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Next year’s Hall of Fame class is going to change everythingThe Baseball Hall of Fame announced its latest ballot on Wednesday afternoon and everyone had a good, long laugh at the expense of the first timers.

Bernie Williams? Jeromy Burnitz? Brian Jordan? Tim Salmon? Vinny Castilla? Phil Nevin? Not a bad start if you're Dan Cortese and you're looking to resurrect MTV's Rock 'N Jock softball franchise.

But as a menu to design a midsummer meal featuring baseball immortality? Well, it's Cooperstown's equivalent of being dealt 7-2. Facing that hammer, the electorate will likely check 'em up, selecting Barry Larkin in his third year on the ballot or no one at all.

That won't be good for the Hall's attendance in late July, but we could frankly use this virtual break to enjoy the calm before the storm. That's because the ballot for the class of 2013 will feature Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza as first-time eligibles.

That sound you just heard was me requesting all of next December off. 

As I said on Twitter on Wednesday, one of the few upsides to the world ending in 2012 would be baseball avoiding the Mack truck that's heading for it. If you thought last year's fingerpointing and fighting over Jeff Bagwell's candidacy got old, multiply that by a million. With the upcoming quartet, we've got:

1. A duo that was a first-ballot slam dunk before they engaged in behavior that led to them being followed up and down the steps of countless courthouses.

2. A 600-homer guy who forgot how to speak English on Capitol Hill and has been linked to steroid use.

3. A catcher who doesn't have much evidence against him past Murray Chass' classic "bacne" note but will draw plenty of speculation anyway because he played in New York.

Next year’s Hall of Fame class is going to change everything

Honestly, you can see the endless onslaught of articles and opinions from a mile away:

Why I'm voting for Bonds. Why I'm not voting for Roger Clemens. Why someone is a moron for not voting for Bonds. Why I'm waiting a year to vote for Sammy Sosa. Why someone is a moron for waiting a year to vote for Sammy Sosa. What Hank Aaron thinks about Bonds not being inducted on the first ballot. What Pete Rose thinks about Bonds not being inducted on the first ballot. How do we know a steroid user hasn't already been inducted? How could Bonds be evil if he loves small, fluffy dogs? Hey, remember when we were all angry at Jeff Bagwell, even though he didn't have any evidence against him? Did any of you know what a big jerk Ty Cobb was?

None of this, of course, will be good for baseball or the Hall of Fame. This debate is Pete Rose times an entire generation and it could last just as long, if not longer. No matter where you stand in the argument, you can admit there's not going to be a quick resolution with either an immediate induction or a ballot-bumping vote total lower than 5 percent.

What's worse is that their ongoing candidacy will leak into the debates of all elections going forward, starting with a Class of 2014 ballot that ranks on the opposite end of the suspicion scale. That marquee will feature Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine(notes), Frank Thomas and Jeff Kent, though to think they'll enjoy an unspoiled coronation is foolish.

I understand that being a writer and follower of baseball in the 2010s is to take a mandatory position as a reconciler of the steroid era and its achievements. But I also recognize that I don't have to like it much. The Hall of Fame debates are about to get a lot less fun than they used to be and I'm not relishing the approaching change at all.

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