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

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

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.

RELATED No-confidence vote for Sammy Sosa in Hall of Fame shutout

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.

MORE Writers don't feel Sosa worthy of Hall

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.

What Jose Quintana's injury says about precarious nature of this MLB season

What Jose Quintana's injury says about precarious nature of this MLB season

One more injury or a positive COVID-19 test within the starting rotation, and the Cubs will be in trouble.

Jose Quintana’s thumb injury, which is expected to keep him from throwing for two weeks, called to attention just how precarious the future of every team is this season.

"We had some concerns about our starting pitching depth,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Thursday. “A freak injury further challenges us in that area, and we have to respond."

 

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Starting pitching is a particularly vulnerable area in general. COVID-19 can affect anyone, even a team’s ace. More reports of positive COVID-19 tests are bound to trickle out now that teams are beginning workouts Friday. And with a three-week Summer Camp expediting the ramp-up process, risk of soft-tissue injury becomes a concern for pitchers in particular.

Add into the mix a microscopic surgery on a lacerated nerve in Quintana’s left thumb – the Cubs announced on Thursday that he suffered the injury while washing dishes – and the Cubs are beginning Summer Camp already shorthanded.

“No one’s going to feel sorry for us,” Epstein said. “This this is a bump in the road that we just have to overcome.”

The baseball season could be cancelled for any number of reasons, safety as judged by the league and government officials being the most important. But MLB also has the power to suspend or cancel the season if the competitive integrity of the season is undermined.

What that means isn’t for Epstein to decide, but he declined to give an opinion on the topic Thursday.

“My understanding of what the standards would be don’t necessarily matter,” Epstein said. “It’s a question for the league. I hope we never get in that situation.”

Injuries always have the power to alter a season. But that’s even more so the case during a 60-game season. At best, Quintana’s injury could delay him a several weeks. At worst, even just a three-month recovery time would wipe out his entire season.

For now, the plan is to replace Quintana with someone like Alec Mills. Assuming Mills does win the starting job, that takes him out of his role as a middle reliever, a bullpen spot Cubs manager David Ross emphasized earlier in the week.

“It’ll be really unrealistic to expect guys to get to maybe 100 or so pitches right out of the shoot,” Ross said on Monday. “That may be a bit of a challenge. … The real important areas for me right now is that swingman, your Alec Mills-types that can give you two or three innings ang get to the back end of the bullpen. Those middle innings if guys aren’t stretched out enough are going to be vitally important.”

The ripple effects from Quintana’s injury aren’t nearly enough to undermine the competitive integrity of the season. But what if several teams have their starting pitching depth dramatically affected by COVID-19? What if those teams include the Dodgers and the Yankees?

Now that MLB has started ramping up for the 2020 season, it’s incentivized to keep the season running. But as the Cubs learned this week, just one dish-washing accident can alter a team’s 2020 outlook.

 

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2020 MLB season: All-Star game canceled, Dodgers awarded 2022 game

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USA TODAY

2020 MLB season: All-Star game canceled, Dodgers awarded 2022 game

Major League Baseball announced Friday they've canceled the 2020 All Star Game, which was scheduled for July 14 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

The Braves are scheduled to host the 2021 Midsummer Classic, so MLB awarded the Dodgers the 2022 game.

"Based on the health circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic that are beyond MLB’s control along with governmental directives prohibiting large gatherings, the league determined it is unable to conduct the All-Star Game and its week of surrounding fan activities this year," MLB said in a statement.

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“Once it became clear we were unable to hold this year’s All-Star festivities, we wanted to award the Dodgers with the next available All-Star Game, which is 2022,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.  “I want to thank the Dodgers organization and the City of Los Angeles for being collaborative partners in the early stages of All-Star preparation and for being patient and understanding in navigating the uncertainty created by the pandemic.  

"The 2022 All-Star celebration promises to be a memorable one with events throughout the city and at picturesque Dodger Stadium.”

California has seen a 92 percent increase in COVID-19 cases this week compared to two weeks ago.

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