Bears

Bonds, Clemens, Sosa on Hall ballot for first time

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Bonds, Clemens, Sosa on Hall ballot for first time

NEW YORK (AP) -- Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are listed on the baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, setting up an election sure to become a referendum on the Steroids Era.

The 37-player ballot was announced Wednesday.

More than 600 longtime members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America will vote through next month. Candidates need 75 percent for induction, and the results will be announced Jan. 9.

Bonds is the all-time home run champion with 762 and won a record seven MVP awards. Clemens set a record with seven Cy Young trophies and Sosa hit 609 homers. The voters will now decide whether drug allegations that tainted their huge numbers should keep them out of Cooperstown.

Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling are among the 24 first-time eligibles. Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines are the top holdover candidates.

The upcoming election is certain to fuel the most polarizing Hall discussion since career hits leader Pete Rose's betting troubles put him on baseball's permanently ineligible list, barring him from the BBWAA ballot.

While many continued to debate whether Rose should be enshrined, it was moot because there is currently no way he can be considered.

On deck, though, are some of the game's biggest names - along with a lot of the sport's biggest baggage.

Bonds, Clemens and Sosa each posted monster statistics, though their accomplishments were shadowed by accusations they used performance-enhancing drugs. And as baseball keeps trying to rid itself of PEDs, their impact on HRs, RBIs and Ws remains a prickly problem.

Bonds was baseball's premier slugger on his generation and Clemens ranks ninth in career wins with 354. Sosa is eighth on the home run chart with 609.

Fans, players and Hall of Fame members have all chimed in about whether stars who supposedly juiced up should make it to Cooperstown.

Many of those opposed say drug cheats should never be afforded baseball's highest individual honors. Others on the opposite side claim the use of PEDs was pervasive in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, and shouldn't disqualify candidates.

If recent voting for the Hall is any indication, the odds are solidly stacked against Bonds, Clemens and Sosa.

Mark McGwire is 10th on the career home run list with 583, but has never received even 24 percent in his six tries. Big Mac has admitted to using steroids and human growth hormone.

Rafael Palmeiro is among only four players with 500 homers and 3,000 hits, yet has gotten a high of 12.6 percent in his two years on the ballot. Palmeiro drew a 10-day suspension in 2005 after a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, and said the result was due to a vitamin vial given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada.

Biggio topped the 3,000-hit mark - which always has been considered an automatic credential for Cooperstown - and spent his entire career with the Houston Astros.

Schilling was 216-146 and won three World Series championships, including his ''bloody sock'' performance for the Boston Red Sox in 2004.

Bears prove defense still matters with masterful shutdown of Rams

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USA TODAY

Bears prove defense still matters with masterful shutdown of Rams

A day after that 54-51 Rams-Chiefs barnburner on Monday Night Football last month, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was asked if he thought that game was a watershed moment for the pass-happy, offense-oriented NFL.

“I think it’s just we live in such a won-week news cycle in the NFL,” Fangio said, dismissing the thought. “Let’s see what happens next week.”

It wasn’t next week, but three weeks later, Fangio’s group proved great defense can still beat great offense in today’s modern NFL.

The Bears’ defense suffocated Jared Goff, neutralized Todd Gurley, owned the line of scrimmage and powered a 15-6 win over the 11-2 Rams at Soldier Field Sunday night. Goff was picked off four times — by Roquan Smith, Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara — and finished with a passer rating of 19.1, the worst of his career (which includes his horrendous rookie season). Gurley was a non-factor, rushing 11 times for 28 yards while catching only three passes for 30 yards.

An offense that had only scored fewer than 30 points in two games this year was held to two measly field goals and was thoroughly discombobulated by the Bears’ defense all night. Sunday was the first time the Rams' offense failed to score a touchdown in the Sean McVay era.

The standout performances came from every unit. Eddie Goldman’s safety was a major momentum shift at the start of the second half, staking the Bears a two-point lead and giving them the ball back for a drive that led to the only touchdown of the game. Akiem Hicks was a menace, as usual, while Roy Robertson-Harris and Jonathan Bullard both had productive games.

Khalil Mack forced a fumble and combined with Leonard Floyd to make Goff miserable in pockets that consistently collapsed around him. Smith had that interception and was all over the field, while Danny Trevathan was key in limiting Gurley’s production.

And Fuller, Amukamara, Jackson, Adrian Amos and Sherrick McManis — who played the second half with Bryce Callahan injured — made sure the Rams weren’t able to get a spark.

This night was all about the league’s best defense dominating the league’s best offense in front of a national audience in primetime. And it served a warning for the high-octane offenses of the NFC: The Bears are a force to be reckoned with when they play in the playoffs in January.

Because, yes, the Bears are going to the playoffs. They don’t have anything clinched yet, but with nine wins and a lagging pack of wild card contenders (behind the Seahawks and Vikings), there’s not a realistic scenario in which this team doesn’t end its eight-year playoff drought. Also: If the Seahawks beat the Vikings on Monday night, the Bears will be a win or a Vikings loss away from clinching the NFC North.

But this Bears team, on Sunday night, played like a group that isn’t going to settle for just reaching the postseason. This is a group that should have designs on making a legitimate run in January on the back of a side of the ball that’s been frequently left for dead in NFL circles this year.

Maybe, just maybe, defense still matters. And if it matters in the playoffs? The Bears have a shot and doing more than just making it to January.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears and stream the ‘Football Aftershow’ easily on your device.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Harold Baines elected to the Hall of Fame!

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AP

White Sox Talk Podcast: Harold Baines elected to the Hall of Fame!

The MLB Winter Meetings began with a big surprise: White Sox legend Harold Baines is headed to Cooperstown. On the podcast, Baines talks about:

3:42 - What it means to make the Hall of Fame, how surprised he was to get the call and more.

6:20 - Ron Kittle talks about his former teammate and explains what he told Baines when he heard the news. 

10:42 - Jerry Reinsdorf who was a part of the voting committee explains why Baines is a Hall of Famer.  

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below!

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.