Bears

Jenkins, Fingers don't see a place for Sosa in Hall of Fame

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Jenkins, Fingers don't see a place for Sosa in Hall of Fame

It was obvious Sammy Sosa wasn't going to stay hidden for long.

After receiving just 12.5 percent of the votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America earlier this month, the former Cubs slugger was turned away from the Hall of Fame his first year on the ballot.

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

Wednesday, he was interviewed on Ustream and aired his thoughts -- which were not surprising -- for the world to hear.

It's never been a question of whether Sosa thinks he should be in the baseball Hall of Fame. He's been saying it for years.

But hardly anybody agrees with him, despite some eye-popping numbers that include 609 career home runs. He's not alone, though. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire were all denied baseball's greatest honor, as the cloud of performance-enhancing drugs hangs over that particular group of players.

"I think it's pretty obvious the playing field was not level," former Cubs catcher Jody Davis said at the Cubs Convention last weekend. "They can say they didn't use PEDs, but you can look at the numbers and there's just no way those guys got that much better in just one year.

"I don't believe they should be in. It's hard when, knowingly, those guys were doing something that had never been done before."

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

Davis spent much of the weekend at the Fergie Jenkins Foundation table at the Convention, sitting alongside a trio of Hall of Famers in Rollie Fingers, Gaylord Perry and Jenkins, who felt the same way.

"I'm against them getting in," said Fingers, who was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1992. "I see records that are being set by guys that have been straight, that have done it on their own. Sportswriters want to keep the sanctity in the Hall of Fame. They don't want guys using steroids to break records. I believe that, too.

"If they're innocent, I'm all for it. If they've used, and sportswriters have proof of them being used, I don't see them getting in. That's just the way it is."

As for Sosa in particular, Fingers, Davis or Jenkins don't see him getting voted in anytime soon.

"It's hard to say," Jenkins said. "Maybe after 15, 16 years, the Veterans Committee might vote him in. I'm not sure if we'll even be around to really know.

"Unfortunately, those guys had great beginnings to their career and then the latter part of their career -- when numbers should be declining -- they kept building for those guys. And it's due to whatever they were putting in their system."

Even if Sosa never gets in the Hall of Fame, there are still ways his legacy could live on forever. The Cubs could retire his No. 21 -- something he thinks should have already happened -- or he could receive an invite to Cubs Convention, just like Davis and Jenkins have been getting for years.

RELATED: Cubs might look to repair 'awkward' relationship with Sosa

"He was an outstanding player here," Jenkins said. "People remember what he did. Hitting 60 home runs two years in a row, that's a feat Ernie Banks, Billy Williams or Ron Santo couldn't do.

"He was a strong athlete. I knew him when he was 16 years old. He had pretty good lower-body strength, but his upper body got bigger. I don't know if it was just lifting weights or how he got bigger, but he's just a strong athlete.

"He just had a grooved swing after a while. And he was just going for it most of the time. He really didn't care about strikeouts. He just wanted to put that ball out of the ballpark."

As for how fans may perceive "Slammin' Sammy" if he came back to Chicago for a Sammy Sosa Day at Wrigley Field or attended the 2014 Cubs Convention, Davis thinks he'd be welcomed with open arms by at least some of the Cubs faithful.

"Cubs fans are a unique breed," said Davis, who played with the Cubs from 1981-88. "Sammy did a lot of good things here. I don't think actual Cubs fans really care if he's in the Hall of Fame or not. They loved him and they always will."

NFL betting odds: Bears open as only slight favorites over 49ers in Week 16

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USA TODAY

NFL betting odds: Bears open as only slight favorites over 49ers in Week 16

The Bears are flying high as NFC North champions, riding back-to-back wins over the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers.

Now, they turn their attention to a potential first-round bye and deep playoff run.

With all of their recent success, it’s surprising that Las Vegas doesn’t see Chicago as a very big favorite over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 16.

As of Tuesday, the betting line stands at Bears by only four, according to Vegas Insiders.

The 49ers are coming off of a big, overtime win over the playoff-bound Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, but they still sit at just 4-10 on the season as they rely on No. 3 quarterback Nick Mullens.

The Bears were favored by more against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers last week and covered the spread, but oddsmakers evidently like San Francisco’s chances to keep things closer.

In terms of point total, Vegas is expecting one of the weekend’s lower-scoring games with the over/under set at 42.5 at most sportsbooks.

Vic Fangio’s defense has kept Chicago out of shootouts this season, and San Francisco hasn’t exactly lit anyone up in a while.

The Bears could be in for another slug fest on Sunday, at least that’s what Las Vegas seems to be predicting.

 

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State of the Cubs: Second base

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USA TODAY

State of the Cubs: Second base

As the Cubs maneuver through a pivotal offseason, we will break down the current state of the team by sectioning it off into position groups. Here is the fifth installment on the second basemen.

Second base was the only positon group the Cubs had close to starter-level at-bats available this winter, but that is probably no longer the case with Tuesday's signing of Daniel Descalso.

The Cubs entered December with only Ben Zobrist as a true second base option for 2019 with Daniel Murphy a free agent and Javy Baez sliding over to shortstop full time for at least the first month of the season (or longer if Addison Russell is not a part of the team's plans after his suspension).

The Descalso move changes the middle infield equation quite a bit:

Depth chart

1. Ben Zobrist
2. Daniel Descalso
3. David Bote
4. Addison Russell?

First, the Russell/Baez aspect. 

It's still not guaranteed Russell will be back on the active roster when his suspension is up in early May, which would create a larger hole on the middle infield depth chart.

But for right now, Russell is under contract and he may be a part of the active roster in the first week of May, so if he does return, how does that change the shortstop/second base rotation?

Speaking strictly about his on-field production, Russell's offense has left a lot to be desired over the last few years, but his defense has been elite. An active Russell on the roster would mean the Cubs could have arguably the best middle infield defense in the game with him at short and Baez at second. 

The Cubs could start Russell a few times a week at shortstop and play Baez over there the rest of the time. When Russell plays short, Baez can play second or he can go to third and move Kris Bryant to the outfield. On days Baez starts at shortstop, the Cubs can bring Russell off the bench to play shortstop and move Baez to one of the other spots to improve their late-game infield defense.

For the first month of the season, expect to see Descalso and Zobrist man second base a majority of the time. Zobrist will still only play 4-5 times a week as the Cubs look to continue the plan that made the veteran utilty guy one of the top comeback stories in the league in 2018, with a heavy dose of rest and some regular time in the outfield and away from the demanding position of second base.

Descalso's career splits are essentially the same, so even though he's a left-handed hitter, he can still draw starts against southpaws, allowing Zobrist to spell Jason Heyward or Kyle Schwarber in the outfield.

Either way, Ian Happ appears to be out of the second base equation for the Cubs. The young switch-hitter did not draw a start at second in 2018, playing only two games and 3 innings at the position.

What's next?

Probably not much, save for a few non-roster invitees that could surprise in spring training. The Cubs have next to no infield depth in the minor leagues at the moment, but that will change as the winter goes on.

The big-league roster does not have much room, though the big question mark that remains is Russell and where/if he is included from May on.

The Cubs could opt to keep Bote in the minors to start the year and add another veteran on the bench, but as of right now, Bote's league-minimum salary, versatility and stellar glove are awfully enticing.

The bottom line

The Cubs' second basemen are going to have an average age of 35 in 2018 (at least to start) with Zobrist (38) and Descalso (32) manning the position.

State of the Cubs: SP
State of the Cubs: RP
State of the Cubs: C
State of the Cubs: 1B
State of the Cubs: 2B

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