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Judgment day for Bonds, Clemens, Sosa at Hall

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Judgment day for Bonds, Clemens, Sosa at Hall

NEW YORK (AP) There's a chance the podium under the chandeliers in the gold-and-ivory-colored Vanderbilt Room of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel will go unused.

With the cloud of steroids shrouding the candidacies of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and others, baseball writers may fail for the only the second time in more than four decades to elect anyone to the Hall of Fame, rendering a news conference unnecessary.

About 600 people are eligible to vote in the BBWAA election, all members of the organization for 10 consecutive years at any point. Results will be announced at 2 p.m. EST Wednesday, with the focus on first-time eligibles that include Bonds, baseball's only seven-time Most Valuable Player, and Clemens, the only seven-time Cy Young Award winner.

Since 1965, the only years the writers didn't elect a candidate were when Yogi Berra topped the 1971 ballot at 67 percent and when Phil Niekro headed the 1996 ballot at 68 percent. Both were chosen the following years.

``It really would be a shame, especially since the other people going in this year are not among the living, which will make for a rather strange ceremony,'' said the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, president of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Three inductees were chosen last month by the 16-member panel considering individuals from the era before integration in 1946: Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O'Day and barehanded catcher Deacon White. They will be enshrined during a ceremony at Cooperstown on July 28.

Also on the ballot for the first time are Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza, power hitters whose statistics have been questioned because of the Steroids Era, and Craig Biggio, 20th on the career list with 3,060 hits - all for the Houston Astros. Curt Schilling, 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in postseason play, is another ballot rookie.

The Hall is prepared to hold a news conference Thursday with any electees. Or to not have one.

Biggio wasn't sure whether the controversy over this year's ballot would keep all candidates out.

``All I know is that for this organization I did everything they ever asked me to do and I'm proud about it, so hopefully, the writers feel strongly, they liked what they saw, and we'll see what happens,'' Biggio said on Nov. 28, the day the ballot was announced.

Jane Forbes Clark, the Hall's chairman, said last year she was not troubled by voters weighing how to evaluate players in the era of performance-enhancing drugs.

``I think the museum is very comfortable with the decisions that the baseball writers make,'' she said. ``And so it's not a bad debate by any means.''

Bonds 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 was acquitted of perjury charges stemming from congressional testimony during which he denied using PEDs.

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.

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.''

``Steroid or HGH use is cheating, plain and simple,'' ESPN.com's Wallace Matthews wrote. ``And by definition, cheaters lack integrity, sportsmanship and character. Strike one, strike two, strike three.''

Several holdovers from last year remain on the 37-player ballot, with top candidates including Jack Morris (67 percent), Jeff Bagwell (56 percent), Lee Smith (51 percent) and Tim Raines (49 percent).

When The Associated Press surveyed 112 eligible voters in late November, Bonds received 45 percent support among voters who expressed an opinion, Clemens 43 percent and Sosa 18 percent. The Baseball Think Factory website compiled votes by writers who made their opinions public and with 151 ballots had everyone falling short. Biggio was at 68 percent, followed by Morris (63), Bagwell (62), Raines (61), Piazza (59), Bonds (43) and Clemens (42).

Morris finished second last year when Barry Larkin was elected and is in his 14th and next-to-last year of eligibility. He could become the player with the highest-percentage of the vote who is not in the Hall, a mark currently held by Gil Hodges at 63 percent in 1983.

Several players who fell just short in the BBWAA balloting later were elected by either the Veterans Committee or Old-Timers' Committee: Nellie Fox (74.7 percent on the 1985 BBWAA ballot), Jim Bunning (74.2 percent in 1988), Orlando Cepeda (73.6 percent in 1994) and Frank Chance (72.5 percent in 1945).

Ace of three World Series winners, Morris finished with 254 victories and was the winningest pitcher of the 1980s. His 3.90 ERA, however, is higher than that of any Hall of Famer. Morris will be joined on next year's ballot by Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, both 300-game winners.

If no one is elected this year, there could be a logjam in 2014. Voters may select up to 10 players.

The only certainty is the Hall is pleased with the writers' process.

``While the BBWAA does the actual voting, it only does so at the request of the Hall of Fame,'' said the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin, the organization's past president. ``If the Hall of Fame is troubled, certainly the Hall could make alternate arrangements.''

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Clarifying the confusion about the Redskins' Week 16 game at the Titans

Clarifying the confusion about the Redskins' Week 16 game at the Titans

There was some confusion about the Redskins’ Week 16 game in Tennessee when the NFL schedule dropped. The schedule pushed out by the Redskins said that the game date and time are to be determined. Other versions that went out, including the one on NFL.com, says the game will be on Sunday, December 23 at 1 p.m.

So what’s the story? Well, if you’re thinking of making reservations to go to Nashville to watch the game you just might want to hold off for a while. Like, until early November. 

In an under the radar move, the NFL has established flex scheduling for its late-season Saturday games. Here are the details from the schedule press release from Redskins PR:

“Flexibility for Saturday games in Weeks 15 and 16 is also part of the 2018 schedule. In Week 15, there will be two games played on Saturday on NFL Network, with the game times of 4:30 p.m. and 8:20 p.m. to be determined. In Week 16, two of four possible matchups will be scheduled for Saturday. Start times and Saturday games for Week 15 and 16 will be announced no later than following Week 8, with the non-Saturday games to be played on Sunday.”

The way it sets up, if the Redskins and Titans are playing well in midseason there is a good chance the game will be played on Saturday, December 22 at either 4:30 or 8:20. If one or both teams are struggling, the league and networks could choose to flex two of the other four matchups to Saturday. 

This is taking flex scheduling to a different level. It’s one thing shifting a Sunday kickoff seven and a half hours from 1 p.m. to 8:30. It’s another to shift a whole day. The visiting teams can’t make travel arrangements, not knowing if they need to come into town on Friday for a Saturday game or on Saturday for Sunday. Fans who want to travel to the game are in the same boat. 

Of course, if you can afford it, you can just add a day to your Nashville excursion. There are worse things in the world than spending an extra day or two in Music City. 

If you have to wait to make your plans, as the Redskins do, you will find out no later than October 29, which is when Week 8 ends. 

Do you believe in trends? Then you should hope that the game does get flexed to Saturday. The Redskins have won three straight Saturday games, beating the Eagles in both 2014 and 2015 (the latter game clinching the division title for Washington) and the Bears in 2016. 

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference after Game 4

John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference after Game 4

In each of the first three games of the series, the Columbus Blue Jackets always had an answer for the Washington Capitals.

The Caps built a two-goal lead in each game and Columbus was able to battle back and tie it each time.

In Game 4 on Thursday, however. the Blue Jackets had no answer in a 4-1 loss to Washington and that includes head coach John Tortorella.

"We weren't good," Tortorella said to the media after the game. "There's no sense asking me things about the game. I'm telling you, we laid an egg. I'm not going to break it down for you. We sucked. We sucked."

Tortorella is known for having some fiery interactions with the media. By his standard, Thursday's postgame presser was fairly tame.

The Capitals may have won Game 3, but Columbus certainly looked like the better team for most of the night. That was not the case in Game 4 as Washington dominated from start to finish. That led to the contentious postgame presser.

"We laid an egg," Tortorella said. "That's all I have to say, guys. I'm sorry, I'm not going to break it down for you. Nothing went well for us. It's on us, we have to figure it out and we will."

Reporters continued to press the head coach until he finally walked out.

Before you laugh too hard at this, it is important to consider that this may be a calculated move by Tortorella.

Sure, there have been times in which he has lost his temper in the past, but these outbursts may be more premeditated than we think.

Consider this. After their worst game of the series, a game in which the Blue Jackets only scored once and saw a 2-0 series lead evaporate in two games at home, we're talking about the head coach. We're not talking about the loss or the performance of the players. Instead, we are talking about Tortorella walking out on reporters.

Even if Tortorella was not willing to give any answers on Thursday, he will need to find some soon. The series now shifts back to Washington for Game 5 on Saturday with all the momentum on the Caps' side.

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