Just Sayin’: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens not likely to get Hall passes on Sunday

Their fates are in the hands of a 16-member electorate that includes seven Hall of Fame players, including Ryne Sandberg and Frank Thomas.

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Barry Bonds’ Hall of Fame candidacy will be discussed by the Contemporary Era Committee on Sunday.

Barry Bonds’ Hall of Fame candidacy will be discussed by the Contemporary Era Committee on Sunday.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Is there a more pleasant subject than Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Probably so.

But this one is back in our faces, folks, or at least under our noses. A sub-group of the Hall Veterans Committee — the Contemporary Era Committee, focusing on players whose greatest contributions came in the late 1980s and beyond — convenes Sunday at the winter meetings in San Diego to vote on eight candidates. Two of those are Bonds and Clemens, each of whom seems to be frozen in time at the pinnacle of controversy and personal achievement.

The others are Curt Schilling, Rafael Palmeiro, Don Mattingly, Albert Belle, Fred McGriff and Dale Murphy.

Their fates are in the hands of a 16-member electorate that includes seven Hall of Fame players — Ryne Sandberg, Frank Thomas, Lee Smith, Greg Maddux, Chipper Jones, Jack Morris and Alan Trammell — as well as six executives (including Theo Epstein and the White Sox’ Ken Williams) and three media members.

Candidates need 75% of the vote — that’s 12 ‘‘yeses’’ where we come from — and results of the voting will be announced live at 7 p.m. Sunday on MLB Network.

How’s this thing going to go? Where Bonds and Clemens are concerned, remember that Thomas is a longtime outspoken critic of players who used performance-enhancing drugs and that Sandberg seemed to go out of his way in his 2005 induction speech to make thinly veiled references to Sammy Sosa.

McGriff might have the best chance to get in with the Class of 2023. Is it Schilling’s time? But it’s probably not happening for Bonds and Clemens, the names the public cares about most.

Three-dot dash

It took two Power Five championship games for all hell to break loose in college football. Don’t mistake that as a complaint. First, No. 4 USC got steamrolled by Utah on Friday in the Pac-12, knocking the Trojans from the four-team field. Then, No. 3 TCU lost to Kansas State in overtime Saturday in the Big 12, putting a few big, fat questions on the table for the selection committee, whose decisions will be announced Sunday.

Big 12 Championship - Kansas State v TCU

Kansas State beat TCU thanks to a goal-line stand in overtime.

Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images

Did one-loss TCU cook its own goose, too?

If not — if TCU stays in the top four, along with Georgia, Michigan and newcomer Ohio State — who’s 3 and who’s 4? A 2-3 rematch between Michigan and Ohio State would be incredible theater. No, you shouldn’t believe for one second the Buckeyes are incapable of beating the Wolverines. But a 1-4 matchup of Georgia and Ohio State would be compelling, too, probably more so than Georgia-TCU.

And then there’s this: Did TCU’s loss give the committee enough cover to screw over the Horned Frogs in favor of two-loss Alabama? The protests coming from outside SEC country would be deafening, but then we all would start wrapping our imaginations around another Georgia vs. Alabama semifinal and — whoa — talk about intrigue. . . . 

If the 12-team playoff format coming in 2024 were here now, the top four almost certainly would feature Georgia, Michigan, Kansas State and Utah. Strange-looking, right? But remember that first-round byes will go to the four highest-ranked conference champions. TCU and Ohio State probably would be locked into first-round home games, with three others — Alabama, Tennessee and USC — squawking that they deserve one of the remaining two first-round home assignments. . . . 

Any Heisman Trophy voters who submitted their lists before the games this weekend should be forced to face Utah’s pass rush behind USC’s awful offensive line, like front-runner Caleb Williams did. Had fellow QB Max Duggan led TCU to one more comeback victory, I might’ve been swayed to put his name on the No. 1 line. Voting ends Monday, and I’m still thinkin’. . . . 

My final Davey O’Brien ballot for the top QB: 1. Williams; 2. Duggan; 3. Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud.

Illinois v Michigan

Illinois’ Chase Brown had a huge regular season.

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

My Doak Walker ballot for top running back: 1. Michigan’s Blake Corum; 2. Illinois’ Chase Brown; 3. Texas’ Bijan Robinson.

My Biletnikoff ballot for top receiver: 1. Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt; 2. Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr.; 3. Iowa State’s Xavier Hutchinson.

And my Thorpe ballot for top defensive back: 1. Utah’s Clark Phillips III; 2. Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon; 3. TCU’s Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson.

This you gotta see

College Football Playoff selection show (11 a.m. Sunday, ESPN): Which two are in among TCU, Ohio State and Alabama? Who has to open against mighty Georgia? The tension is deliciously thick.

College basketball: Illinois vs. Texas (6 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN): Longhorns hoops hasn’t been this hot since Kevin Durant was a backpack-wearing freshman, but there’s no place like Madison Square Garden for the Illini to start spreading some news of their own.


Lionel Messi and Argentina are in the World Cup quarterfinals.

Photo by JUAN MABROMATA/AFP via Getty Images

World Cup: Netherlands vs. Argentina (1 p.m. Friday, Fox-32, Telemundo): The Dutch keep trying to get the best-nation-never-to-win-it monkey off their backs, while the great Lionel Messi continues to seek a crowning achievement with his own national team. Would’ve been nice to see the Americans play on, but what are you gonna do?

Only because you asked

From Kate, via email: ‘‘Why is there a college basketball tournament coming to Chicago with no local or state teams involved?’’

The folks behind the Legends of Basketball Showcase on Dec. 17 at the United Center wish there were local schools in the lineup, and they tried. But this eight-team event — four games, one day (not a ‘‘tournament’’) — came together too late to make that happen. DePaul plays at Northwestern that same day, for example, Illinois has a nonconference home game against Alabama A&M and Loyola, which plays a day later at home, will be in town. Would be nice to see more of the locals share a court, wouldn’t it?

According to a spokesman, the hope is the event will be held again next season — and with more of a local flavor. This time, N.C. State, Vanderbilt and Dayton are the headliners.

The bottom five

Billy Donovan: Not to tell the Bulls’ coach how to do his job, but all that gum-chewing doesn’t seem to be helping.

Set pieces: It took a few games for some of us to figure out the true meaning of the term — that it’s set in stone the U.S. men’s team won’t ever score on one of them.

NFL Red Zone: Every time you look up, a team is about to score. And that’s just when the Bears’ defense is on the field.

Chase Claypool: Yo, Bears, he’s the tall dude with the ‘‘10’’ on his jersey. Feel free to give throwing the ball his way a whirl.

Bears: How could I forget? Packers, 27-17 — and print it.

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