Do Bonds, Clemens belong in Hall?

The familiar brown, business-size envelope was in the mailbox this week with the normal pile of bills, catalogs and a sprinkling of Christmas cards.

It was the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot.

Never in my nearly 35 years as a qualified voter has the ballot arrived stuffed with controversy, so much so that the envelope was hot.

It is gut-check time for voters.

Among the 37 names on the ballot are at least three strongly associated with performance-enhancing drugs — Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa, all appearing for the first time.

Also on the ballot for the seventh time is Mark McGwire and the baseball writers have taken a noteworthy stance on him on past ballots — a firm and strong no.

Without the PED stigma, Bonds and Clemens have the pedigree and statistical accomplishments that normally gain a player quick induction into the Hall of Fame. Sosa is like McGwire. Borderline.

Normally. These are not normal times.

Legendary Los Angeles Dodgers manager and Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda was in Dayton last week, and I shared the stage with him for a Fireside Chat for the Heart Institute of Dayton.

I asked him, in front of a crowd of 400, “Tommy, should I vote for anybody associated with PEDs?”

His answer was quick and to the point.

“I don’t want to tell you how to vote, but if I’m voting, I don’t vote for those guys. They cheated. They are cheaters. And they don’t belong in the Hall of Fame.

I told him I agreed with him and my mind was made up even before I asked the questions.

I haven’t voted for McGwire, and I won’t vote for Bonds, Clemens or Sosa.

And Lasorda’s word(s) hit home hard. Cheat. Cheaters.

They cheated to gain unfair advantage, particularly later in their careers when their Hall of Fame credentials already had been established. What is so sad about the entire controversy is that none of the three needed an unfair advantage. All three were talented enough to perform well enough to make the Hall of Fame without using PEDs.

It was enlightening to hear on the MLB Network that several Hall of Famers said they are considering boycotting the 2013 Cooperstown induction ceremonies if any of the Titanic Trio is elected.

A large absentee list would make a mockery of the ceremonies, a potential unfortunate occurrence because Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown, NY, is the best weekend in baseball.

A possible boycott, of course, won’t (or shouldn’t) sway voters one way or another as to whether to vote for Bonds, Clemens and Sosa.

Fans often ask about Gaylord Perry, a Hall of Famer who is an admitted cheater, a guy who wrote a book entitled, “Me and the Spitter,” a tell-all on how he used baseballs loaded up with illegal substances to get batters out.

Is there any difference between applying illegal substances to baseball than applying illegal substances on your body (or in it)? Yeah, there is a big difference, but both are cheating.

My answer? I didn’t vote for Perry.

And when I send in my ballot in the next couple of days, there will be no ‘X’ in the boxes next to Bonds, Clemens and Sosa.

There are 37 names on the ballot and electors are permitted to for as many as 10. They don’t have to vote for 10. They can vote for or one or two or as many as they want, up to 10. Or they can vote for none (but a ballot with no votes counts as one vote against everybody on the ballot).

I’ve never voted for as many as 10. Depending on the ballot I usually vote for three, four or five.

Other that knowing I won’t vote for the Troubled Trio, I haven’t finalized my ballot.

In the past, I’ve voted for Lee Smith, Jack Morris and Edgar Martinez, so I’ll stick with those three. And after more study, maybe two or three more — none named Barry, Roger or Sammy.