Manny Ramirez

Another year, another non-update on potential Sammy Sosa reunion from Cubs Convention

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AP

Another year, another non-update on potential Sammy Sosa reunion from Cubs Convention

Tom Ricketts actually got more than halfway through his Cubs Convention session before Sammy Sosa was finally brought up. 

You see, the Sosa question has become an annual staple at Cubs Convention, particularly in Ricketts' panel. 

Sosa may be undergoing some bizarre physical changes, but he still resonates with fans of all ages after delighting the Wrigley Field faithful for a decade. 

"I know people won't recognize him..." the fan qualified while still asking Ricketts when Sosa might make his way back to the Cubs Convention.

Ricketts declined to talk about Sosa specifically, but mentioned the Steroid Era as a whole.

"Yeah, I've talked about this a lot over the years and it seems to come up every year," Ricketts said. "I really believe that all the players from that era, who went through that performance-enhancing, steroid era, I think we owe them a lot of understanding.

"I think we have to put ourselves in their shoes and be very, very sympathetic to all the decisions they had to make. And, as it turns out, after testing began in 2002, a large number of players tested positive.

"So I think we all need to be sensitive and understand their situation. But I also believe that players from that era owe us a little bit of honest, and I kind of feel like the only way to turn this page is to put everything on the table.

"And I think that's kind of a better answer. So that's kind of the way I feel. We'll see what happens in the future."

In a media session after his panel, Ricketts was asked again, specifically about Sosa.

"I'm not gonna talk about Sammy in particular," Ricketts said. "I'm just gonna talk about the whole era. I just think we need to put everything on the table and move forward."

OK, so if Sosa admits to PED use, he can come back to the Cubs "family"?

Ricketts wasn't the owner of the Cubs during Sosa's tenure on Chicago's North Side, but "Slammin' Sammy" brought countless millions to the organization, whether he took PEDs or not. (For the record, Sosa reportedly tested positive for PEDs in 2003, but he was never suspended.)

Sure, he's officially entered the Upside Down now, but the Cubs Convention is for the fans and there certainly seems to be no shortage of fans interested in seeing Sammy Sosa...even if people won't immediately recognize him.

Sosa's fellow late-'90s/early-2000s sluggers Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds haven't exactly come forward with any admission of PED guilt and neither guy has any trouble finding a job or role in today's Major League Baseball. 

Ricketts and the Cubs don't employ either McGwire or Bonds, but they did boast Manny Ramirez — a similar product of the era who was suspended for PEDs twice during his career — as a hitting instructor for three seasons through 2016.

Of course, the end of Sosa's Cubs tenure had more to it than just the suspicion of steroid use, with the slugger not leaving on the best terms with the team and his teammates before getting traded away to the Baltimore Orioles.

This has been your yearly Sammy Sosa Cubs Convention update.

Potential first-ballot guy and Blackout Game hero Jim Thome headlines group of former White Sox on this year's Hall of Fame ballot

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AP

Potential first-ballot guy and Blackout Game hero Jim Thome headlines group of former White Sox on this year's Hall of Fame ballot

White Sox fans have seen a couple of their team's all-time greats go into the Hall of Fame in recent years, with Frank Thomas inducted in 2014 and Tim Raines inducted earlier this year.

Seven former White Sox are on this year's Hall of Fame ballot, even if only a couple of them made a big impact on the South Side.

Jim Thome is on the ballot for the first time. While more famously a member of those great Cleveland Indians teams of the 1990s, Thome spent four seasons in a White Sox uniform, playing in 529 games and belting 134 of his 612 career home runs with the South Siders.

A Peoria native currently working as a member of the organization, Thome was a beloved part of four White Sox teams, including the last one to reach the postseason in 2008. He smacked a solo homer to drive in the lone run in the legendary Blackout Game, a 1-0 win over the Minnesota Twins that gave the White Sox the American League Central crown in the 163rd game of the 2008 regular season.

Thome ranks second in White Sox history in slugging percentage and OPS, trailing only Thomas in both categories. He's No. 7 on the franchise leaderboard in on-base percentage and No. 13 on the home run list.

Given that he ranks eighth on baseball's all-time home run list, Thome could very well be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Also on this year's ballot is Carlos Lee, a power-hitting outfielder who spent the first six seasons of his major league career with the White Sox. El Caballo hit 152 homers and drove in 552 runs in 880 games with the White Sox, finishing 18th in AL MVP voting in 2003 after he slashed .291/.331/.499 with 31 homers. His numbers were even better in 2004, his final season with the White Sox.

Lee ranks ninth on the team's all-time home run list and 11th on the franchise leaderboard in slugging percentage.

Lee did an awful lot of damage in six seasons with the Houston Astros, as well, and earned three All-Star nods in his post-Sox career.

Five others to play for the White Sox are on this year's ballot. Sammy Sosa, more noteworthy for what he did with the Cubs, spent parts of three seasons on the South Side. Omar Vizquel, another Indians great like Thome, played for the White Sox in 2010 and 2011. Andruw Jones, better known for his defensive highlights with the Atlanta Braves, played 107 games with the White Sox in 2010. Orlando Hudson played in 51 games for the White Sox in 2012. And Manny Ramirez, the legendary Indians and Red Sox slugger, played 24 games with the White Sox in 2010.

In order to qualify for election into the Hall of Fame, a player must appear on 75 of ballots submitted by voters.

Bears free-agency analysis: Offseason OL pattern holds with Tom Compton

Bears free-agency analysis: Offseason OL pattern holds with Tom Compton

This is the second in a series analyzing the Bears' decision-making during the 2017 free-agency period.

From 3/13: Bears free agency analysis: Alshon Jeffery non-deal left an understandable void

In what now looks to be a pattern under GM Ryan Pace, the Bears for the third straight offseason have gone after upgrades on their offensive line. Not always first-tier additions, but always a search for an improvement and more competition, and if something doesn't work, Pace does not stay wedded to a decision that hasn't worked.
 
The 2015 offseason started with signing guard Vladimir Ducasse and then center Will Montgomery. Ducasse started a handful of games, didn't pan out and wasn't brought back. Montgomery suffered a broken leg, went on IR and was done, with the Bears turning to Hroniss Grasu.
 
Last offseason saw Bobbie Massie signed for right tackle, Ted Larsen for a guard spot and Manny Ramirez for center. Ramirez retired before the season. Larsen, who played only because of injuries to Kyle Long and Josh Sitton, wasn't coming back and signed a three-year deal with the Miami Dolphins. Massie's situation is to be determined, with rumors last week that he would be cut.
 
That didn't happen, all part of what effectively became a domino strategy on an offensive line the Bears view as a roster strength.

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Among Pace's first probes into the market this year was after tackle Rick Wagner, who opted instead for the Detroit Lions and their surprising offer of $14.5 million guaranteed on a total package of $47.5 million over five years. Wagner's price made him the highest-paid pure right tackle in the NFL and was not within the parameters the Bears had established for the former Baltimore Raven.
 
When the money for tackles spiked explosively — Wagner, Riley Reiff ($58.8 million, Minnesota Vikings), Matt Kalil ($55 million, Carolina Panthers), Russell Okung ($53 million, Los Angeles Chargers) — Pace and the Bears instead kept Massie in place. Massie's $4.2 million base for 2017 is not guaranteed and contingent on his making the Week 1 roster.
 
At the same time, Pace moved on Tom Compton, a backup with Washington and the Atlanta Falcons, with 10 career starts and who'd also attracted interest from the Falcons, Lions and San Francisco 49ers.
 
"I don't know any specifics," Compton said of the Bears' plans for him. "I know they'll plug me in to see where I fit in but I'm not too sure what their plan is yet."

Compton has worked as a swing tackle with Atlanta, which runs a zone-blocking scheme similar to what the Bears have operated the past several years.

"I'm not too familiar with what's going on here," Compton said, "but it's pretty similar to what I'm used to, a lot of zone and play action so it should be a pretty good fit."