The most polarizing Hall of Fame debate since Pete Rose will now be decided by the baseball shrine's voters: Do Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens...

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NEW YORK — The most polarizing Hall of Fame debate since Pete Rose will now be decided by the baseball shrine’s voters: Do Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa belong in Cooperstown despite drug allegations that tainted their huge numbers?

In a monthlong election sure to become a referendum on the Steroids Era, the Hall ballot was released Wednesday, and Bonds, Clemens and Sosa are on it for the first time.

Bonds is the all-time home run champion with 762 and won a record seven MVP awards. Clemens took home a record seven Cy Young trophies and is ninth with 354 victories. Sosa ranks eighth on the homer chart with 609.

More than 600 longtime members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will vote on the 37-player ballot. Candidates require 75 percent for induction, and the results will be announced Jan. 9.

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Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling also are among the 24 first-time eligibles. Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines are the top holdover candidates.

Former Mariners star Edgar Martinez is another holdover candidate.

If recent history is any indication, the odds are solidly stacked against Bonds, Clemens and Sosa. Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro both posted Cooperstown-caliber stats, too, but drug clouds doomed them in Hall voting.

Some who favor Bonds and Clemens claim the bulk of their accomplishments came before baseball got wrapped up in drug scandals. They add that performance-enhancing drug use was so prevalent in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s that it’s unfair to exclude anyone.

Many fans on the other side say drug cheats — suspected or otherwise — should never be afforded the game’s highest individual honor.

Braves, Upton agree to $75M deal

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves made baseball’s first big offseason move when they agreed to terms with former Tampa Bay center fielder B.J. Upton on a five-year contract worth $75.25 million, the largest free-agent contract in franchise history.

Upton’s deal was pending a physical, and the Braves were expected to make an announcement Thursday.

Upton, 28, has spent his entire career with the Rays and hit .246 with a personal-best 28 homers along with 31 stolen bases in 2012.


• The Cincinnati Reds signed Jonathan Broxton to a three-year, $21 million contract, giving the NL Central champions a potential closer and a chance to reconfigure their starting rotation.

• The Los Angeles Angels and closer Ryan Madson finalized a one-year, $3.5 million deal that includes an additional $3.5 million in incentives. Madson must bounce back from elbow ligament-replacement surgery that sidelined him for 2012.

• Left-hander Andy Pettitte, 40, signed a one-year deal with the New York Yankees worth $12 million.

• Right-handed reliever Pat Neshek and the Oakland Athletics reached agreement on a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration.

• The Boston Red Sox traded right-handers Zach Stewart and Sandy Rosario and third baseman Danny Valencia. Stewart went to Pittsburgh and Rosario to Oakland for players to be named and Valencia went to Baltimore for cash considerations.

• The Texas Rangers acquired right-hander Cory Burns from the San Diego Padres for a player to be named or cash considerations.

• Former Baltimore Orioles All-Star Doug DeCinces, 62, and three others were indicted on insider-trading charges involving the use of information before the takeover of a medical-device company in California, authorities said.

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