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

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

Maybe Sammy Sosa can follow Lance Armstrong and sit down for an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Or somehow reconnect with the Cubs, a franchise that has ex-players popping up for their convention, during spring training and all over Chicago media outlets to promote whatever charities or business ventures they have going on now.

Because it is so hard to see Sosa getting in now, his Hall of Fame campaign is going to need an absolute game-changer.

The Baseball Writers Association of America overwhelmingly rejected Sosa who received only 12.5 percent of the vote and didnt elect anyone to Cooperstown for the first time since 1996.

SLAMMIN' SAMMY: Writers don't feel Sosa worthy of Hall

With 75 percent required for election, the judgments came against Roger Clemens (37.6) and Barry Bonds (36.2) once the results were revealed Wednesday on the MLB Network. They may be the two best players of their generation, but they have also morphed into billboards for The Steroid Era.

This shutout cant help the tourism industry in upstate New York, which wont have much buzz for the July 28 induction ceremony. This marks the BBWAAs eighth election that did not yield a Hall of Famer. Craig Biggio (68.2), Jack Morris (67.7), Jeff Bagwell (59.6), Mike Piazza (57.8) and Tim Raines (52.2) were the only players to exceed 50 percent this year.

These decisions will be second-guessed and dissected all over cyberspace and talk radio. But Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson and BBWAA secretarytreasurer Jack OConnell said that they dont expect to respond with major changes.

We remain very confident with the voting electorate, as well as the procedures and guidelines that we give (them) to consider candidates, Idelson said on a conference call. Its worked incredibly well. As I walk through the Hall of Fame gallery every day that Im in Cooperstown, theres not one plaque that I see (where) I say: This person doesnt belong.

They take the process seriously and they truly vote their conscience.

Sosa wasnt taken down in Game of Shadows or the Mitchell Report, the bestselling book and groundbreaking document that exposed Bonds and Clemens.

But a 2009 New York Times report which identified Sosa as one of the 104 players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during the anonymous survey in 2003 is about as close to a smoking gun as youre going to get in The Steroid Era.

Combine that with a corked bat in 2003, a weak performance at a 2005 Congressional hearing and the way Sosas numbers exploded mid-career. Looking at the exit polling and hearing about the reputation that he wasnt a real leader or multidimensional player you got the sense that his 609 career home runs wouldnt be enough.

PHOTOS: A look at Sosa's career

Bonds eclipsed Hank Aarons record and hit 762 home runs while winning seven MVP awards and becoming a key figure in the BALCO scandal. Clemens won seven Cy Young awards and notched 354 wins and more than 4,600 strikeouts, but those numbers are overshadowed by his escape from perjury charges that he lied to Congress about using performance-enhancing drugs.

Michael Weiner the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association called the BBWAAs vote unfortunate, if not sad.

Those empowered to help the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum document the history of the game failed to recognize the contributions of several Hall of Fame worthy players, Weiner said in a statement. To ignore the historic accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, for example, is hard to justify. Moreover, to penalize players exonerated in legal proceedings and others never even implicated is simply unfair.

The Hall of Fame is supposed to be for the best players to have ever played the game. Several such players were denied access to the Hall today. Hopefully this will be rectified by future voting.

The Class of 2013 includes former New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank ODay and Deacon White, who last played in 1890.

ODay passed away in 1935, while Ruppert and White died in 1939. A veterans committee voted them in last month at the winter meetings. Paul Hagen, a longtime Philadelphia Daily News writer, and the late Tom Cheek, a Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster, will also be honored with media awards that weekend.

Nobody in Cooperstown was rooting for a shutout, Idelson said, but at the same token, we have a great respect for the process.

At least now the noise can begin to die down. With pitchers and catchers about a month away from reporting to spring training, this is something to fill space in between rounds of the NFL playoffs. Weve seen enough debate shows, homilies from bloggers and newspaper columnists, and snarky comments all across Twitter. People care as much about your fantasy football team as your hypothetical ballot.

It will be difficult for anyone from this round to create a sense of momentum. Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina will be eligible in 2014.

Mark McGwire will be forever linked to Sosa, their images fused together in 1998 on the cover of a special commemorative issue of Sports Illustrated: The Great Home Run Race. They would become the magazines Sportsmen of the Year. McGwire received only 16.9 percent of the vote during his seventh year on the ballot.

Sammy Sosa's career: A complicated case against Cooperstown

Sosa got 71 votes on the 569 ballots submitted (five were left blank). That probably doesnt match up with Sosas ego or self-image. Back in 2006, Comcast SportsNets Gail Fischer interviewed him at his beachfront mansion in the Dominican Republic.

Asked a simple question Are you a Hall of Famer? Sosa gave a spectacularly awkward answer that sounded like something out of a Saturday Night Live skit.

Do you think with my numbers I cannot be in the Hall of Fame? Sosa said, looking around and laughing. Huh?...Hello?...Hello?

Its on Sosa now to change the message. The problems certainly didnt begin and end with him (or Bonds and Clemens). This went all the way to the top, from Commissioner Bud Selig to team owners to baseball executives to managers to the union to the media. The Cubs certainly cashed in and helped make Sosa a superstar.

Sosa leaned on his lawyer and an interpreter when he appeared before a House Government Reform committee on St. Patricks Day 2005. The attorney read a sworn statement, painting the picture of a boy whose father died when we was seven years old, and sold oranges and shined shoes to get by before his talent lifted him out of the Dominican Republic.

Sosa wound up making more than 120 million in his career, according to the Baseball-Reference online database, but he cant have it all.

It has been a moment of great honor for me to have my name on the ballot for the first time along with some of the games greats, Sosa said in a statement obtained by MLB.com. Even if we werent inducted on our first time, we are still winners and there is always a next time. God has blessed me with a beautiful family, great career, and I know He will determine my future in the years to come. Baseball has been very, very good to me. Kiss to the heavens.

From ‘When It Happens’ to ‘Where It Happens,’ Cubs mining next generation of talent

From ‘When It Happens’ to ‘Where It Happens,’ Cubs mining next generation of talent

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs turned Theo Epstein’s “Baseball is Better” speech from his first Wrigley Field press conference into a marketing pitch that might distract fans for a moment from an awful big-league product.          

The 2017 “That’s Cub” ad campaign actually uses what started organically years ago within the farm system, two words that recognized a great at-bat or a heads-up play or a defensive stop.    

Business vs. baseball is no longer the dominant storyline it had been during the early phases of the Wrigleyvile rebuild. Business and baseball are booming for what’s become Major League Baseball’s version of the Golden State Warriors.

It’s just interesting that a franchise valued at north of $2 billion has found so much inspiration on the back fields of this spring-training complex, where staffers you wouldn’t recognize get to work before dawn and players you’ve never heard of dream about their big break.

It’s not just drafting Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber. And trading for Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Addison Russell. And hiring a manager obsessed with T-shirts. Baseball operations became a marketing department, selling prospects to Cub fans, the Chicago media and the gurus putting together the rankings – and trying to get buy-in from players who all think they belong in The Show.

Minor-league field coordinator Tim Cossins gets credit for “When It Happens,” a theme that didn’t simply revolve around 1908 and the championship drought. Jason McLeod, the senior vice president who oversees scouting and player development, suggested pairing the W flag with that phrase, and it became this ubiquitous idea around the team.   

“We tied everything into it,” McLeod said Sunday at Sloan Park. “When that time comes, when it happens, can you lay the bunt down? When it happens, can you execute a pitch? Can you go in and pinch-run, steal the base when the time comes?

“The big ‘When It Happens’ is when we win, of course, but for us in (player development), it was about everything that we’re going to be asked to do in that moment: Are you going to be ready when it happens?”

Now what? The defending World Series champs are going with: “Where It Happens.”

A bullet point from Epstein’s bio in this year’s media guide references how his first three first-round draft picks with the Cubs “combined to set up the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series when Schwarber singled and (Albert) Almora pinch-ran, moved to second on Bryant’s deep fly to center, and scored on Ben Zobrist’s double.”

“We’re never going to forget about the importance of young players,” Epstein said. “There’s definitely a lot of talented, interesting prospects still in the system and sometimes they get a little overshadowed because of the star young players we have at the big-league level and how quickly some of those guys moved through the system. But there’s a lot of talent there.

“We’re going to lean on young players beyond our prospects, not just in trades, but also to provide organizational depth and also to serve as the next generation, the next infusion of talent at the appropriate time.

“But it’s a process. There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs in development for all these guys. And we have a ton of faith in our player development operation to help these guys along the way.”

So Ian Happ will start the season one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa and see if some combination of injuries and his switch-hitting skills and defensive versatility gets him to the North Side at some point. Or used as a trade chip for pitching, the way third baseman Jeimer Candelario and catcher Victor Caratini appear to be blocked.

Joe Maddon already compared Eloy Jimenez – who can’t legally buy a beer in Wrigleyville yet – to a young Miguel Cabrera or Edgar Martinez. The Cubs are practically begging for someone like Eddie Butler to pitch his way into the 2018 rotation.

By Monday morning, when the full squad reconvenes after a weekend trip to Las Vegas, the Cubs could start making cuts and shaping their Opening Night roster. But the Cubs are going to need so much more than the 25 players who will be introduced next Sunday at Busch Stadium. Maddon used 26 pitchers and 149 different lineups last season. This is “Where It Happens.”

“If this particular group of youngsters were in a different organization that had a greater need right now, you’d probably hear a lot more about these guys,” Maddon said. “But the fact that they’re stuck behind a Bryant and a Russell and a Javy (Baez) and a Rizzo and a (Willson) Contreras and a Schwarber, et cetera, et cetera, it becomes more difficult to really push or project upon these guys.

“But I think these young guys have gone about their business really well. If it’s bothering them or if they’re concerned about that, they’re not showing that. I think they’ve put their best foot forward.”

Joe Maddon doesn’t have any concerns about new Cubs closer Wade Davis

Joe Maddon doesn’t have any concerns about new Cubs closer Wade Davis

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs studied all the MRIs and analyzed every pitch Wade Davis threw last season, poring over the information on the All-Star closer. During the winter meetings, Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore even took the unusual step of allowing the Cubs to give Davis a physical exam.  

The Jorge Soler trade wouldn’t be announced until athletic trainer PJ Mainville met with Davis at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley. The Cubs got another read on the flexor strain in his right forearm that twice put Davis on the disabled list last season.

Davis now has a 19.64 ERA through five Cactus League appearances – and the complete confidence of a manager who isn’t connecting those dots.

“The injury’s really not an issue,” Joe Maddon said Sunday at the Sloan Park complex. “He feels really good right now. He kind of thought that whole thing was a little bit overblown last year, according to (what he told) me. Because even in talking to him in the offseason: ‘I’m fine. I’m good. I feel really good.’”

Maddon managed the Tampa Bay Rays while Davis broke into the big leagues as a starter and began the transition to reliever. Everything clicked in Kansas City’s bullpen, with Davis blowing away hitters and notching the last out of the 2015 World Series.

“I’m watching him,” Maddon said. “He’s throwing the ball really well easily. That’s what’s really encouraging to me. From the side, there’s no bumping and grinding and…” Maddon made a grunting noise to illustrate his point: “There’s none of that. It’s easy. I look up at the gun and I’m seeing 94, 95 and sometimes 96 (mph). It’s like: Wow, I have never seen him do that in camp.”

Across the last three seasons, Davis allowed three home runs while piling up 234 strikeouts in almost 183 innings. This spring, he has twice gotten only one out, like Saturday’s 29-pitch, four-run appearance against the Colorado Rockies. Overall in March, he’s given up eight earned runs, nine hits and five walks in 3.2 innings.  

“Honestly, I’ve known him long enough that it’s not” a concern, Maddon said. “You’re not going to believe this, but he’s actually throwing better than he normally does in spring training. The biggest problem he’s having right now is command.

“Velocity looks good. The break on the breaking ball looks good. He’s just not throwing the ball where he wants it. And this guy is normally the kind of pitcher that can dot it up really well.

“But everything else looks really good to me, (because) I had him back with the Rays and in spring training you always saw him throwing like 86, 87, 88 (mph). I’m seeing easy 94-95. I’m seeing sharp break on some breaking stuff. It’s just bad counts and bad command right now.”

This isn’t the Cubs saying Carlos Marmol or Jose Veras is our closer. A guy with a 0.84 ERA in 23 career playoff appearances doesn’t care about Cactus League stats. As long as Davis is healthy, there should be no doubts about the ninth inning. Check back next week amid the sea of red at Busch Stadium.

“A lot of it’s just an adrenaline rush sometimes,” Maddon said. “A lot it’s just a moment that you can’t recreate here. You can’t do it. It’s impossible.”