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Column: The Big 3 deserve a big no in Hall vote

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Column: The Big 3 deserve a big no in Hall vote

It could have been the greatest Hall of Fame class since Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb were installed in the very first vote back in 1936.

It would have been if those eligible had allowed their natural ability to carry the day.

Barry Bonds never needed steroids to be great. It was already in his genes, and the numbers he put up before he suddenly grew larger than life would have been enough to make him a first-ballot choice the moment he was eligible.

Roger Clemens already had four Cy Young Awards and an MVP by the time his former personal trainer said he started injecting the pitcher with human growth hormone - an accusation Clemens vehemently denies to this day but one that will taint him forever.

Sammy Sosa might have gotten in even without the cartoonish home run totals he and Mark McGwire put up beginning in the late 1990s.

They're all on the ballot released Wednesday by the Hall of Fame, ready to be judged for the first time by more than 600 longtime members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. They need 75 percent of the vote to be enshrined among the greats of the past.

And they're not going to get it.

Not this year, anyway. Not with the Steroids Era still looming over Major League Baseball.

The guardians of the game stand in their way, ready to do something Bud Selig and the rest of baseball refuse to do - hold players responsible for soiling the sport. Enough writers will take a stand so that Bonds and Clemens will at least have to wait and Sosa may never get in at all.

The bottom line is that numbers define the Hall of Fame. Always have, ever since the Babe gained entry with his 714 home runs and Cobb got in at the same time with 4,191 hits.

The numbers among this generation don't add up.

Believe, if you want, that Bonds hit 73 home runs in a year without the help of modern chemistry. Fans in San Francisco certainly did, at least until an attorney for Bonds admitted in court that the player took steroids - but did so unwittingly.

They suspended disbelief at Wrigley Field, too, while home runs flew off Sosa's bat and he dueled with McGwire to obliterate the single-season home run record held for so long by Roger Maris. And Houston fans surely tried to buy that Clemens finished with the best ERA of his career (1.87) at age 43 because he was a workout fiend.

But the folks who vote for the Hall of Fame are a bit more cynical than the average Joe. They've been around baseball long enough to know that crazy stats are just that if they haven't been seen in the previous 100 years.

Some voters aren't comfortable being judge and jury when baseball itself has no intention of changing anyone's numbers or records. The facts of who might have taken what and when - or didn't - will always be in dispute, so they'll rely on just the numbers in making their decisions.

Others won't, because what they saw still disturbs them greatly, no matter the denials. They've rejected McGwire six times now, and they'll vote to reject Bonds, Clemens and Sosa in their first try to get in.

``Nay on all three,'' said Mike Klis of The Denver Post. ``I think in all three cases, their performances were artificially enhanced. Especially in the cases of Bonds and Clemens, their production went up abnormally late in their careers.''

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a member of the BBWAA, though I don't have a vote for this year's class because there's a 10-year membership minimum. If I did, I would carefully look at the numbers for all the players and the impact they had on the game.

Then I would crumple up the ballot and toss it in the trash.

That might not be fair to Craig Biggio, another first-timer on the ballot who was never suspected of taking steroids. But he's in the 3,000-hit club, so his time will come.

I like Mike Piazza, too, but if the numbers of others in his era can't be believed, can his? And I don't believe Curt Schilling is a Hall of Famer; his bloody sock shouldn't be there, either.

If this ballot is an uncomfortable one for baseball, Selig and his cohorts have no one to blame but themselves. They were silent as players became bloated caricatures of themselves. They did nothing but cheer as records that stood the test of time were erased in the space of a few seasons.

They and the baseball players' union had to be publicly shamed before even acknowledging that steroids had made the game a joke - much less finally doing something about it.

If you're debating the fairness of it all, consider that the most prolific hitter in the history of the game, Pete Rose, wasn't even allowed on the Hall of Fame ballot because he bet on baseball. Yet McGwire has been on it even though he was an admitted steroid user, and Bonds remains the sport's all-time home run king as well as a nominee this year.

My guess is Bonds and Clemens will one day be in the Hall of Fame. Years will pass and their numbers will become more acceptable as the steroid era recedes into the background.

Let's hope that day doesn't come anytime soon.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org orhttp://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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What It Means: Wizards reportedly expected to make extension offer to Bradley Beal

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USA Today

What It Means: Wizards reportedly expected to make extension offer to Bradley Beal

Despite the litany of teams who would love to get their hands on Bradley Beal this offseason, Washington has so far remained committed to keeping Bradley Beal a Wizard.

And when he's eligible in July, they plan to offer him a three-year, $111 million extension, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.  

"He's eligible for a three-year, $111 million extension," Wojnarowski said during ESPN's televised mock draft special. "I'm told it's the team's intention to offer that up to him and try and move forward."

Keeping Beal long-term may wind being a smart move, as NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig wrote this week. The extension would lock Beal up for the next five years and secure him and John Wall -- once he's fully recovered from offseason Achilles surgery -- as the Wizards' backcourt for the foreseeable future. 

The offer may seem financially burdensome, considering the Wizards just signed John Wall to a massive supermax extension that starts this season. But although the Wizards are currently strapped for cash, there's hope on the horizon. Ian Mahinmi's $15.6 million deal and Dwight Howard's $5.4 million deal expire after the 2019-2020 season.

The Wizards could decline Jabari Parkers $20 million team option and let Bobby Portis walk in restricted free agency this offseason. If both those happen, the Wizards could open up cap space for Beal's extension.

Considering John Wall is out for likely the entire next season and the Wizards still don't have a GM, their best move might be to lock in what proven production they have.

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Rain knocks out another Phillies-Nationals game

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Rain knocks out another Phillies-Nationals game

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals and Phillies are 2-for-2.

Tuesday night's game was postponed following a two-hour rain delay. Monday's game was postponed after a three-hour rain delay.

Tuesday's game will be made up as part of a split day-night doubleheader Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., bumping a four-game series to a five-game series. The Nationals and Phillies are scheduled to also play a split day-night doubleheader Wednesday.

The day was not without news. Nationals ace Max Scherzer broke his nose in batting practice when a ball bounced off his bat and struck him in the face. Scherzer was attempting to bunt at the time.

Scherzer's injury and the multiple postponements throw the Nationals' pitching plans into disarray. They're not sure if Scherzer will pitch as expected Wednesday. It appears Austin Voth, who was scratched from his Thursday start for Triple-A Fresno, will be available to pitch in one of the Wednesday games -- should they be played. More rain is expected Wednesday.

The Nationals will bump Patrick Corbin, who was slated to pitch again Tuesday, into a Wednesday spot. Wednesday's other starter is TBA. It could be Scherzer if he is ready. It could be Erick Fedde, and Voth could be used in the bullpen as the 26th man. That would provide Scherzer a chance to pitch Thursday and Strasburg on Friday against Atlanta. 

Or, Scherzer could be provided more time off. There's a lot to sort out once again thanks to the rain.

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