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Hall of Famers happy to see Bonds, Clemens denied

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Hall of Famers happy to see Bonds, Clemens denied

NEW YORK (AP) Nobody was happier about the Hall of Fame shutout than the Hall of Famers themselves.

Goose Gossage, Al Kaline, Dennis Eckersley and others are in no rush to open the door to Cooperstown for anyone linked to steroids.

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa: Keep `em all out of our club.

``If they let these guys in ever - at any point - it's a big black eye for the Hall and for baseball,'' Gossage said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. ``It's like telling our kids you can cheat, you can do whatever you want, and it's not going to matter.''

For only the second time in 42 years, baseball writers failed to elect anyone to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, sending a firm signal that stars of the Steroids Era will be held to a different standard.

All the awards and accomplishments collected over storied careers by Bonds, Clemens and Sosa - all eligible for the first time - could not offset suspicions those exploits were artificially boosted by performance-enhancing drugs.

``I'm kind of glad that nobody got in this year,'' Kaline said. ``I feel honored to be in the Hall of Fame. And I would've felt a little uneasy sitting up there on the stage, listening to some of these new guys talk about how great they were.''

Gossage went even further.

``I think the steroids guys that are under suspicion got too many votes,'' he said. ``I don't know why they're making this such a question and why there's so much debate. To me, they cheated. Are we going to reward these guys?''

Not this year, at least.

Bonds received just 36.2 percent of the vote and Clemens 37.6 in totals announced by the Hall and the Baseball Writers' Association of America, both well short of the 75 percent needed for election - yet still too close for Gossage's taste. Sosa, eighth on the career home run list, got 12.5 percent.

``Wow! Baseball writers make a statement,'' Eckersley wrote on Twitter. ``Feels right.''

The results keep the sport's career home run leader (Bonds) and most decorated pitcher (Clemens) out of Cooperstown - for now. Bonds, Clemens and Sosa have up to 14 more years on the writers' ballot to gain baseball's highest honor.

``Even having just been considered for the first time is already great honor, and there's always a next time,'' Sosa said in a statement. ``Baseball has been extremely good for me! Kiss to the heaven! It was an honor just to have been nominated. I'm happy about that.''

Bonds, baseball's only seven-time MVP, hit 762 home runs - including a record 73 in 2001. He has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs and was convicted of one count of obstruction of justice for giving an evasive answer in 2003 to a grand jury investigating PEDs.

Clemens, the game's lone seven-time Cy Young Award winner, is third in career strikeouts (4,672) and ninth in wins (354). He was acquitted of perjury charges stemming from congressional testimony during which he denied using PEDs.

``If you don't think Roger Clemens cheated, you're burying your head in the sand,'' Gossage said.

Sosa, who finished with 609 home runs, was among those who tested positive in MLB's 2003 anonymous survey, The New York Times reported in 2009. He told a congressional committee in 2005 that he never took illegal performance-enhancing drugs. He also was caught using a corked bat during his career.

``What really gets me is seeing how some of these players associated with drugs have jumped over many of the greats in our game,'' Kaline said. ``Numbers mean a lot in baseball, maybe more so than in any other sport. And going back to Babe Ruth, and players like Harmon Killebrew and Frank Robinson and Willie Mays, seeing people jump over them with 600, 700 home runs, I don't like to see that.

``I don't know how great some of these players up for election would've been without drugs. But to me, it's cheating,'' he added. ``Numbers are important, but so is integrity and character. Some of these guys might get in someday. But for a year or two, I'm glad they didn't.''

Gossage, noting that cyclist Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles following allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs, believes baseball should go just as far. He thinks the record book should be overhauled, taking away the accomplishments of players like Bonds, Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire - who has admitted using steroids and human growth hormone during his playing days.

McGwire, 10th on the career home run chart, received 16.9 percent of the vote on his seventh Hall try, down from 19.5 last year.

``I don't know if baseball knows how to deal with this at all,'' Gossage said. ``Why don't they strip these guys of all these numbers? You've got to suffer the consequences. You get caught cheating on a test, you get expelled from school.''

Juan Marichal is one Hall of Famer who doesn't see it that way. The former pitcher believes Bonds, Clemens and Sosa belong in Cooperstown.

``I think that they have been unfair to guys who were never found guilty of anything,'' Marichal said. ``Their stats define them as immortals. That's the reality and that cannot be denied.''

The BBWAA election rules say ``voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.''

While much of the focus this year was on Bonds, Clemens and Sosa, every other player with Cooperstown credentials was denied, too.

Craig Biggio, 20th on the career list with 3,060 hits, came the closest. He was chosen on 68.2 percent of the 569 ballots, 39 shy of election. Among other first-year eligibles, Mike Piazza received 57.8 percent and Curt Schilling 38.8. Jack Morris topped holdovers with 67.7 percent.

None of those players have been publicly linked to PED use, so it's difficult to determine whether they fell short due to suspicion, their stats - or the overall stench of the era they played in.

``What we're witnessing here is innocent people paying for the sinners,'' Marichal said.

Hall of Fame slugger Mike Schmidt said that comes with the territory.

``It's not news that Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Palmeiro, and McGwire didn't get in, but that they received hardly any consideration at all. The real news is that Biggio and Piazza were well under the 75 percent needed,'' Schmidt wrote in an email to the AP.

``Curt Schilling made a good point. Everyone was guilty. Either you used PEDs, or you did nothing to stop their use. This generation got rich. Seems there was a price to pay.''

At ceremonies in Cooperstown on July 28, the only inductees will be three men who died more than 70 years ago: Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O'Day and barehanded catcher Deacon White. They were chosen last month by the 16-member panel considering individuals from the era before integration in 1947.

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AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker, AP Sports Writers Ronald Blum and Dan Gelston, and AP freelance writer Dionisio Soldevila contributed to this report.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

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USA TODAY Sports

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise. Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Towes intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. Toews' interception led to a 2-on-0 in the second period. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal. He also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board. Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.

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4 reasons why the Caps lost to the Blackhawks

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4 reasons why the Caps lost to the Blackhawks

The Caps were outplayed in just about every facet of the game on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. It is hard to narrow it down to just a few reasons they ultimately lost this game, but here are the most glaring.

The first period

The opening 20 minutes of this game was, to be blunt, awful. The Caps managed only nine shots attempts, six of which went on net. Chicago, meanwhile, fired 21 shots on goal with 29 total shot attempts. Washington was held to 21 shots on goal or less six times this season, so to allow 21 to an opponent in 20 minutes is not a good start. Of course, you can’t allow that many shots and escape unscathed and Washington found themselves down 3-1 at the end of the first. The Caps were outskated and sloppy with the puck and thoroughly dominated by the Blackhawks.

A bad early goal

Chicago did not need any help scoring in this one. The first goal of the game came when Jonathan Toews just threw a quick shot from the corner on net that caught Braden Holtby off guard. Holtby allowed six goals on the night, but only two of them looked soft. It was an inauspicious start to the game and a save Holtby really needed to make.

Two breakaways in the second period

A breakaway represents a breakdown in the defense. When you give up two in a span of 1:10, including a 2-on-0, that means you're not having a good night. In the second period, Brooks Orpik tried a cross-ice pass that was easily picked off by Toews that launched a 2-on-0 with him and Patrick Kane. There may not be a worse tandem in hockey to give up a 2-on-0 against than that. Just about a minute later, Ryan Hartman weaved his way through the defense to spark his own breakaway. It wasn't a good pass that launched him or a bad line change. Hartman's feet were moving and the Caps' were not. As bad as the first period was, it looked as if the Caps had stopped the bleeding as the score remained 3-1 with less than four minutes remaining in the second which is in no way is an insurmountable deficit. In the remaining four minutes, Chicago extended its lead to 6-1.

Defense

Holtby allowed six goals in this game before he was replaced by Philipp Grubauer for the start of the third period. Of those six, only two were "soft" goals Holtby should have had. The other four were the result of poor defense. The breakaways were already described in detail above. The second goal of the game came when Orpik and Madison Bowey both challenge Brandon Saad as he drove into the Caps' zone, leaving Vinnie Hinostroza to go in on net unimpeded. When Saad got the pass to him, Holtby did well to stop the initial shot, but could not get the Saad rebound shot. In the closing seconds of the first period, Holtby stopped a Carl Dahlstrom shot, but the rebound went to a wide open Nick Schmaltz who had all the space he could want to shoot in the rebound. John Carlson finished the game with a minus-3, Orpik, Bowey and Christian Djoos were minus-2 and Matt Niskanen was a minus-1.