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.

Why Cubs are excited for pitching prospect Dylan Cease: He's 'throwing lightning bolts'

Why Cubs are excited for pitching prospect Dylan Cease: He's 'throwing lightning bolts'

Theo Epstein's front office is heading into Year 6 with the Cubs and they're finally talking about a pitcher as one of the organization's most exciting prospects.

That's how senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod framed his Dylan Cease report to fans at the Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago last weekend.

It was a tongue-in-cheek summation from McLeod after he spent the previous few minutes fawning over Cease, the Cubs' sixth round pick in 2014.

Of course, McLeod and the Cubs can poke fun at the lack of impact pitching the farm system has developed when the homegrown position players like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber just helped lead the franchise to its first World Series championship in over a century.

Cease, however, has been one of the more intriguing Cubs prospects for years — a right-handed pitcher capable of touching 101 mph on the radar gun.

"This guy is throwing lightning bolts out of his arm," McLeod said. "It's really exciting. But we also understaned he's only in Low-A this year, so he's far away."

The Cubs expect Cease to pitch for Class-A South Bend in 2017 after spending last season pitching for short-season Eugene and the 2015 campaign working in the rookie league in Arizona.

Cease — who just turned 21 in late December — put up some impressive numbers at both stops in the Cubs system, posting a 2.36 ERA and 1.165 WHIP to go along with a whopping 91 strikeouts in 68.2 innings. He also only surrendered one homer and walked more batters (41) than reached via a basehit (39).

Control is obviously an issue for Cease, but the upside is evident.

"He's so far away," McLeod said. "He's gonna go into 2017 as a starter. As with a lot of young guys, it's gonna come down to command and depend on that third pitch and the ability to land them for strikes.

"It's a special arm. He can pitch 95-100 mph with a big power curveball. He's unlike anyone else we have in our system since we've been here in terms of pure stuff."

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One fan compared Cease to Carl Edwards Jr. in terms of their lanky build and high velocity, setting McLeod up for a layup joke.

"Well, Dylan is much stronger physically than CJ is...as is everybody in this room," McLeod said as the ballroom filled with laugher. "Don't tell [CJ] I said that. 

"They have different body types, obviously. Carl is long and lanky and Dylan has probably put on 20 pounds since we drafted him, so he's more like 6-foot-2, 190."

By comparison, Edwards — who goes by "The String Bean Slinger" for his slight build — is listed at 6-foot-3, 170 pounds.

Edwards was drafted in the 48th round in 2011 and spent his whole minor-league career as a starting pitcher until the Cubs converted him to a reliever in 2015.

Cease may eventually go down the same path, but the Cubs are going to give him every opportunity to make it as a starter first.

Cease was one of the top pitchers available in the 2014 draft, but his stock took a hit when he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow while at Milton High School in Georgia.

That scared off a lot of teams — as did the potential signability issues with college offers looming — but the Cubs took a chance and have now watched Cease soar to a top prospect in the system (No. 4 by Baseball America; No. 7 by FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus) despite the cautious approach and lack of innings in professional ball.

"We have to thank Kyle Schwarber, actually, as one of the main reasons we got to sign Dylan Cease," McLeod said. "Because we took Kyle fourth overall, we were able to save money on the selection with him, which gave us the resources to go get Dylan Cease.

"He was a Top 10 pick in the draft — a high school arm that got hurt, fell down to the fifth round and he had a commitment to Vanderbilt, I think it was, and we were able to use the money we saved from Kyle.

"Just another reason to love Kyle Schwarber."

Joe Maddon’s messaging to Cubs before the 2017 campaign

Joe Maddon’s messaging to Cubs before the 2017 campaign

Joe Maddon's Washington itinerary didn't include an hour-long sit-down with Chuck Todd for NBC's "Meet the Press." There would be no rehashing the manager's Game 7 decisions as he stood outside the West Wing, though the second question during the media stakeout involved "last year's team" and how the 2017 Cubs are prepared to defend a World Series title.

"You're already there, huh?" Maddon said to a CNN reporter, minutes after President Barack Obama's final official White House event ended on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

But last year's team is gone — preserved now in highlight films and the hearts and minds of generations of Cub fans — even if so many familiar faces will be in Mesa when pitchers and catchers officially report to Arizona on Valentine's Day.

It would be impossible to replicate everything that made the 2016 Cubs so special. Baseball has its own relentless pace and the dynamics are constantly shifting. (Remember when players were passive-aggressively complaining about Maddon's spring-training approach during the final week of a 103-win regular season?) The clubhouse chemistry will inevitably feel different after climbing a Mount Everest of professional sports.

"A mind once stretched has a very difficult time going back to its original form," Maddon said. "We're motivated by it. We want to do it again, of course. There's no question we're trying to do that.

"I'm really leaning on the phrase or the thought of being uncomfortable. I want us to be uncomfortable. I think the moment you get into your comfort zone after having such a significant moment in your life like that, the threat is that you're going to stop growing.

"So I really want us to be uncomfortable. I really want to continue (to see) a pattern of growth and really try to get at them very quickly again."

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Can Jason Heyward recover from one of the worst offensive seasons in the majors last year? Is Willson Contreras ready to be a frontline catcher? Will Javier Baez have to adjust back to being a role player after becoming a playoff superstar? Does Kyle Schwarber in the leadoff spot and Albert Almora Jr. and Jon Jay in a center-field timeshare represent an upgrade over Dexter Fowler?

If healthy, Wade Davis should be a trusted, lower-maintenance closer than Aroldis Chapman, with an advanced approach to pitching and more clubhouse presence. As a staff, the Cubs will have to bounce back from pitching into early November (or not, in the case of the relievers Maddon didn't trust during the playoffs).

As it stands, Jon Lester (33) and John Lackey (38) have already combined to throw almost 5,000 innings in The Show (including the postseason). Jake Arrieta will have to deal with the pressure of playing for his megadeal in his final season before becoming a free agent.

The drop-off after Mike Montgomery — and it's still mostly projected potential with the No. 5 starter — appears to be very steep in an organization that doesn't have any high-end pitching prospects in the upper levels of the farm system.

After painting the bull's-eye on the chest and turning "Embrace The Target" and "Try Not To Suck" into viral T-shirts, a guy who hates meetings is still working on his themes for this campaign.

"I'm really rotating around the thought of authenticity," Maddon said. "I talked about it a lot last year, the fact that I think authenticity has a chance to repeat itself without even trying. It's part of who you are. It's not fabricated. It's real.

"I've talked about our guys a lot the last couple years. I think one of our strongest qualities is the authentic component of our players. So I'm really focusing on that word right now. Again, that's a great word to bring an entire message from (when) you get in front of the group that first day in spring training.

"I kind of just think like authenticity happens. And let's work it from there."

The costumes should be in midseason form with Maddon planning a house party around Tampa's Gasparilla Pirate Festival before driving his RV from Florida to Arizona.

Maddon will turn 63 on Feb. 8 and have to keep evolving, just like his players, who might outgrow some of those gimmicks. But the Cubs are still a reflection of their future Hall of Fame manager.

Amid all the uncertainty in Washington, Maddon wouldn't touch a question about what advice he would give Donald Trump before Friday's inauguration.

"I'm not even going to go anywhere close to that," Maddon said. "I will say this: I have a lot of respect of the office.

"At the end of the day, just have a lot of respect for the office, regardless of your political persuasion. My point would be to encourage people to really respect the office and let's see what we get done here over the next four years."