And the winner is nobody.
Congratulations, baseball. This is what the sport deserves. When totals were announced Wednesday in this year's Hall of Fame election, no player received the required 75 percent of votes from baseball writers. So no one was elected.
This included Barry Bonds, the Giants outfielder who now owns another historic distinction: the only all-time Major League Baseball home run leader to not enter Cooperstown on his first ballot.
It's hardly a shock, though. For one day, the national pastime became the nihilism pastime. On merit.
As steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs pervaded the sport for a decade or more and then became exposed as a scandal I'm not sure anyone pondered that one ultimate outcome would be a Hall of Fame announcement without any names to announce.
That's only happened one other time since 1965. But it's certainly not a surprise. The writers participating in the election have been confounded and conflicted about their choices long before the ballots arrived in our mailboxes. Even Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson seemed to understand how it all came down.
"Obviously, no one was rooting for a shutout," Idelson said in a conference call. "But by the same token, we have respect for the process."
The Hall asks the writers to be the Cooperstown jury. My personal stance on the issue has remained firm. The voting procedure allows for each worthy candidate to receive a 15-year window of consideration. So I am abstaining from a Bonds vote and a Roger Clemens vote, and a Sammy Sosa vote, and a Mark McGwire vote, and a vote for anyone whose name has been covered by PED graffiti until I get more information about the complete landscape of the steroid era.
We've learned a lot about that landscape over the past five years as Bonds and Clemens have entered courtrooms to testify in perjury cases. We will learn a lot more about it over the next 10 years. My preference would be for Cooperstown to give better voting instructions or for MLB to declare a "steroid amnesty" period that would allow players to confess without consequence.
Let's say that happened. And let's say, for example, we learn that 75 percent of players were using PEDs at one point. Then maybe it was a more equal playing field than we thought. And the voting would be a little easier.
For now, it's a quandary. Some voters ignore the steroids, others don't, and others are waiting for more clarity, like me.
Bonds received 36.2 percent of the vote, placing ninth, and Clemens a smidgen more at 37.6 percent, coming in eighth. That indicates the possibility of both men moving up and one day being asked to give induction speeches at Cooperstown.
Instead, this year, there will only be speeches about the three deceased inductees selected by the Veterans' Committee. That won't be as exciting as having Bonds stand up and talk about his feats and the people who helped him achieve them. Of course, he won't be able to talk about the drugs that helped him, either.
Which is kind of the point. In this case, at least for this year, nothing is better than something. Much better.