Barry Bonds leaving court in 2011. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Barry Bonds leaving federal court in San Francisco last year. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Today is the first day that members of the Baseball Writers Association of American can vote for the Class of 2013 inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame — and it’s likely to be one of the most polarizing debates since the days of Pete Rose.

It’s the first time that former Giants slugger Barry Bonds is eligible.¬†Bonds holds the records for career home runs and most home runs in a season. But, as practically everyone knows by now, Bonds was wrapped up in the performance-enhancing drugs scandal that swept baseball.

Bonds has never admitted taking PEDs, but he was convicted of obstruction of justice in the BALCO steroids case. He was acquitted on three other charges of perjury. He is appealing his conviction.

So far, the writers have passed over many players accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs. Chief among them is Mark McGwire, who in 1998 became the first to break Roger Maris’s single-season home-run record. McGwire is on the ballot this year for the seventh time. Players need a 75 percent vote from the writers to make it into the Hall of Fame; so far, McGwire’s never broken the 25 percent threshold.

In an interview posted on Major League Baseball’s website this morning, Bonds said he’s keeping the voting at “arms length.” Here’s more from his interview:

“I do really care,” Bonds said. “I may say I don’t, but I do really care. I’ve been through a lot in my life so not too many things bother me. Making the Hall of Fame, would it be something that’s gratifying because of what I’ve sacrificed? Sure. Baseball has been a big part of our lives. We’ve sacrificed our bodies. It’s the way we made our living.” …

Bonds says that he wishes he had done some things differently. “But I can’t turn back the clock now,” he said. “Time has passed. Wounds for me have healed.”

Even so, he wishes some people, including eligible members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America who will be casting their ballots in December, would forgive if not forget.

“I don’t even know how to explain it. The world has become so negative,” Bonds said. “One day, I’ll be able to say things the right way. But it’s tough when you have so many people out there who don’t want to turn the page and want to be angry at you forever. I don’t understand why it continues on. What am I doing wrong?

“I can sit here and say, ‘You know what? Baseball is great. I love it.’ I can sit here and say in a very kind way that I’m sorry about the way things ended. I can sit here and say that I respect the Hall of Fame, which I do. But I don’t understand all the controversy we’re having about it. For what reason? What’s there to be gained by all of this? What’s the point?”

On paper, Bonds would undoubtedly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer contender simply on merit. Playing his first seven seasons for the Pirates and his last 15 ¬†for the Giants, Bonds holds the all-time records for homers in a career (762) and a single season (73), as well as walks (2,558) and intentional walks (688). … He won the National League MVP seven times — three times before 1998, the demarcation line for when many believe the steroid era began.

The son of the late Bobby Bonds and the godson of Giants icon and Hall of Famer Willie Mays, Bonds is the only player in MLB history to amass more than 500 homers and 500 stolen bases, finishing with 514 steals. No one else is close, not even Mays, who had 660 homers and 338 steals in 22 seasons. When his career ended in 2007, Bonds finished 65 hits short of 3,000, four RBIs shy of 2,000 and with 2,227 runs scored.

The Writers Association will announce the new hall of fame class on January 9th.

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