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.

As Cubs search for answers, Scott Boras doesn’t believe Jake Arrieta is feeling the pressure of free agency

As Cubs search for answers, Scott Boras doesn’t believe Jake Arrieta is feeling the pressure of free agency

LOS ANGELES – It’s harder to find perspective when the lights are flashing all around Dodger Stadium and the techno music is thumping and Adrian Gonzalez just launched a two-run homer 429 feet to straightaway center. 

But that’s why Jake Arrieta pays Scott Boras. The super-agent sat in a front-row seat behind home plate on Friday night, watching his client go through another up-and-down start for a Cubs team that needs Arrieta to pitch more like an ace.

It’s easy to lose sight of this during a 4-0 loss where the Dodgers looked more like the team on a mission after getting eliminated from last year’s National League Championship Series.

But Arrieta is someone who has already experienced the low points that made him think about quitting baseball as he shuttled back and forth between the Orioles and Triple-A – and the intoxicating high from ending the 108-year drought and creating so much joy for generations of Cubs fans.

So Boras isn’t buying the idea that Arrieta might be feeling the weight of his upcoming free agency.

“Coming from Baltimore to here and establishing himself in the big leagues was the major arc of his career,” Boras said, “the most difficult moment of illustrating that he is an everyday major-leaguer. The fact that he has the skills, and what he has up here (in his head), the dynamic of winning two World Series games and things like that, I’d say he’s (been) measured. When you win World Series games, that’s the most important thing.

“If you want me to measure pressure, I’d say that’s World Series cojones.”

To get back into October, the Cubs will need more consistency from Arrieta (5-4, 4.92 ERA), who’s still fine-tuning his delivery and not always getting that extra burst of velocity that made him a Cy Young Award winner and unhittable one night at Dodger Stadium.

Two aging Dodgers crushed Arrieta fastballs. Chase Utley – who began the game hitting .204 – drove one over the center-field wall in the third inning. Gonzalez had gone 131 plate appearances this season before notching his first home run with two outs in the sixth inning.

“I understand how difficult this game is,” Arrieta said. “It’s a work in progress. I’m still not exactly where I would like to be. But it’s close. It really is.”

Even as Arrieta worked through command/mechanical issues last season, he still wound up winning 18 games and limiting opponents to a .583 OPS that ranked second in the majors. It took until the middle of last August before he gave up his 10th home run, or where he’s already at through 10 starts this season. 

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“The one that Utley hit out was on the corner – that’s a good piece of hitting,” Arrieta said. “The one to Gonzalez was too much plate in a 3-1 count. It was elevated. Willson (Contreras) called a changeup. I shook to the fastball. I expected to locate a little bit better than I did. But I feel like if I continue on this progression, I think I’ll be OK.

“I don’t intend to continue to give up as much hard contact, especially balls over the fence. It’s been a little bit of tough luck, but they just flat out beat us.”

There’s some truth to that – Arrieta continued to pile up the strikeouts (nine) and limit the walks (one) – while Dodger lefty Alex Wood extended his scoreless streak to 25.1 innings before handing the game over to a dominant bullpen. But whether it’s an underperforming offense, a defense not playing at the same historic level or those velocity questions, Arrieta doesn’t appear to have the same margin for error anymore.

All those elements could come roaring back, but the Cubs are now a 25-22 team that could be looking to replace 60 percent of the rotation by Opening Day 2018.

“You don’t really think about (it),” Boras said. “When the Cubs come to town, I look at the standings: OK, where are they at? They’re trying to win again. This club’s a good club and you think about what moves they’re going to make to make it better.

“Jake’s total focus has always been about putting himself in a position that few players get to be in – and that is being on a club where you can win more.”

Whatever happens over the next several months, this will be the reservoir of confidence Arrieta draws from, and ultimately his legacy as a Cub.

“When the postseason hits, it’s Jake’s greatest measurement,” Boras said. “I don’t know, I heard winning a World Series in Chicago was difficult.”

Cubs: Is Joe Maddon turning Kyle Schwarber into a platoon player?

Cubs: Is Joe Maddon turning Kyle Schwarber into a platoon player?

LOS ANGELES – Joe Maddon doesn’t want to put the platoon label on a young hitter who became a World Series legend before his 24th birthday. But the Cubs manager also isn’t planning to start Kyle Schwarber against left-handers anytime soon. 

“If people want to say that, I can’t avoid it,” Maddon said Friday at Dodger Stadium, where Schwarber sat against lefty Alex Wood, who took a 20.1-inning scoreless streak into this National League Championship Series rematch. “I’m going to do that until I feel good about him, because I don’t want to lay too many at-bats on him in a negative situation.

“If he’s not swinging the bat well against righties, it’s a bad assumption that I’m going to think he’s going to swing it well against lefties. Then I’m just putting him in a deeper hole by throwing him out there, just based on really bad logic.

“I’m just trying to pick his spots right now to get him going. Once he goes, he can play against anybody.”

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Schwarber – who’s hitting .181 with a .656 OPS and 55 strikeouts in less than 200 plate appearances this season – will start Saturday against Dodger right-hander Brandon McCarthy. But even with Clayton Kershaw looming on Sunday, Maddon didn’t want to give Schwarber the entire weekend off, the way Jason Heyward mentally reset last August at Coors Field.

“I don’t think it’s there yet,” Maddon said. “I’ve had good conversations with him. I think it’s a different set of circumstances.”

For the Cubs, this doesn’t really change their overall evaluation of Schwarber as a core player and potentially one of the most dangerous left-handed sluggers in the game. But Maddon has been backing away from the idea of Schwarber as a leadoff hitter, trying to reboot the player who had been such an intimidating postseason presence.

“My concern when the guy is struggling a little bit is you don’t want him to get him too many at-bats,” Maddon said. “It’s really hard to get yourself out of that mental, physical and numerical hole. By not getting him as many at-bats, it will be easy to get back to a number he’s more comfortable with.

“I don’t care about that – I really don’t. I’m looking at his past, process, what he’s doing for the team in regards to on-base, everything else. But for the guy himself, he looks up at the scoreboard and he sees numbers everywhere and they evaluate themselves based on numbers.

“I don’t want him to do that. I just want him to get back into the process of having good at-bats.”