Palmeiro, Sosa & next wave crashing Cooperstown

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Palmeiro, Sosa & next wave crashing Cooperstown

Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011
8:33 PM

By Patrick MooneyCSNChicago.com

Nearly six years ago, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire sat inside a hearing room at the Rayburn House Office Building. They would not be viewed the same again after that St. Patricks Day in Washington.

Palmeiro pointed his finger at lawmakers and insisted: I have never used steroids. Period. Less than five months later, he would be suspended for failing a drug test, and claim that he didnt knowingly take steroids.

Sosa leaned on his interpreter and suddenly his English wasnt so good. McGwire said he wasnt there to talk about the past, but he would eventually, confessing his steroid use last year so that he could rejoin baseball society.

Those enduring images from 2005 will not fade away.

That much was clear Wednesday after the Baseball Writers Association of America skipped over Palmeiro and McGwire on the ballot, and sent a message for when Sosa becomes eligible in 2013.

Right around the same time the 112th Congress gathered for the first time, the National Baseball Hall of Fame revealed that Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven had been elected to Cooperstown.

At its best, this process elevates barstool arguments into a philosophical debate about the essential nature of the game. Baseball needs it to stay in the headlines, months after the season ended and weeks before pitchers and catchers report.

At its worst, it spirals into a witch hunt. To be sure, this remains political.

Alomar, a 12-time All-Star who won 10 Gold Gloves, received 90 percent of the vote. Despite being the finest second baseman of his generation, he had to wait an extra year before induction, perhaps because some voters still remember him spitting at umpire John Hirschbeck.

It took 14 years and an extensive Internet lobbying campaign before Blyleven was recognized for his 287 wins and 3,701 strikeouts. The right-hander with the nasty curveball earned only 17.5 percent of the vote when he first appeared on the ballot in 1998, and less than half as recently as 2007.

With that in mind, perceptions can absolutely change. But McGwires support bottomed out at 19.8 percent this time, and Palmeiro will have to make up a huge amount after getting 11 percent in his first year of eligibility.

The writers are saying that this was the Steroids Era, like they have done Mark McGwire, Blyleven said on a teleconference, as quoted by The Associated Press. They've kind of made their point. It doesnt surprise me.

Guys cheated. They cheated themselves and their teammates. The game of baseball is to be played clean. I think we went through a Steroid Era and I think its up to the writers to decide when and who should go in through that era.

A record 581 ballots, including five blanks, were cast by BBWAA members. The only other players to gain more than 50 percent of the vote were shortstop Barry Larkin (62.1) and pitcher Jack Morris (53.5). Jeff Bagwell (41.7) stayed in the picture, and this could have been the first of 15 times he will have to defend his record.

It wont necessarily get any easier. Besides Sosa, here are some of the candidates coming in 2013 and 2014: Barry Bonds; Roger Clemens; Mike Piazza; Frank Thomas; Greg Maddux; Tom Glavine; and Curt Schilling.

Whatever happens, it wont be an injustice. The game already made them absurdly wealthy and famous, all without the physical risks of, say, playing in the NFL.

This isnt a court of law, but you also shouldnt get immunity to publish any random suspicion or string together piece after piece of circumstantial evidence as absolute fact.

There is still much to learn about what steroids did to baseball. Maybe someone more credible than Jose Canseco will be willing to talk about what happened inside those clubhouses. Perhaps well see another whistleblower on 60 Minutes or read another book as enlightening as Game of Shadows.

In the meantime, all those tortured explanations from the BBWAA will still come down to a simple yes or no.

I wasn't expecting to be going in this year with the feedback I have gotten throughout the last few weeks or so, Palmeiro told The Baltimore Sun. But I thought more voters would look at my overall career and put more emphasis or weight on what I have done and not just on a positive (drug) test at the end of my career. There was a message there to be sent, and it was received."

Five hundred home runs and 3,000 hits dont mean what it used to.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Preview: Cubs wrap up series with Nationals today on CSN

Preview: Cubs wrap up series with Nationals today on CSN

The Cubs take on the Washington Nationals today, and you can catch all the action on CSN and live streaming on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 2:30 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 (5-4, 3.83 ERA) vs. Joe Ross (4-3, 5.40 ERA)

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

Jake Arrieta doesn’t see fractures forming in Cubs clubhouse

Jake Arrieta doesn’t see fractures forming in Cubs clubhouse

WASHINGTON – An erratic, distracted, disconnected Cubs team got a pregame Moment of Zen at Donald Trump’s White House on Wednesday afternoon, a smaller group of players, staffers and executives going back to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for the second time in less than six months to celebrate their World Series championship.    

The Cubs showed up at Nationals Park and of course had new Joe Maddon T-shirts folded all over the chairs in the visiting clubhouse: “Embrace the Suck” superimposed on the Captain America shield. Miguel Montero’s locker was completely empty after injecting some truth serum into the group media sessions where the Cubs almost always insist that everything is fine and will be all right in the end.

But the Cubs are at an awkward, sensitive point here, 39-39 after an 8-4 loss to a first-place Washington team that saw reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant leave the game with a sprained right ankle and veteran pitcher John Lackey give up all eight runs as his ERA ballooned to 5.24.

Paying $7 million to make Montero go away won’t magically solve the problems. Even the guy who Montero targeted late Tuesday night after the Nationals stole seven bases didn’t really have a problem with the message or the messenger. 

“I’m sad to see him go,” Jake Arrieta said. “I love Miggy. As you guys know, he’ll say some things from the heart, the way he feels. He’s open and honest. That’s the way Miggy is. He regretted what he said. He felt bad about it. I told him that I’m not upset or mad at him. I didn’t even really see the comments, and I don’t care what they were. 

“I know what it was about – and there was a lot of honesty there. I didn’t do him any favors. I was slow to the plate and (Trea) Turner’s one of the fastest guys in baseball, so it just makes it look worse than it was. It’s unfortunate it had to happen that way, but it is what it is.”

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Arrieta took his teammates along for the ride when he transformed into a Cy Young Award winner in 2015. Montero had trouble hiding his frustrations with Maddon and diminished playing time, not exactly pumped about the idea of wearing a onesie on an overnight flight from the West Coast. Montero wound up catching Arrieta’s no-hitter that unforgettable night at Dodger Stadium.    

The clubhouse vibes now aren’t necessarily awful – to use a Maddon term to downplay the injuries that have decimated the roster – but something is clearly off here.  

“It’s been slightly different, honestly, just because we’ve been up and down so frequently this season,” Arrieta said. “As soon as we get on a roll, we kind of hit the skid. We win two, lose two, win one, lose one. It’s just been this back and forth sort of rollercoaster that we’ve been dealing with. 

“As far as the guys in here, everybody gets along great. We got good relationships. Sometimes, there can be a lull in the dugout from time to time. That’s just kind of the nature of the back and forth that we’ve had, ups and downs. 

“But we’re all on the same page. We know that we need to tighten some things up. And it’s not just in one area. We’ve pitched well at times. We’ve swung the bats well at times. 

“Obviously, last season we were able to kind of collectively do all of that at the same time. That’s what we’re searching for. We’re trying to find that consistency on both sides of the ball.” 

The ironic part is that Montero clung to the idea of being Arrieta’s personal catcher last season, hoping that connection would prevent him from getting bumped off the playoff roster, and now it got him designated for assignment.        

“I don’t think either way it would have fractured the clubhouse,” Arrieta said. “There are certain things that are handled behind closed doors, but Miggy wears his heart on his sleeve. That’s one of the main reasons we all liked him. But we’re going to move forward from this and embrace the guys that are here.”