Steroids fallout: Hall of Fame pitches shutout

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Steroids fallout: Hall of Fame pitches shutout

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- No one was elected to the Hall of Fame this year. When voters closed the doors to Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa, they also shut out everybody else.For only the second time in four decades, baseball writers failed to give any player the 75 percent required for induction to Cooperstown, sending a powerful signal that stars of the Steroids Era will be held to a different standard.All the awards and accomplishments collected over long careers by Bonds, Clemens and Sosa could not offset suspicions those feats were boosted by performance-enhancing drugs.Voters also denied entry Wednesday to fellow newcomers Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling, along with holdovers Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell and Lee Smith.Among the most honored players of their generation, these standouts won't find their images among the 300 bronze plaques on the oak walls in Cooperstown, where -- at least for now -- the doors appear to be bolted shut on anyone tainted by PEDs."After what has been written and said over the last few years I'm not overly surprised," Clemens said in a statement he posted on Twitter.Bonds, Clemens and Sosa retired after the 2007 season. They were eligible for the Hall for the first time and have up to 14 more years on the writers' ballot."Curt Schilling made a good point, everyone was guilty. Either you used PEDs, or you did nothing to stop their use," Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt said in an email to The Associated Press after this year's vote was announced. "This generation got rich. Seems there was a price to pay."Biggio, 20th on the career list with 3,060 hits, appeared on 68.2 percent of the 569 ballots, the highest total but 39 votes shy. The three newcomers with the highest profiles failed to come close to even majority support, with Clemens at 37.6 percent, Bonds at 36.2 and Sosa at 12.5.Other top vote-getters were Morris (67.7), Jeff Bagwell (59.6), Piazza (57.8), Tim Raines (52.2), Lee Smith (47.8) and Schilling (38.8)."I'm kind of glad that nobody got in this year," Hall of Famer Al Kaline said. "I feel honored to be in the Hall of Fame. And I would've felt a little uneasy sitting up there on the stage, listening to some of these new guys talk about how great they were. ... I don't know how great some of these players up for election would've been without drugs. But to me, it's cheating."At ceremonies in Cooperstown on July 28, the only inductees will be three men who died more than 70 years ago: Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O'Day and barehanded catcher Deacon White. They were chosen last month by the 16-member panel considering individuals from the era before integration in 1947."It is a dark day," said Jose Canseco, the former AL MVP who was among the first players to admit using steroids. "I think the players should organize some type of lawsuit against major league baseball or the writers. It's ridiculous. Most of these players really have no evidence against them. They've never tested positive or they've cleared themselves like Roger Clemens."It was the eighth time the BBWAA failed to elect any players. There were four fewer votes than last year and five members submitted blank ballots."With 53 percent you can get to the White House, but you can't get to Cooperstown," BBWAA secretary-treasurer Jack O'Connell said. "It's the 75 percent that makes it difficult."There have been calls for the voting to be taken away from the writers and be given to a more diverse electorate that would include players and broadcasters. The Hall says it is content with the process, which began in 1936."It takes time for history to sort itself out, and I'm not surprised we had a shutout today," Hall President Jeff Idelson said. "I wish we had an electee. I will say that, but I'm not surprised given how volatile this era has been in terms of assessing the qualities and the quantities of the statistics and the impact on the game these players have had."Bonds, baseball's only seven-time Most Valuable Player, hit 762 home runs, including a record 73 in 2001. He was indicted on charges he lied to a grand jury in 2003 when he denied using PEDs but a jury two years ago failed to reach a verdict on three counts he made false statements and convicted him on one obstruction of justice count, finding he gave an evasive answer."It is unimaginable that the best player to ever play the game would not be a unanimous first-ballot selection," said Jeff Borris of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, Bonds' longtime agent.Clemens, the only seven-time Cy Young Award winner, is third in career strikeouts (4,672) and ninth in wins (354). He was acquitted last year on one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements to Congress and two counts of perjury, all stemming from his denials of drug use."To those who did take the time to look at the facts," Clemens said, "we very much appreciate it."Sosa, eighth 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.Since 1961, the only years the writers didn't elect a candidate had been when Yogi Berra topped the 1971 vote by appearing on 67 percent of the ballots cast and when Phil Niekro headed the 1996 ballot at 68 percent -- both got in the following years. The other BBWAA elections without a winner were in 1945, 1946, 1950, 1958 and 1960.Morris will make his final ballot appearance next year, when fellow pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are eligible for the first time along with slugger Frank Thomas."Next year, I think you'll have a rather large class, and this year, for whatever reasons, you had a couple of guys come really close," Commissioner Bud Selig said at the owners' meetings in Paradise Valley, Ariz. "This is not to be voted to make sure that somebody gets in every year. It's to be voted on to make sure that they're deserving. I respect the writers as well as the Hall itself. This idea that this somehow diminishes the Hall or baseball is just ridiculous in my opinion."Players' union head Michael Weiner called the vote "unfortunate, if not sad.""To ignore the historic accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, for example, is hard to justify. Moreover, to penalize players exonerated in legal proceedings -- and others never even implicated -- is simply unfair. The Hall of Fame is supposed to be for the best players to have ever played the game. Several such players were denied access to the Hall today. Hopefully this will be rectified by future voting."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."An Associated Press survey of 112 eligible voters conducted in late November after the ballot was announced indicated Bonds, Clemens and Sosa would fall well short of 50 percent. The big three drew even less support than that as the debate raged over who was Hall worthy.Voters are writers who have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years at any point.BBWAA president Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle said she didn't vote for Bonds, Clemens or Sosa."The evidence for steroid use is too strong," she said.As for Biggio, "I'm surprised he didn't get in."Mark McGwire, 10th on the career home run list with 583, received 16.9 percent on his seventh try, down from 19.5 last year. He got 23.7 percent in 2010 -- a vote before he admitted using steroids and human growth hormone.Rafael Palmeiro, among just four players with 500 homers and 3,000 hits along with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray, received 8.8 percent in his third try, down from 12.6 percent last year. Palmeiro received a 10-day suspension in 2005 for a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, claiming it was due to a vitamin vial given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada.MLB.com's Hal Bodley, the former baseball columnist for USA Today, said Biggio and others paid the price for other players using PEDs."They got caught in the undertow of the steroids thing," he said.Bodley said this BBWAA vote was a "loud and clear" message on the steroids issue. He said he couldn't envision himself voting for stars linked to drugs."We've a forgiving society, I know that," he said. "But I have too great a passion for the sport."NOTES:There were four write-in votes for career hits leader Pete Rose, who never appeared on the ballot because of his lifetime ban that followed an investigation of his gambling while manager of the Cincinnati Reds. ... Two-time NL MVP Dale Murphy received 18.6 percent in his 15th and final appearance. ... At the July 28 ceremonies, the Hall also will honor Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby among a dozen players who never received formal inductions because of restrictions during World War II. ... Piazza has a book due out next month that could change the view of voters before the next election.

Celtics set to face a number of potential first-round foes

Celtics set to face a number of potential first-round foes

BOSTON – Beating the Indiana Pacers 109-100 on Wednesday was about more than padding the win column while improving their position near the top of the East standings.

It was also a potential preview of who they might face in the first round of the playoffs, a scenario that will play itself out several times in the Celtics’ last 10 games of the regular season.

In fact, five of Boston’s remaining games (Miami, Milwaukee twice, Atlanta and Charlotte) are against teams that are likely to be the pool of potential first-round foes that the Celtics will face next month.

And of those five games, three (Miami and Milwaukee twice) will be at the TD Garden which has given rise to optimism that the Celtics can finish the season strong enough to potentially catch the Cleveland Cavaliers for the overall top seed in the East.

Boston’s win over Indiana coupled with Cleveland’s 126-113 loss at Denver moves the Celtics within 1.0 game of the Cavs.

“It’s going to be good for us,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley, referring to playing potential playoff foes to close out the regular season. “Every team is playing hard right now and it’s our job to continue to keep playing the right way and trying to prepare for the playoffs.”

The Celtics did just that on Wednesday against the Pacers, establishing a defensive presence early on that soon morphed into solid play offensively that enabled Boston (46-26) to emerge victorious for the fifth time in their last six games.

And doing so against a potential playoff opponent made the victory that much sweeter.

“It’s very important,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “Every win is big, every game is big. But especially against those teams we might end up facing (in the playoffs). We have to control what we can control, especially at home. We have to take care of business.”

Wednesday’s victory was the latest success story at home for Boston which has won 12 of its last 13 at the TD Garden.

But as well as they have played, the Celtics have left themselves plenty of room for improvement.

They came into Wednesday’s game averaging 13.2 turnovers per game which would be a franchise-low if they can maintain that through these last 10 games.

But on Wednesday, they had 14 turnovers by halftime.

“There were moments in the first half where we were careless,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And then there were moments that it was just like one of those nights where for whatever reason we missed a few catches, we missed a few, probably, easy passes. For whatever reason those nights happen.”

But the Celtics were a completely different team in terms of turnovers in the second half, courtesy of a stern tongue-lashing by Stevens.

The second-half turnaround by Boston turning the ball over – they only had three in the second half – shows both the potential problems and the promise of figuring it out on the fly that makes this Celtics team one to watch come playoff time.

“We’re almost there,” Bradley said. “We’re close.”

Stars, studs and duds: Stevens' strategy key to win vs. Pacers

Stars, studs and duds: Stevens' strategy key to win vs. Pacers

BOSTON – For as long as the Boston Celtics have been winning under Brad Stevens, the team’s depth has been critical to that success.

It affords him the luxury to throw wave after wave after wave at opponents, a tried and true strategy of wearing teams down over time.

But there are times when head coach Brad Stevens will look to match his depth with certain matchups, and that at times results in more players watching from the bench … all night.

That was indeed the case on Wednesday night against Indiana, but you can’t knock the game plan considering how crucial that strategy would be to Boston pulling away for a 109-100 win over the Pacers.

Rotation regulars Terry Rozier and Jonas Jerebko did not play (coaches decision), as did Gerald Green whose status has fluctuated in and out of the rotation most of this season.

Stevens said the decision to shorten the player rotation was purely about matching up best with a physical Pacers team which is why 7-foot center Tyler Zeller saw more action than usual.

“This team was bigger,” Stevens said following the win. “The rebounding was a scary thing. Obviously, they hurt us on the glass big-time in the second half and I wanted a little bit more size.”

Having the ability to go deep into the bench and cater the rotation to a specific opponent is a luxury few NBA teams have at their disposal.

“We’re deep. We’ve been deep since I’ve been here,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “That’s one of the strengths but it’s also … it’s tough for Brad. You obviously want to play everybody and he can’t.”

Stevens knows all too well that the players that did not see action on Wednesday, aren’t happy about not playing.

But to their credit, each of them has been down this road before and while disappointed, they continue to prepare as though they will play the next time out.

“And I respect that,” Stevens said. “And that’s hard. But we’re going to need all those guys and we’re going to need them to be playing great.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Wednesday’s game between Boston and Indiana.

 

STARS

Paul George

It was another dominant scoring night for George who reminded us all that he was indeed the best player on the floor. He led all scorers with 37 points on 11-for-26 shooting with five rebounds and three steals.

Isaiah Thomas

The contributions of others is allowing Thomas to play more manageable minutes and just as important, rest for long stretches in the fourth quarter. He still managed to lead the Celtics with 25 points on 9-for-21 shooting with five assists, a steal and a blocked shot.

 

STUDS

Jeff Teague

Isaiah Thomas had problems early on keeping up with Teague, and that seemed to be just what Teague needed to get going and frankly, not slow down. He had 25 points on 10-for-15 shooting with six assists and a steal.

Avery Bradley

One of the triumvirate of defenders used by Boston on Paul George, Bradley had 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting with eight rebounds and two assists.

Kelly Olynyk

The big nights for Olynyk are starting to become the rule and not so much the exception. He had a near double-double with 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting to go with eight rebounds and four assists.

Tyler Zeller

Six points and three rebounds may not seem like that big a deal. But Zeller’s play once again, even in limited spurts, was one of the keys to Boston coming away with the win. Despite playing fewer minutes than any Celtic off the bench, he had a plus/minus of +8 which was second among reserves only to Kelly Olynyk (+12).

 

DUDS

Celtics turnovers

Boston did a much better job at limiting turnovers in the second half, but the damage had already been done with 14 – that’s more than their season average of 13.2 – in the first half.

Celtics defensive boards

Boston was very fortunate that second-chance points didn’t become a bigger factor considering the Pacers had 18 offensive rebounds but only got 15 second-chance points compared to the Celtics who grabbed 10 offensive rebounds which led to 12 second-chance points.