Williams, Mueller top newcomers on Hall ballot

Posted Nov. 30, 2011, at 8:18 p.m.

NEW YORK — Former AL batting champions Bernie Williams and Bill Mueller are among 13 newcomers on baseball’s 2012 Hall of Fame ballot, joining top holdovers Barry Larkin, Jack Morris, Lee Smith and Jeff Bagwell.

Following the election of Robert Alomar and Bert Blyleven last year, a relatively weak field of first-timers could give renewed hope to Larkin and Morris.

The 2013 ballot that will be sent out late next year figures to be among the most controversial, with seven-time MVP Barry Bonds and seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens eligible for the first time along with Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa.

Bonds, Clemens and Sosa have been implicated in the use of performance-enhancing drugs, allegations they have denied.

Twenty-seven players are on this year’s Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot, including 14 holdovers. A player needs at least 75 percent to gain election, and results will be announced Jan. 9.

A 12-time All-Star and the 1995 NL MVP, Larkin fell 75 votes shy with 62.1 percent last year in his second try, up from 51.6.

Morris, the winningest pitcher of the 1980s but burdened by a 3.90 career ERA, received 53.5 percent on his 12th try, up from 52.3 the previous year and 22.2 percent in his initial appearance. Players are eligible to appear on the writers’ ballot for up to 15 years.

Smith, third on the career saves list with 478, got 45.3 percent last year, down from 47.3 percent. Jeff Bagwell, who hit 449 homers, got 41.7 percent support in his first appearance.

Mark McGwire, 10th on the career home run list with 583, received 19.8 percent of the vote last year in his fifth try on the ballot, down from 23.7 in 2010 — a vote before he admitted using steroids and human growth hormone.

Rafael Palmeiro, among just four players with 500 homers and 3,000 hits along with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray, was on just 11 percent of the ballots last year in his first appearance. He received a 10-day suspension in 2005 for a positive test, claiming it was due to a vitamin vial given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada.

Two-time AL MVP Juan Gonzalez, a two-time AL MVP implicated by Jose Canseco in steroids use, received 30 votes last year, just above the 5 percent threshold for remaining on the ballot.

Among the first-time eligibles, Williams won the AL batting title for the Yankees in 1998 and Mueller for the Red Sox in 2003. Newcomers also include 1993 AL Rookie of the Year Tim Salmon and former RBIs leaders Ruben Sierra and Vinny Castilla.

Two of the biggest stars of the Steroids Era appear on the ballot for the first time a year from now: Bonds, the career leader with 762 home runs, and Clemens, ninth in wins (354) and third in strikeouts (4,672).

Bonds is to be sentenced Dec. 16 following his conviction in April on one count of obstruction of justice for giving an evasive answer in 2003 to a grand jury investigating steroids distribution.

Following a mistrial in July, Clemens is scheduled for a trial April 17 on one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements to Congress and two counts of perjury. The charges stem from denials of allegations of drug use he made to a congressional committee in 2008 following the publication of the Mitchell Report.

While Sosa never failed a drug test with penalties, The New York Times reported he was among the players who tested positive on baseball’s 2003 survey test.

The complete ballot: Jeff Bagwell, Jeromy Burnitz, Vinny Castilla, Juan Gonzalez, Brian Jordan, Barry Larkin, Javy Lopez, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Bill Mueller, Terry Mulholland, Dale Murphy, Phil Nevin, Rafael Palmeiro, Brad Radke, Tim Raines, Tim Salmon, Ruben Sierra, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker, Bernie Williams, Tony Womack, Eric Young.

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