Kerry Wood, Sammy Sosa and the Hall of Fame guessing game

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Kerry Wood, Sammy Sosa and the Hall of Fame guessing game

The Hall of Fame shutout only reinforced the belief that everyone from Kerry Woods generation will be under suspicion. The Cubs icon heard it years ago after he reinvented himself as a reliever and transformed his body.

Im warming up in spring training: Yeah, look at him. Man, he must have done steroids. Look how skinny he is! Wood recalled. No, Im not a starter and Im not eating for four days in between starts anymore. Im actually pitching every day and in way better shape than I was as a starter and then you get accused.

But you play in that era and thats (how it goes). Were all going to deal with that. Everybody that played in that era is going to deal with people not knowing.

RELATED No-confidence vote for Sammy Sosa in Hall of Fame shutout

Now speaking from the perspective of a retired player, Wood told that story Thursday on Chicago Tribune Live. Wood said he was not surprised at all that the Baseball Writers Association of America didnt elect anyone from a Hall of Fame ballot that included Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa.

The day after those judgments on Cooperstown and The Steroid Era, Major League Baseball and its players union announced significant chances to its drug-testing program. It will now include unannounced, random blood testing for human growth hormone during the regular season.

The two sides also authorized the World Anti-Doping Agencys Montreal Laboratory to create a longitudinal profile program for each player to track testosterone levels and other data points and detect the use of prohibited substances.

I am proud that our system allows us to adapt to the many evolving issues associated with the science and technology of drug testing, Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. We will continue to do everything we can to maintain a leadership stature in anti-doping efforts in the years ahead.

If the entire industry was slow to react when Bonds, Clemens and Sosa rewrote the record books, it should also be noted that baseball is now trying to get ahead of the curve.

MORE Writers don't feel Sosa worthy of Hall

As part of the current labor deal, the Major League Baseball Players Association agreed to blood testing for HGH during last years spring training, the offseason and for reasonable cause. This takes it another step further.

The NFL hasnt tested players for HGH yet or settled on the proper procedures with its union even though that drug program became part of the framework for a collective bargaining agreement finalized in the summer of 2011.

Players want a program that is tough, scientifically accurate, backed by the latest proven scientific methods, and fair, MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner said in a statement. I believe these changes firmly support the players desires while protecting their legal rights.

This should shed more light on the game. No one knows how opinions might change or what new pieces of information could surface. Bonds, Clemens and Sosa could go another 14 rounds on the Hall of Fame ballot, every winter from here until 2027.

That means the museum in upstate New York is going to stay relevant, no matter who does or doesnt get elected, especially in a culture where everyones supposed to have a take, so many more media outlets need to fill space and were addicted to social media.

The New York Times left the front page to its sports section on Thursday almost completely blank, underneath the headline Welcome to Cooperstown. What would the NHL give to set the agenda and take over that kind of news hole?

Wood said he didnt even realize Sosa received only 12.5 percent of the vote he stopped scanning after looking at the first few players at the top of the BBWAA list.

Bonds went 7-for-21 with six walks against Wood, but didnt hit any of his 762 career home runs against Kid K. Because Wood grew up in Texas and had that blazing fastball, he would get the comparisons to Clemens, the seven-time Cy Young winner.

Wood doesnt expect known PED users to get into the Hall of Fame, reasoning that if Pete Rose can be barred because of a gambling scandal, then this will also be fair game.

The question must cross the mind of every voter: How do you know?

Wood burst onto the scene as the National Leagues Rookie of the Year in 1998, the same season Sosa put up 66 homers and 158 RBI and won the MVP award. Their careers didnt exactly follow the script you might have written back then. They werent said to be extremely close, but Wood had to give Sosa credit for this.

I want my teammates to be ready to play the game, Wood said. He was prepared to play every day and had good energy to play every day and he stepped up for us for a lot of years.

Its disappointing that were actually sitting here talking about guys with those types of numbers not being able to get into the Hall of Fame because of something they may have done or may not have done. Thats where you get into that slippery slope when you start trying to guess who did and who didnt.

Tougher drug tests may never completely silence the whispers, and cheaters will try to find ways around the system, but this at least should start to lift the cloud of suspicion.

Cubs return Chris Coghlan from DL, option Tommy La Stella to Triple-A

Cubs return Chris Coghlan from DL, option Tommy La Stella to Triple-A

The Cubs optioned Tommy La Stella to Triple-A Iowa on Friday, making room for Chris Coghlan, who was activated off the disabled list ahead of Friday’s series-opener against the Mariners at Wrigley Field.

Coghlan was the team’s starting left fielder and leadoff hitter for Friday afternoon’s contest.

Coghlan returns after a 26-day stay on the disabled list. The Cubs reacquired him this season after he played in 148 games for the team last season. In 19 games with the North Siders in 2016, Coghlan is batting .194/.356/.306 with seven hits in 45 plate appearances.

After missing nearly a month with an injury of his own, La Stella played in 13 games during the month of July. On the season, La Stella is hitting .295/.388/.457 with nine doubles, a pair of home runs and 14 runs scored.

Preview: Cubs host Mariners today on CSN

Preview: Cubs host Mariners today on CSN

The Cubs take on the Seattle Mariners on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m.. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (10-4, 3.09 ERA) vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (11-6, 3.96 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.

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Are Cubs done dealing? ‘Wouldn’t put anything past’ Theo

Are Cubs done dealing? ‘Wouldn’t put anything past’ Theo

Are the Cubs done dealing? Theo Epstein might be the baseball executive you’d least want to play poker against, and his team didn’t stop after 97 wins last season — committing almost $290 million to free agents — or hold onto the organization’s top prospect when the New York Yankees wanted Gleyber Torres in the blockbuster Aroldis Chapman trade.

“I wouldn’t put anything past him,” pitching coach Chris Bosio said.

That win-now impulse led the Cubs to Chapman, who instantly raised the energy level at Wrigley Field on Thursday night just by walking in from the bullpen, wowing more than 40,000 fans with his 100-mph heat and getting a four-out save to close out a 3-1 win over the White Sox.

“As fans of the game, you always see what Aroldis does,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “If he’s pitching, and you’re flipping through the channels, you stay on him just to see what he does, because he’s that type of player. What he does for our bullpen now is just incredible.”

This is the blueprint for October with enough timely hitting, a quality start from John Lackey, Pedro Strop working the seventh inning and manager Joe Maddon calling for Chapman to replace Hector Rondon with a runner on third and two outs in the eighth. Chapman threw Melky Cabrera six straight fastballs that registered between 98.6 and 102.3 mph on MLB.com’s Gameday, striking him out swinging.

“I was ready,” Chapman said through temporary translator/catcher Miguel Montero. “I’m pretty pumped to be part of it.”

While the Cubs unveiled grand plans to construct a future World Series winner, Bosio became the no-nonsense foreman supervising a crew of veterans, short-timers and sign-and-flip guys.

Ex-manager Dale Sveum and coaches like Bosio, Mike Borzello and Lester Strode installed the game-planning system and did the grunt work to build up Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, putting in all that effort only to see them shipped off to playoff contenders in trade-deadline deals.

That roster churn yielded Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Strop, Justin Grimm, Carl Edwards Jr., Addison Russell, Hammel returning as a free agent and a trade chip (minor-league outfielder Billy McKinney) used in the Chapman deal.

“To be able to get a guy like him is a big step for the organization,” Bosio said. “It definitely sent ripple effects to everybody who’s a Cubs fan. I got so many phone calls and text messages.

“This one got a lot of people’s attention. Not just in baseball, but all over the world. He’s a headline guy coming to a headline city.”

Like virtually everyone else, the Cubs are looking for younger starting pitchers who come with years of club control, because right now only Hendricks and Jon Lester can be penciled into the 2018 rotation (when the $155 million lefty will be 34 years old).

The Cubs also can’t ignore the offense, even after pouring so much capital into their lineup, because Jason Heyward’s .632 OPS ranks 151st out of the 157 qualified major-league hitters, Montero is hitting .198, Willson Contreras will be making rookie adjustments and Kyle Schwarber’s left-handed presence will be missed even more against elite pitching in October.

If the Yankees decide to sell another rental player — and the Cubs are willing to mortgage their farm system — Carlos Beltran would be a good fit as a switch-hitter with an excellent track record as a playoff performer (16 homers, 40 RBI and a 1.155 OPS in 52 postseason games).

“There’s still a good amount of time before the trade deadline,” Epstein said this week. “So we’re going to engage with every other team and see if there’s an opportunity to get better. Either tweaks to the roster now, but I’d say it’s more focused on getting additional depth for this season and possibly making a move that makes sense for our longer-term picture, next season and beyond.”

The Cubs have until Monday afternoon’s non-waiver deadline to try to complete the World Series puzzle. Why stop with Chapman during an all-in season?

“Now we’re the ones looking to add pieces, whether it be a bat or a pitcher,” Bosio said. “I wouldn’t put anything past ownership or the front office, because they know how much we’ve invested into this year, and how hard it is just to win a major-league game.”