Also on the ballot for the first time are Sammy Sosa and Norristown native Mike Piazza, power hitters whose statistics have been questioned because of the Steroids Era, and Craig Biggio, 20th on the career list with 3,060 hits - all for the Houston Astros. Former Phillies ace Curt Schilling, 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in postseason play, is another ballot rookie.
Since 1965, the only years the writers did not elect a candidate with the required 75 percent of the vote were when Yogi Berra topped the 1971 ballot at 67 percent and when Phil Niekro headed the 1996 ballot at 68 percent. Both were chosen the following years.
"It really would be a shame, especially since the other people going in this year are not among the living, which will make for a rather strange ceremony," said the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, the BBWAA president.
Three inductees were chosen last month by the 16-member panel considering individuals from the era before integration in 1946: New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O'Day, and barehanded catcher Deacon White. They will be enshrined July 28 at Cooperstown.
The Hall is prepared to hold a news conference Thursday with any electees. Or to not have one.
Jane Forbes Clark, the Hall's chairwoman, said last year she was not troubled by voters' weighing how to evaluate players in the era of performance-enhancing drugs.
"I think the museum is very comfortable with the decisions that the baseball writers make," she said. "And so it's not a bad debate by any means."
Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs and was convicted of one count of obstruction of justice for giving an evasive answer in 2003 to a grand jury investigating PEDs. Clemens was acquitted of perjury charges stemming from congressional testimony during which he denied using PEDs.
Sosa, who finished with 609 home runs, was among those who tested positive in MLB's 2003 anonymous survey, the New York Times reported in 2009. He told a congressional committee in 2005 that he never took illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
The BBWAA election rules say "voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."