New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens throws against the Detroit...

New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens throws against the Detroit Tigers in the first inning of a baseball game in Detroit. (Aug. 24, 2007) Credit: AP

Let the debate begin.

Or, more accurately, continue.

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa for the first time are listed on the Hall of Fame ballot, sparking anew the impassioned discussion of what to do with players who starred during the steroids era.

All three put up massive career numbers that otherwise would make them locks for the Hall, except each has been clouded by accusations of using performance-enhancing drugs.

The trio were part of the 37-player ballot that was announced Wednesday. It will be voted on by the 600-plus members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America who have covered the sport for at least 10 consecutive years.

Candidates require 75 percent of the votes for induction, with results scheduled to be announced Jan. 9.

If previous voting is any indication, Bonds, Clemens and Sosa face a steep climb to Cooperstown.

Prior to this year, the two biggest names closely associated with the steroids era who appeared on the ballot -- Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro -- fared poorly.

McGwire, 10th all-time on the home run list with 583, in six ballot appearances has never attained 25 percent. Palmeiro has done even worse in his two tries, maxing at 12.6 percent.

McGwire in recent years admitted to PED use.

Among the 24 appearing on the ballot for the first time are Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling and Long Island's Craig Biggio. The longtime Astro, born in Smithtown and a Kings Park High School graduate, accrued 3,060 hits in a 20-year career. Biggio won four consecutive Gold Gloves from 1994-97 and was a seven-time All-Star.

The top holdover candidates on the ballot are Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines.

Bonds, a seven-time MVP, is baseball's all-time leader in homers with 762 and set the single-season mark of 73 in 2001. Clemens won seven Cy Young Awards and ranks ninth in wins with 354. Sosa ranks eighth in homers with 609.

As of now, however, all of those numbers might be considered easy to attain compared to garnering the 75 percent of the vote needed for induction.

And it isn't only BBWAA voters who have expressed hostility toward those linked to PED use gaining entry.

Speaking to Sports Illustrated during the summer, 1993 Hall of Fame inductee Reggie Jackson gave a voice to some of those players, predicting a boycott.

"If any of those guys get in," Jackson said, "no Hall of Famer will attend."

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