- Created on 28 November 2012
(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.
- Created on 27 November 2012
When Ekpe Udoh beat the third-quarter buzzer with a jumper to cut the Bucks' deficit to 17, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau almost separated his shoulder in disgust on the sideline.
At the time, it looked like one of those moments of Thibodeau being Thibodeau, intensely demanding perfection at all times.
Instead, maybe he knew.
Thibodeau has been harping on the Bulls' fourth-quarter failures since preseason, and his team offered another doozy of an example Monday night at the United Center.
Blowing a 27-point lead, the Bulls dropped to 3-4 at home with a stunning 93-92 loss to the Bucks that also snapped the Bulls' nine-game winning streak in the series. The loss evoked memories of the blown 35-point lead to the Kings at home in December 2009.
"As soon as you start feeling good about yourself in this league, you get knocked on your ass," Thibodeau said.
Richard Hamilton, who set his Bulls career-high with 30 points, missed a jumper near the buzzer over strong defense from rookie Doron Lamb, who had energized the Bucks' comeback.
Lamb, who finished with eight points and two assists in 15 minutes, also had assisted on the go-ahead basket, a power move by Udoh with 57.5 seconds left.
Udoh then blocked Hamilton's shot at the other end and Beno Udrih stripped Joakim Noah on the follow attempt. The Bulls got new life when Udrih missed both free throws with 10.7 seconds left. But Carlos Boozer, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds, couldn't secure the defensive rebound or save the ball from going out of bounds.
Kirk Hinrich, who reached double figures for the second straight game with 17 points, defended the ensuing inbounds pass to knock the ball off Udoh, giving Hamilton his final chance.
"You have to play 48 minutes in this league," Thibodeau said. "We were very loose with the lead at the end of the third. That game changed in four to five minutes — the last two of the third and first two of the fourth. And we couldn't stop it. We couldn't get stops. We couldn't get to the free-throw line. We had 15 in the first half and four in the second. They had 12 blocked shots."
The Bulls led 78-51 on Hinrich's 3-pointer with 2:50 left in the third before the Bucks' astounding 25-2 run began. The comeback occurred with leading scorers Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis benched.
No starter played less than 36 minutes. The Bucks' bench outscored the Bulls' 56-10. Ersan Ilyasova led the Bucks with 18 points. Udrih and Udoh also reached double figures off the bench with 11 apiece.
Reserves played a grand total of 10:23 in the second half. Asked if there was a reason for this, Thibodeau said: "No."
"This won't happen another time this year coming back from over 20 points down, especially on the road," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said.
Once was enough.
- Created on 23 November 2012
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler practiced on a limited basis Thursday for the first time since he suffered a concussion late in the first half of the team's game against the Houston Texans on Nov. 11.
Cutler stayed behind in Chicago when the Bears traveled to San Francisco last weekend, but the starting quarterback appears on track to return to action when the team hosts the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Soldier Field.
"I know you all want to know about Jay Cutler. He was able to do some things on a limited basis," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "So it's looking better for (him) to get him back on the football field."
Rookie defensive end Shea McClellin, who also missed the last game because of a concussion, was a full participant in practice, while tight end Kellen Davis sat out because of an ankle injury.
Quarterback Jason Campbell (ribs), wide receiver Brandon Marshall (shoulder), defensive tackle Stephen Paea (shoulder) and defensive tackle Matt Toeina were all limited on the official injury report.
First-year wideout Alshon Jeffery already has been ruled out of this weekend's game after he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Wednesday. Jeffery is expected to be out 2-4 weeks.
- Created on 26 November 2012
The Bears convincingly snapped a two-game losing streak and took over first place in the NFC North by night's end with a 28-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field. But several starters paid a hefty price.
Running back Matt Forte (ankle), receiver Devin Hester (concussion), cornerback Charles Tillman (ankle) and guard Lance Louis (knee) didn't finish the game. Left guard Chris Spencer missed some snaps with a knee injury, returned, then left for the rest of the game. In addition, linebacker Lance Briggs left the locker room with his right foot in a walking boot.
"I normally don't write down injuries on a sheet here, but there were so many I had to remember them all," coach Lovie Smith said. "It's always a concern when they don't come back in the game."
Smith didn't shed any light on the severity of those players' injuries.
The key for the Bears was regrouping after consecutive losses to playoff-caliber teams, especially on offense. The first two snaps couldn't have been more disastrous — Forte fumbled and Jay Cutler was sacked because he tripped over center Roberto Garza's foot.
After two drives, the Bears' offense had netted a single yard.
But the defense allowed just a field goal and handed its offense a shortened field after forcing and recovering a fumble by Adrian Peterson at the Vikings' 34-yard line.
After missing one game with a concussion, Cutler completed two passes for 26 yards before running back Michael Bush scored easily from a yard out to give the Bears a 7-3 lead.
The Bears scored 25 unanswered points until the Vikings stopped the momentum with a touchdown catch by Kyle Rudolph after Cutler was intercepted early in the third quarter.
"Against a team like Chicago, in Chicago, you have to play a pretty flawless game," Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder said. "We turned the ball over three times."
While Peterson lost a fumble, he still averaged six yards per run. The Vikings handed him the ball just 18 times.
And early in the fourth quarter, with the ball at the Bears' 8, the Vikings lined up in the shotgun and attempted two passes, both of which were incomplete.
"You can second-guess them to death, but we thought we had some good plays called," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "It just didn't work out."
After catching two passes in San Francisco, Brandon Marshall rebounded with 12 catches for 92 yards, becoming the first Bears receiver to top 1,000 yards since Marty Booker in 2002. Cutler had a lot to do with that, completing 23 of 31 passes for 188 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Marshall pointed to Earl Bennett and Kellen Davis for getting the Bears going on the first scoring drive.
"I'm excited to see the offense rolling the way we did today," Marshall said. "We had a lot of rhythm, and we still left a lot out there."
Next Sunday, the Bears (8-3) will host the Seattle Seahawks (6-5), who were edged 24-21 in Miami. But the Seahawks' third-ranked defense might lose two key players. There were reports Sunday night that starting cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner — who have combined for seven interceptions — face four-game suspensions for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy.The Green Bay Packers' 38-10 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday night put the Bears alone in first place.
- Created on 20 November 2012
(AP) — No matter the play or formation, Jason Campbell looked left after almost every snap. His eyes opened wide, and his head turned fast — rarely ever for a receiver.
Campbell's fill-in start for Jay Cutler turned into a painful outing Monday night, throwing two interceptions and getting sacked six times in the Chicago Bears' 32-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Aldon Smith sacked Campbell 5½ times alone.
"Tonight was probably the worst nightmare," Campbell said.
Campbell completed 14 of 22 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown with Cutler out with a concussion. The former Raiders quarterback, making his first start since last October before a broken collarbone forced him to miss the final 10 games for Oakland, had little help on either side of the ball.
The 49ers limited Matt Forte to 63 yards on 21 carries — not much better than his 41-yard day on 20 carries in a 10-6 loss at Candlestick Park in 2009, when Cutler threw five interceptions.
"Definitely one of the toughest games I've been involved in in my career," Campbell said.
The Battle of the Backups became a one-sided affair.
Colin Kaepernick passed for 243 yards in his first career start in place of Alex Smith, who also was ruled out with a concussion. Kaepernick threw touchdown passes to Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree, and Kendall Hunter ran for a 14-yard score as San Francisco (7-2-1) jumped out to a big lead by scoring on each of its first four possessions — with Aldon Smith wreaking havoc as Chicago's offensive line collapsed.
In a matchup of NFC division leaders, Campbell's lone highlight came when he threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall in the third quarter. He faced fierce pressure all night for the Bears (7-3), who fell back into a tie with Green Bay in the NFC North.
Green Bay owns the tiebreaker after beating the Bears in Week 2. Chicago has now lost two straight following a six-game winning streak and, even worse, showing signs of regression.
"We have to leave this game as quickly as we possibly can, because we didn't do anything," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "There's nothing good really to talk about."
Chicago certainly has no quarterback controversy now — except for maybe its backup role.
After Kaepernick's stellar night on the big stage, however, there's certain to be chatter of a permanent quarterback swap for the NFC West-leading Niners.
Aldon Smith took over the NFL sacks lead with 15, passing Denver's Von Miller with 13, after the second-best total in 49ers franchise history behind Fred Dean's six-sack day on Nov. 13, 1983, against New Orleans. Tarell Brown and Dashon Goldson each had an interception for San Francisco's stingy defense, which shut down Campbell, Forte and Co. three years after the teams last met.
"We were playing our defense, stopping the run and then stopping the pass," Aldon Smith said. "I was just playing my game and getting after it."
Kaepernick, Aldon Smith and Hunter sure made general manager Trent Baalke look good for his selections from the 2011 draft class.
And reigning NFL Coach of the Year Jim Harbaugh earned a key victory four days after his own health issue. The 48-year-old Harbaugh underwent a minor procedure for an irregular heartbeat Thursday.
The 49ers added a safety in the fourth quarter after a replay review. With 9:24 left, former San Francisco offensive lineman Chilo Rachal was called for intentional grounding out of the end zone, but Harbaugh challenged and the review showed Rachal's knee was down in the end zone before the ball left.
"It definitely wasn't our best effort, by no means," Campbell said.
The soft-spoken, stone-faced Kaepernick went 16 for 23 with a 133.1 passer rating. He completed 12 of his first 14 passes with a 57-yard strike to Kyle Williams that set up Davis' 3-yard TD on the next play — and he already had amassed 126 yards passing by the end of the first quarter.
The 49ers led 17-0 on Hunter's early TD run in the second, quickly topping the 14.8 points the Bears were allowing per game.
Kaepernick threw for 184 yards in the first half alone — an impressive outing for the second-year pro selected in the second round out of Nevada.
San Francisco outgained Chicago 249-35 in a lopsided first half.
"I think we all let the team down at one point or another in the ballgame," Marshall said. "We're just taking turns, whether it's me at wide receiver or the next man, we're just not making enough plays and not getting it done. It's frustrating."
Campbell was slow to get up after a hit by Ahmad Brooks with 6:06 left in the third quarter, not an encouraging sign as third-string QB Josh McCown started loosening up.
Things were much less stressful on the opposite sideline, where Kaepernick chatted between series with Alex Smith — who was out of uniform and dressed in red 49ers jacket on a crisp, windy fall evening at sold-out Candlestick Park.
San Francisco featured the opportunistic, ball-hawking defense this time after the Bears came in with an NFL-leading 30 takeaways and 19 interceptions. Instead, Chicago ended up with a minus-2 turnover ratio.
NOTES: The 49ers won their fourth straight Monday Night Football game, fifth in six and seventh of 10. ... San Francisco's 43 Monday Night Football victories match the Dallas Cowboys for the most. ... Bears WR Alshon Jeffery left with a knee injury in the second half.