Jenkins, Fingers don't see a place for Sosa in Hall of Fame

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Jenkins, Fingers don't see a place for Sosa in Hall of Fame

It was obvious Sammy Sosa wasn't going to stay hidden for long.

After receiving just 12.5 percent of the votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America earlier this month, the former Cubs slugger was turned away from the Hall of Fame his first year on the ballot.

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Wednesday, he was interviewed on Ustream and aired his thoughts -- which were not surprising -- for the world to hear.

It's never been a question of whether Sosa thinks he should be in the baseball Hall of Fame. He's been saying it for years.

But hardly anybody agrees with him, despite some eye-popping numbers that include 609 career home runs. He's not alone, though. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire were all denied baseball's greatest honor, as the cloud of performance-enhancing drugs hangs over that particular group of players.

"I think it's pretty obvious the playing field was not level," former Cubs catcher Jody Davis said at the Cubs Convention last weekend. "They can say they didn't use PEDs, but you can look at the numbers and there's just no way those guys got that much better in just one year.

"I don't believe they should be in. It's hard when, knowingly, those guys were doing something that had never been done before."

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Davis spent much of the weekend at the Fergie Jenkins Foundation table at the Convention, sitting alongside a trio of Hall of Famers in Rollie Fingers, Gaylord Perry and Jenkins, who felt the same way.

"I'm against them getting in," said Fingers, who was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1992. "I see records that are being set by guys that have been straight, that have done it on their own. Sportswriters want to keep the sanctity in the Hall of Fame. They don't want guys using steroids to break records. I believe that, too.

"If they're innocent, I'm all for it. If they've used, and sportswriters have proof of them being used, I don't see them getting in. That's just the way it is."

As for Sosa in particular, Fingers, Davis or Jenkins don't see him getting voted in anytime soon.

"It's hard to say," Jenkins said. "Maybe after 15, 16 years, the Veterans Committee might vote him in. I'm not sure if we'll even be around to really know.

"Unfortunately, those guys had great beginnings to their career and then the latter part of their career -- when numbers should be declining -- they kept building for those guys. And it's due to whatever they were putting in their system."

Even if Sosa never gets in the Hall of Fame, there are still ways his legacy could live on forever. The Cubs could retire his No. 21 -- something he thinks should have already happened -- or he could receive an invite to Cubs Convention, just like Davis and Jenkins have been getting for years.

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"He was an outstanding player here," Jenkins said. "People remember what he did. Hitting 60 home runs two years in a row, that's a feat Ernie Banks, Billy Williams or Ron Santo couldn't do.

"He was a strong athlete. I knew him when he was 16 years old. He had pretty good lower-body strength, but his upper body got bigger. I don't know if it was just lifting weights or how he got bigger, but he's just a strong athlete.

"He just had a grooved swing after a while. And he was just going for it most of the time. He really didn't care about strikeouts. He just wanted to put that ball out of the ballpark."

As for how fans may perceive "Slammin' Sammy" if he came back to Chicago for a Sammy Sosa Day at Wrigley Field or attended the 2014 Cubs Convention, Davis thinks he'd be welcomed with open arms by at least some of the Cubs faithful.

"Cubs fans are a unique breed," said Davis, who played with the Cubs from 1981-88. "Sammy did a lot of good things here. I don't think actual Cubs fans really care if he's in the Hall of Fame or not. They loved him and they always will."

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Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Living well is indeed the best revenge, and sometimes nothing feels sweeter than proving doubters wrong. Akiem Hicks is savoring that exact feeling.

When the New Orleans Saints made Hicks their third-round pick in the 2013 draft, they typecast their big (6-5, 318 pounds) young defensive lineman as a one-trick pony.

“There were people in New Orleans that said, ‘You can’t rush the passer,’” Hicks recalled after the Bears’ win Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers. “They told me from my rookie year, ‘You’re going to be a run-stopper.’”

This despite Hicks collecting 6.5 sacks and 3 pass breakups as a senior at Regina in Canada. The Saints forced Hicks into the slot they’d decided he fit – nose tackle – then eventually grew disenchanted with him and traded him to New England last year – where he collect 3 sacks in spot duty.

Interestingly, Bears GM Ryan Pace was part of the Saints’ personnel operation. Whether Pace agreed with coaches’ handling of Hicks then isn’t known, but when Pace had the chance to bring Hicks to Chicago for a role different than the one the Saints forced Hicks into, Pace made it happen.

Pace likely saw those New England sacks as a foreshadowing or a sign that the New Orleans staff had miscast Hicks. The Bears defensive end now is under consideration for NFC defensive player of the week after his 10-tackle performance against San Francisco. Signing with the Bears last March 13 as a free agent was the career break Hicks has craved. For him it was a career lifeline.

“They have given me the ability to go rush the passer,” Hicks said. “So I love this organization – [GM] Ryan Pace, coach Fox, Vic [Fangio, defensive coordinator] – for just giving a guy the capability to put it out there and do what you feel like you can do.”

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Hicks has been showing what he can do, to quarterbacks. For him the best part of win over the 49ers was the two third-quarter sacks of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Those sacks gave the massive lineman, who the Saints said couldn’t rush the passer, 6 sacks for the season – more than any member of the Saints defense this season. It has been a classic instance of putting a player in position to maximize his skills, not jam someone into a bad fit.

“Akiem has been in a couple of different types of packages before with New Orleans and New England,” said coach John Fox. The Patriots switched from a long-time 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 but “we’re more of a New England-type style. But we’re playing him more at end; he played mostly a nose tackle [in New Orleans]. He’s fit really well for us as far as his physical stature.

"But he does have pass rush ability. It shows a little about his athleticism. So he’s got a combination of both.”

That “combination” has been allowed to flourish at a new level, and the Bears’ plan for Hicks was the foundation of why he wanted to sign in Chicago as a free agent. The Bears do not play their defensive linemen in a clear one-gap, get-upfield-fast scheme tailored to speed players. Nor do they play a classic two-gap, linemen-control-blockers scheme typically built on three massive space-eaters on the defensive line.

They play what one player has called a “gap and a half” system, which requires being stout as well as nimble.

One Hicks rush on Kaepernick featured a deft spin move out of a block, not the norm for 336-pound linemen. He got one sack with a quick slide out of a double-team.

“I’m not freelancing,” Hicks said. “But I’m rushing ‘fast.’ There’s a portion of the defense where you have the [run] responsibility and don’t have the freedom or liberty [to rush]. It’s a great system for me and I love what they’ve let me do.”