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

Kerry Wood, Sammy Sosa and the Hall of Fame guessing game
January 11, 2013, 2:42 am
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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.

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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.

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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.