And the winner is ... nobody.

Congratulations, baseball. You deserved this.

When results were announced Wednesday for this year's Hall of Fame election, no player received the required 75 percent of votes from baseball writers. So no one was elected.

And, yes, that included Barry Bonds, the Giants outfielder who now owns another historic distinction: The only all-time Major League Baseball home run leader not to enter Cooperstown as soon as he was eligible. This was Bonds' first time on the ballot.

Also not elected was Roger Clemens, winner of seven Cy Young awards. Nor were other worthy candidates. It was hardly a shock, though. For one day, the national pastime became the nihilism pastime -- on merit.

Here's why: During the two-decade span in which steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) pervaded the sport, the entire baseball culture looked the other way. That included owners, players, fans and those of us in media who covered the game. When the scandal was exposed, we expressed proper disdain. Yet I'm not certain if anyone pondered that the ultimate denouement would be a Hall of Fame announcement without any names to announce.

It has happened before. Not often. Only one other time in the last four decades. But on previous occasions, the shutout occurred when there were no slam-dunk candidates. This time, Bonds and Clemens should have been. But you could smell the malodorous baggage of this election from the deepest outfield seats. Even the Hall of Fame's president, Jeff Idelson, seemed to comprehend how it all came down. The steroid stuff tainted certain candidates, and others were caught up in the consternation and confusion.

"Obviously, no one was rooting for a shutout," Idelson said in a conference call after the announcement. "But by the same token, we have respect for the process."

How could he not? The Hall of Fame itself created the process, beginning in 1936 when Baseball Writers Association of America members were first asked to serve as the Cooperstown jury. As a voter, I wish we received better jury instructions. Instead, the Hall asks each voter to individually define the vague "character" and "sportsmanship" clause mentioned on the ballot qualifications.

My personal stance has remained firm. The voting procedure allows for each worthy candidate to receive a 15-year window of consideration. So for now, I am abstaining from a Bonds vote -- or a Clemens vote and a Sammy Sosa vote and a vote for anyone whose reputation has been tagged by PED graffiti. But in the next 14 years, it's possible that I could check their names. I am no extremist. The Hall of Fame is a museum, not a sacred cathedral. I simply don't think we yet possess enough information about the steroid era and the warped landscape that it created.

Over the past five years, we have learned a lot more about that landscape, as Bonds and Clemens have entered courtrooms to testify in perjury cases and produced testimony from witnesses who were in the needle-and-injection trenches. We will learn even more about it over the next 14 years, with more trials and more confessions.

Better still, my (probably impossible) hope is that MLB will declare a "steroid amnesty" period that would allow players to confess without consequence so that we get a complete picture of what players were doing and not doing in that period. Let's say, for example, that we learn that 75 percent of players were using PEDs at one point. So 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. Bonds received 36.2 percent of the vote this time and Clemens a smidgen more at 37.6 percent -- putting them eighth and ninth among those receiving support. That indicates the possibility of both men moving up and one day being asked to give induction speeches at Cooperstown.

Instead, this year at the July ceremonies, there will only be speeches about the three deceased inductees selected by the so-called Veterans' Committee. That won't be as exciting as having Bonds stand up and talk about his feats. But I had this vision of Bonds making his induction speech with the other Hall of Famers sitting there behind him, the men from previous eras who make the trek to Cooperstown each year. I did not like that vision. Many of those Hall of Famers have said -- and a few have told me directly and firmly -- that they don't think cheaters belong.

"I'm kind of glad that nobody got in this year," Hall member Al Kaline told Fox Sports on Wednesday. "I feel honored to be in the Hall of Fame. And I would've felt a little uneasy sitting up there on the stage, listening to some of these new guys talk about how great they were. ... I don't know how great some of these players up for election would've been without drugs. But to me, it's cheating."

It mirrors my feelings. At least this year, nothing is better than something. Much better. And much warranted.

Contact Mark Purdy at mpurdy@mercurynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MercPurdy.