nola's last one will be huge for his development this season. 

27. KANSAS CITY ROYALS

2017 Record: 18-25
Previous Ranking: 27
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Notable Performance: Lorenzo Cain (.087/.125/.087 last week)

They're starting to play better, but upcomming series with the Yankees and Indians aren't making life any easier for KC. Jason Vargas (?!) has been their most valuable player this year (2.0 bWAR). 

26. ATLANTA BRAVES

2017 Record: 18-23
Previous Ranking: 30
Last 10 Games: 7-3
Notable Performance: Matt Kemp (.375/.423/.708 last week)

Losing Freeman for three months because of some dumb unspoken beef is just a testament to how stupid unwritten baseball rules are. The silver lining to this year, though, is that the Braves are going to fleece some team for Matt Kemp in July. 

SEE THE REST OF THE RANKINGS HERE