NEW YORK — There's a chance the podium under the chandeliers in the gold-and-ivory-colored Vanderbilt Room of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel will go unused.
With the steroids cloud shrouding the candidacies of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and others, baseball writers may fail for the second time in more than four decades to elect anyone to the Hall of Fame, rendering a news conference unnecessary.
About 600 people are eligible to vote in the BBWAA election, all members of the organization for 10 straight years at any point. Results will be announced at 2 p.m. today, with the focus on first-time eligibles that include Bonds, baseball's only seven-time MVP, and Clemens, the only seven-time Cy Young winner.
Since 1965, the only years the writers did not elect a candidate 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, president of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Three inductees were chosen last month by the 16-member panel considering individuals from the era before integration in 1946: Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O'Day and barehanded catcher Deacon White. They will be enshrined during a ceremony at Cooperstown on July 28.
Also on the ballot for the first time are Sammy Sosa and 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 Astros. Curt Schilling, 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in postseason play, is another ballot rookie.
The Hall is prepared to hold a news conference Thursday with any electees. Or to not have one.
LAROCHE RE-SIGNS: First baseman Adam LaRoche agreed to a two-year deal to return to the Nationals. The deal includes a mutual option for a third year. LaRoche, 33, had 33 homers and 100 RBIs for a team that had the majors' best record.
HOWELL DEAL: Former Rays left-handed reliever J.P. Howell finalized a $2.85 million, one-year contract with the Dodgers. Howell, 29, pitched for Tampa Bay from 2006-12.
KAZMIR'S RETURN: Former Rays All-Star left-hander Scott Kazmir completed a minor-league deal with the Indians. Kazmir, 28, last pitched in the majors April 3, 2011, for the Angels.
A-ROD SURGERY: Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is scheduled for hip surgery Jan. 16. Rodriguez could be out until the All-Star break.
BREWERS: Left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez finalized a $2.25 million, one-year contract.
PIRATES: An agreement with pitcher Francisco Liriano may be in jeopardy because of a right arm injury the left-hander suffered in December. Liriano reportedly agreed a two-year, $12.75 million deal Dec. 21.
RANGERS: DH Lance Berkman passed a physical, completing an $11 million, one-year deal.