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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 sign former Orioles All-Star catcher Matt Wieters

Nationals sign former Orioles All-Star catcher Matt Wieters

The Washington Nationals have signed former Orioles All-Star catcher Matt Wieters to a one-year deal with a player option for a second year, according to multiple reports. 

Wieters spent the first eight years in the Majors with the Baltimore Orioles, being named to the AL All-Star team four times and winning two gold glove awards. Last season the switch-hitting catcher posted a .243 average with 17 homers and 66 RBI.  

The Nationals have been in the market for catchers all offseason after Wilson Ramos left for Tampa Bay in free agency. The team traded for former Padres catcher Derek Norris, whose role is now in question. The Nationals still have Jose Lobaton on the roster as a strong defensive backup catcher who has a proven rapport with many of the pitchers in the Nationals rotation. Wieters had been linked to the Nationals all offseason because of the team's need a the position and because of the Nationals close relationship with Wieters' agent Scott Boras. 

The only significant time that Wieters has missed due to injury in his career came in 2014-15 when he had Tommy John surgury. Prior to that surgury, however, Wieters had played in at least 130 games for four straight seasons and became a large part of the Orioles' identity. 

The 30-year-old backstop will give the Nationals lineup more depth and power. Wieters had three consecutive 20-homer seasons from 2011-13 and since 2009 when his career began, he ranks fifth among catchers in all of baseball in home runs with 117. 

Related: Nationals 2017 promotional schedule includes snow globes and fedoras

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Nationals 2017 promotional giveaways include snow globes and fedoras

Nationals 2017 promotional giveaways include snow globes and fedoras

The Washington Nationals recently released the dates of their promotional days and giveaways this season, and there are some real gems in this schedule.

Among the standard bobblehead giveaways — Daniel Murphy on April 14, Trea Turner on May 12 and Tanner Roark on June 9 — and the highly recommended Pups in the Park days — April 29, May 13, June 10, June 25, September 7 and September 30 — pick the right game and you could get a snow globe, an American flag shirt or even a fedora. Seriously.

On May 24’s game against the Mariners, the first 25,000 fans will get a Max Scherzer snow globe, which has the potential to be the coolest knickknack in your house. Or on June 14 against the Braves — oddly not closer to the Fourth of July — Budweiser is behind the first 15,000 21-and-up fans getting an American flag tank top.

But truly the most unique item on this list is the Nationals-themed fedora, which will go to the first 25,000 fans at the Brewers’ July 26 matchup. How the Nats landed on this promotional item remains a mystery, but if you like hats beyond a traditional baseball cap, this is the game to attend.

Other cool or oddball promotions include the Nats Magic 8-Ball game April 3, the Chewbacca Koozie day May 27, Bryce Harper action figure day August 29 and Oktoberfest beer stein day Sept. 29.

Here's the complete list of the team's promotional days and giveaways

MORE NATS: Bryce Harper knows why he didn't play well in 2016