Quick Links

Controversial Hall of Fame ballot released

barrybonds112812.png

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

Quick Links

When will Bryce Harper return to the Nationals' lineup?

usatsi_10215536_141983962_lowres_1.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

When will Bryce Harper return to the Nationals' lineup?

Bryce Harper hasn't seen the baseball diamond since August 12 and if you follow him on social media, you know the wait is nearly killing him.

In the past week however, he has been making positive steps in his road to recovery.

Before Thursday's game against the Braves, Harper was seen running foul pole to foul pole at Nats Park.

RELATED: NAT'S DANIEL MURPHY AND SON ATTEND CAPS PRACTICE

And prior to Sunday's game against the Dodgers, Harper took batting practice.

Then, on Tuesday, Harper batted in a simulated game prior to the team's road game against the Braves. He even ran around the bases to test out his injured knee.

These are all great signs, but when can we really expect him to return?

There have been rumors that it could be as soon as this week, so the Sports Junkies took matters into their own hands and ask general manager Mike Rizzo about it on their show Wednesday morning.

"Bryce had a very productive day yesterday, a very busy day," Rizzo said.

"He had a lot of work to put in yesterday. Harp came out looking good. The anchor leg, his left leg, which is Harp's back leg, his power leg, came through it fine. We'll see how he feels today, which will be very very important and see where we take it from there. He ran bases yesterday which was good and threw from the outfield, so he's slowly and cautiously getting back into a routine. Depending on how he progresses, we'll see where we take it from there. Hopefully, he can get a couple of games of live at bat under his belt before we have that four day break before the playoffs start."

RELATED: NATS FIRST MLB TEAM TO CLINCH PLAYOFF SPOT

So what exactly is Harper doing in a "simulated game?"

"It was just a hitting game for him. We brought up two minor league pitchers for him to see live stuff. What he and Steven Drew hitting, they probably had a total of about 10 or so at bats. 10 or 12 real at bats where four balls, three strikes type of thing, you hit a base hit you're out, that type of thing."

"You could do whatever you want in those games. So, we simulated with men on base, without men on base. The hitter did not know what the pitcher was going to throw and that was kind of the key to it, where you're recognizing spins and velocity and that type of thing. It's well beyond the batting practice that he's been getting recently. We'll continue to do this. We'll filter in some minor league pitchers as we go along and he'll get some time in that way until he can participating in game activities which we hope is sooner rather than later."

The magic date for Bryce Harper and the Nats is Friday, Oct. 6th when the National League Division series start and so does the Nats World Series run.

Quick Links

Max Scherzer bounces back from last week's rough start against Atlanta

usatsi_10293173.jpg
USA Today Sports

Max Scherzer bounces back from last week's rough start against Atlanta

ATLANTA -- Max Scherzer allowed five hits in seven innings, and the Washington Nationals tuned up for the playoffs with a 4-2 victory over Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.

Scherzer (15-6) bounced back from his worst start of the season, also against the Braves last week, when he walked six and was roughed up for seven runs in an 8-2 loss.

This time, Scherzer struck out seven and walked only one while throwing 83 of 112 pitches for strikes.

Ryan Madson pitched around trouble in the eighth and Sean Doolittle finished with a perfect for his 22nd save, his 19th in as many chances since the Nationals acquired him from Oakland on July 16.

Ryan Zimmerman had three hits and drove in a pair of runs for the NL East champion Nationals.

Rookie left-hander Luiz Gohara (1-2) surrendered four runs and 11 hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Washington took a 2-0 lead in the third, sparked by Matt Wieters' leadoff double. Trea Turner and Zimmerman had run-scoring singles..

Scherzer retired the first 11 Atlanta hitters before Freddie Freeman reached on a bloop single to right in the fourth. Kurt Suzuki dumped a 3-2 pitch in front of left fielder Howie Kendrick to bring home Atlanta's first run.

Zimmerman added another RBI single in the fifth and Washington finished Gohara in the seventh. Rendon ripped a double just inside the third-base bag to drive in Turner.

Dansby Swanson's fifth-inning double provided Atlanta's other run.

TRAINING ROOM

Nationals: 2B Daniel Murphy was scratched from the lineup shortly before the first pitch because of hamstring tightness. He was replaced by Wilmer Difo.

Braves: CF Ender Inciarte left after the fourth inning with a sore left thumb. It's been a lingering problem for the speedy outfielder, who was listed as day to day. Lane Adams moved from left field to center after Inciarte departedt, while Jace Peterson took over leadoff spot in the order.

UP NEXT

Nationals: LH Gio Gonzalez (14-7) gets the nod in the second game of the series Wednesday night. He is 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA in three starts against Atlanta this season, which includes his most recent appearance last week in Washington when he surrendered seven hits and five runs in five innings of an 8-0 loss.

Braves: RH Lucas Sims (2-5) will fill in for Mike Foltynewicz, who was forced to skip his scheduled start after lacerating his right middle finger in his last appearance. Sims has made his last four relief appearances since starting the first seven games of his big league career.