Top MLB Photos

Check out the best shots of the day.

Rochester Red Wings batter Argenis Diaz (13) swings in the on-deck area as a 20-second pitch clock is used during the Triple-A baseball opener between the Buffalo Bisons and Rochester Red Wings in Buffalo, N.Y., Thursday, April 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)
Pace of Play Baseball Pitch Clock
Rochester Red Wings batter Argenis Diaz (13) swings in the on-deck area as a 20-second pitch clock is used during the Triple-A baseball opener between the Buffalo Bisons and Rochester Red Wings in Buffalo, N.Y., Thursday, April 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)
<p>South Side baseball fans have been projecting the future White Sox lineup for more than a year. Now, the folks at Baseball America have made their own projection.</p>
How Baseball America envisions the White Sox starting lineup of the future

South Side baseball fans have been projecting the future White Sox lineup for more than a year. Now, the folks at Baseball America have made their own projection.

<p>South Side baseball fans have been projecting the future White Sox lineup for more than a year. Now, the folks at Baseball America have made their own projection.</p>
How Baseball America envisions the White Sox starting lineup of the future

South Side baseball fans have been projecting the future White Sox lineup for more than a year. Now, the folks at Baseball America have made their own projection.

<p>South Side baseball fans have been projecting the future White Sox lineup for more than a year. Now, the folks at Baseball America have made their own projection.</p>
How Baseball America envisions the White Sox starting lineup of the future

South Side baseball fans have been projecting the future White Sox lineup for more than a year. Now, the folks at Baseball America have made their own projection.

<p>South Side baseball fans have been projecting the future White Sox lineup for more than a year. Now, the folks at Baseball America have made their own projection.</p>
How Baseball America envisions the White Sox starting lineup of the future

South Side baseball fans have been projecting the future White Sox lineup for more than a year. Now, the folks at Baseball America have made their own projection.

FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2017, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates&#39; Andrew McCutchen watches his RBI-single off Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Sal Romano during the third inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh. The Giants acquired McCutchen from the Pirates for right-hander Kyle Crick, minor league outfielder Bryan Reynolds and $500,000 in international signing bonus allocation. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
Bucs make "emotionally challenging" call to trade McCutchen
FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2017, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen watches his RBI-single off Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Sal Romano during the third inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh. The Giants acquired McCutchen from the Pirates for right-hander Kyle Crick, minor league outfielder Bryan Reynolds and $500,000 in international signing bonus allocation. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2017, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates&#39; Andrew McCutchen watches his RBI-single off Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Sal Romano during the third inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh. The Giants acquired McCutchen from the Pirates for right-hander Kyle Crick, minor league outfielder Bryan Reynolds and $500,000 in international signing bonus allocation. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2017, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen watches his RBI-single off Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Sal Romano during the third inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh. The Giants acquired McCutchen from the Pirates for right-hander Kyle Crick, minor league outfielder Bryan Reynolds and $500,000 in international signing bonus allocation. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2017, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen watches his RBI-single off Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Sal Romano during the third inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh. The Giants acquired McCutchen from the Pirates for right-hander Kyle Crick, minor league outfielder Bryan Reynolds and $500,000 in international signing bonus allocation. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
Pittsburgh Pirates hitting coach Jeff Branson doffs his cap to the crowd as they cheer when he was lifted in the seventh inning of the baseball game on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The Pirates won 10-1 as McCutchen hit two home runs, a double, and a singe driving in eight runs. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
West Coast Cutch; Giants acquire OF McCutchen from Pirates
Pittsburgh Pirates hitting coach Jeff Branson doffs his cap to the crowd as they cheer when he was lifted in the seventh inning of the baseball game on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, in Pittsburgh. The Pirates won 10-1 as McCutchen hit two home runs, a double, and a singe driving in eight runs. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Arizona Diamondbacks&#39; Gregor Blanco warms up prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Arizona Diamondbacks' Gregor Blanco warms up prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Arizona Diamondbacks' Gregor Blanco warms up prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Daniel Norris throws to the plate during the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Saturday, May 13, 2017, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Daniel Norris throws to the plate during the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Saturday, May 13, 2017, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Daniel Norris throws to the plate during the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Saturday, May 13, 2017, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Josh Fields dives for a ball hit for a single by Philadelphia Phillies&#39; Freddy Galvis during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Friday, April 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Josh Fields dives for a ball hit for a single by Philadelphia Phillies' Freddy Galvis during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Friday, April 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Josh Fields dives for a ball hit for a single by Philadelphia Phillies' Freddy Galvis during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Friday, April 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
<p>It’s the end of an era in Pittsburgh. Two days after the Pirates dealt staff ace Gerrit Cole to the Astros for a package of prospects, the team made an even bigger move on Monday afternoon, sending former NL MVP and face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen to the Giants in exchange for two minor leaguers: pitcher Kyle Crick and outfielder Bryan Reynolds. With that, the Pirates have become the latest of the National League’s tankers—a dispiritingly large group that threatens to turn a good chunk of the Senior Circuit into a punching bag for the league’s contenders. As for the Giants, adding McCutchen continues their hell-or-high-water attempt at digging out of last year’s 98-loss catastrophe, but while his arrival fills a need, it may not be enough to get them back into contention.</p><p>The 31-year-old McCutchen is as much a Pittsburgh staple as Primanti Bros., the Terrible Towel and Iron City beer. The No. 11 pick of the 2005 draft out of a Florida high school, McCutchen has spent his entire nine-year career in Pirates black-and-gold, emerging as one of the game’s transcendent talents along the way. His apex came in 2013, when he won the MVP award by hitting .317/.404/.508 with 21 homers, 84 RBIs, 27 stolen bases, a 157 OPS+ and 8.1 Wins Above Replacement—that last one a career high. He was an instrumental part of the first Pirates team to make the postseason in 21 years, as the once moribund Buccos won 94 games and beat the Reds in the NL wild-card game. But Pittsburgh couldn’t get past long-time rival St. Louis in the Division Series, and though the Pirates ripped off 88- and 98-win seasons in ’14 and ’15, respectively, they were dropped both times in the wild-card game and haven’t been back to the playoffs since.</p><p>As Pittsburgh’s fortunes fell, so did McCutchen’s production. His 2014 and ’15 seasons were both stellar, but ’16 saw a sharp decline in his overall numbers, as he posted full-season lows in all three slash stats, OPS+ (104), and stolen bases (six, with seven times caught stealing). His defense, too, fell completely apart, as he stumbled to a horrific -28 Defensive Runs Saved in centerfield. All of that added up to -0.7 WAR on the year—third worst among all hitters with 450 or more plate appearances on the season. He rebounded in 2017, hitting .279/.363/.486 with a 121 OPS+ and 2.5 WAR, but his days as a superstar look to be over.</p><p>So, too, are the Pirates’ days as contenders; after falling to 78 wins in 2016 and 75 last year, Pittsburgh has begun the teardown. And while there’ll be plenty of young Pirates fans crying tonight over the loss of their childhood superstar, moving McCutchen—a free agent at season’s end—was fait accompli once the front office decided to ship Cole to Houston.</p><p>Whether the Pirates should be rebuilding is another question entirely. Certainly they would have been hard-pressed to challenge the Cubs, Cardinals or rising Brewers in the NL Central this year. But the return for Cole felt light, and McCutchen’s trade didn’t bring back any true blue-chippers either. Crick is a 25-year-old former first-rounder with a big fastball, but his control problems mean he’s likely no more than a future reliever. Reynolds, San Francisco’s top pick in the 2016 draft, is the better get as a switch-hitting college bat with plus speed and contact, but he needs to work on his plate discipline, and his stock will suffer if he can’t stick in centerfield. Debate all you want whether or not gutting the roster is the right move for the Pirates, but neither of these trades inspires much confidence that the next great Pittsburgh team is anywhere near existence, and they won’t make fans currently schlepping their Cole and McCutchen jerseys to Goodwill feel any better either.</p><p>It’s hard not to feel like this is more about the money for the Pirates, who between Cole and McCutchen have cut $21.5 million from their books in 48 hours. Pittsburgh has never been a big spender—its 2016 payroll of $109 million was fifth-lowest in baseball and nearly $50 million below the league average. But while the Pirates are nowhere near the Yankees or Dodgers in terms of financial power, they also don’t have onerous long-term deals on the roster—and they have <a href="http://mlb.nbcsports.com/2017/12/15/each-owner-will-get-at-least-50-million-in-early-2018-from-he-sale-of-bamtech/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:a $50 million infusion of cash headed their way" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">a $50 million infusion of cash headed their way</a> (as do the other 29 teams) as a result of MLB’s sale of BAMTech, the league’s streaming video service, to Disney last August. Between that and their cut of the league’s revenue sharing, the money should be there if Pittsburgh wanted to spend it.</p><p>Nor was this a Pirates team with no hope going forward. McCutchen may have been a goner next winter, but Cole, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Jameson Taillon, and top prospect Adam Frazier are as enviable a core as any with which to build a contender both in the present and the future. It would’ve been tricky to navigate, but there was a path to Pittsburgh winning in 2018 and beyond if the team committed to spending where needed.</p><p>Instead, the Pirates will tear it down, with veterans Josh Harrison, Francisco Cervelli and Jordy Mercer strong bets to be moved in the next month or so. In doing so, Pittsburgh will join the Marlins, Braves, Phillies, Reds, and Padres in turning nearly half of the NL into a competition-free joke—a morass of 60-to-75-win teams choosing to aim for a distant horizon of success over investing money into fielding a contending squad. It’s a shame for both Pirates fans and the league as a whole that this is the current state of baseball, increasingly divided into super-contenders and bottom-feeders with no one in between. Bottoming out can pay dividends, as the Cubs and Astros have proven, but it’s still a risky move that threatens to plunge the Pirates back into their pre-McCutchen irrelevance.</p><p>The Giants, meanwhile, will try to crawl out of that uninspiring group of bummers—not that they really had much choice either way. A total disaster in 2017, San Francisco’s options this winter were limited. The team’s payroll was already strapped, with $191 million spent last year for a last-place finish and $150 million already committed to 2018 before a single player had been signed. Ordinarily, losing damn near 100 games is a sign that it’s time to blow it all up. But the Giants are relatively bereft of the players you move in a fire sale; their roster is primarily composed of aging veterans earning superstar dollars and Madison Bumgarner making peanuts. Bumgarner and Buster Posey aside, there is virtually no one the Giants could move to start a rebuild and get back the top prospects needed to improve an anemic farm system.</p><p>As such, trading for McCutchen is the way forward. He’s an easier piece to add than Evan Longoria, who still has five years and $86 million to go on his deal. With only one year and $14.75 million left on his contract, McCutchen isn’t much of a cost outlay. And even with his powers diminished, he should provide a gigantic boost to an outfield unit that was absolutely wretched in 2017; Giants outfielders posted a.685 OPS last year, dead last in the league.</p><p>Where McCutchen will play in that outfield, though, remains to be seen. After his disastrous 2016, the plan was to move the former Gold Glover out of centerfield and into right, with Marte taking his place. But the latter’s PED suspension scuttled that idea, and while McCutchen wasn’t great, he was passable enough that San Francisco could stick with him. The potential problem is AT&#38;T Park’s cavernous outfield—404 feet to the left-center gap, an absurd 421 feet to right-center. Covering that much ground is a tall task for even the game’s best centerfielders; it’ll be a brutal test for McCutchen, who’ll turn 32 in October and whose range is already slipping.</p><p>No matter what McCutchen does offensively or whether he’s in center or left, though, he’ll be an upgrade over the likes of Gorkys Hernandez and Jarrett Parker. But like Longoria, while he’s an improvement, he’s a limited one who doesn’t help an old team get any younger.</p><p>Like the Pirates, the Giants faced a tricky and dangerous road back to contention in 2018. San Fransciso has chosen to walk it, embracing <a href="http://www.complex.com/music/2017/04/former-fyre-festival-organizer-details-problems" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the Fyre Festival founder mentality" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the Fyre Festival founder mentality</a> of “Let’s just do it and be legends.” By acquiring McCutchen, the Giants have gone all in, but there’s no guarantee that even the former MVP at his best has enough to turn them into contenders—especially with the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies all blocking their way in the NL West.</p><p>Then again, what else could the Giants have done? Besides, maybe history will be on their side once more. A little over 25 years ago, San Francisco made an offseason splash by acquiring another former MVP who wore No. 22 from the Pirates. His name was Barry Bonds. Pirates fans will have to hope that this won’t be déjà vu.</p>
Pirates Continue Their Teardown by Trading Andrew McCutchen to the Giants

It’s the end of an era in Pittsburgh. Two days after the Pirates dealt staff ace Gerrit Cole to the Astros for a package of prospects, the team made an even bigger move on Monday afternoon, sending former NL MVP and face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen to the Giants in exchange for two minor leaguers: pitcher Kyle Crick and outfielder Bryan Reynolds. With that, the Pirates have become the latest of the National League’s tankers—a dispiritingly large group that threatens to turn a good chunk of the Senior Circuit into a punching bag for the league’s contenders. As for the Giants, adding McCutchen continues their hell-or-high-water attempt at digging out of last year’s 98-loss catastrophe, but while his arrival fills a need, it may not be enough to get them back into contention.

The 31-year-old McCutchen is as much a Pittsburgh staple as Primanti Bros., the Terrible Towel and Iron City beer. The No. 11 pick of the 2005 draft out of a Florida high school, McCutchen has spent his entire nine-year career in Pirates black-and-gold, emerging as one of the game’s transcendent talents along the way. His apex came in 2013, when he won the MVP award by hitting .317/.404/.508 with 21 homers, 84 RBIs, 27 stolen bases, a 157 OPS+ and 8.1 Wins Above Replacement—that last one a career high. He was an instrumental part of the first Pirates team to make the postseason in 21 years, as the once moribund Buccos won 94 games and beat the Reds in the NL wild-card game. But Pittsburgh couldn’t get past long-time rival St. Louis in the Division Series, and though the Pirates ripped off 88- and 98-win seasons in ’14 and ’15, respectively, they were dropped both times in the wild-card game and haven’t been back to the playoffs since.

As Pittsburgh’s fortunes fell, so did McCutchen’s production. His 2014 and ’15 seasons were both stellar, but ’16 saw a sharp decline in his overall numbers, as he posted full-season lows in all three slash stats, OPS+ (104), and stolen bases (six, with seven times caught stealing). His defense, too, fell completely apart, as he stumbled to a horrific -28 Defensive Runs Saved in centerfield. All of that added up to -0.7 WAR on the year—third worst among all hitters with 450 or more plate appearances on the season. He rebounded in 2017, hitting .279/.363/.486 with a 121 OPS+ and 2.5 WAR, but his days as a superstar look to be over.

So, too, are the Pirates’ days as contenders; after falling to 78 wins in 2016 and 75 last year, Pittsburgh has begun the teardown. And while there’ll be plenty of young Pirates fans crying tonight over the loss of their childhood superstar, moving McCutchen—a free agent at season’s end—was fait accompli once the front office decided to ship Cole to Houston.

Whether the Pirates should be rebuilding is another question entirely. Certainly they would have been hard-pressed to challenge the Cubs, Cardinals or rising Brewers in the NL Central this year. But the return for Cole felt light, and McCutchen’s trade didn’t bring back any true blue-chippers either. Crick is a 25-year-old former first-rounder with a big fastball, but his control problems mean he’s likely no more than a future reliever. Reynolds, San Francisco’s top pick in the 2016 draft, is the better get as a switch-hitting college bat with plus speed and contact, but he needs to work on his plate discipline, and his stock will suffer if he can’t stick in centerfield. Debate all you want whether or not gutting the roster is the right move for the Pirates, but neither of these trades inspires much confidence that the next great Pittsburgh team is anywhere near existence, and they won’t make fans currently schlepping their Cole and McCutchen jerseys to Goodwill feel any better either.

It’s hard not to feel like this is more about the money for the Pirates, who between Cole and McCutchen have cut $21.5 million from their books in 48 hours. Pittsburgh has never been a big spender—its 2016 payroll of $109 million was fifth-lowest in baseball and nearly $50 million below the league average. But while the Pirates are nowhere near the Yankees or Dodgers in terms of financial power, they also don’t have onerous long-term deals on the roster—and they have a $50 million infusion of cash headed their way (as do the other 29 teams) as a result of MLB’s sale of BAMTech, the league’s streaming video service, to Disney last August. Between that and their cut of the league’s revenue sharing, the money should be there if Pittsburgh wanted to spend it.

Nor was this a Pirates team with no hope going forward. McCutchen may have been a goner next winter, but Cole, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Jameson Taillon, and top prospect Adam Frazier are as enviable a core as any with which to build a contender both in the present and the future. It would’ve been tricky to navigate, but there was a path to Pittsburgh winning in 2018 and beyond if the team committed to spending where needed.

Instead, the Pirates will tear it down, with veterans Josh Harrison, Francisco Cervelli and Jordy Mercer strong bets to be moved in the next month or so. In doing so, Pittsburgh will join the Marlins, Braves, Phillies, Reds, and Padres in turning nearly half of the NL into a competition-free joke—a morass of 60-to-75-win teams choosing to aim for a distant horizon of success over investing money into fielding a contending squad. It’s a shame for both Pirates fans and the league as a whole that this is the current state of baseball, increasingly divided into super-contenders and bottom-feeders with no one in between. Bottoming out can pay dividends, as the Cubs and Astros have proven, but it’s still a risky move that threatens to plunge the Pirates back into their pre-McCutchen irrelevance.

The Giants, meanwhile, will try to crawl out of that uninspiring group of bummers—not that they really had much choice either way. A total disaster in 2017, San Francisco’s options this winter were limited. The team’s payroll was already strapped, with $191 million spent last year for a last-place finish and $150 million already committed to 2018 before a single player had been signed. Ordinarily, losing damn near 100 games is a sign that it’s time to blow it all up. But the Giants are relatively bereft of the players you move in a fire sale; their roster is primarily composed of aging veterans earning superstar dollars and Madison Bumgarner making peanuts. Bumgarner and Buster Posey aside, there is virtually no one the Giants could move to start a rebuild and get back the top prospects needed to improve an anemic farm system.

As such, trading for McCutchen is the way forward. He’s an easier piece to add than Evan Longoria, who still has five years and $86 million to go on his deal. With only one year and $14.75 million left on his contract, McCutchen isn’t much of a cost outlay. And even with his powers diminished, he should provide a gigantic boost to an outfield unit that was absolutely wretched in 2017; Giants outfielders posted a.685 OPS last year, dead last in the league.

Where McCutchen will play in that outfield, though, remains to be seen. After his disastrous 2016, the plan was to move the former Gold Glover out of centerfield and into right, with Marte taking his place. But the latter’s PED suspension scuttled that idea, and while McCutchen wasn’t great, he was passable enough that San Francisco could stick with him. The potential problem is AT&T Park’s cavernous outfield—404 feet to the left-center gap, an absurd 421 feet to right-center. Covering that much ground is a tall task for even the game’s best centerfielders; it’ll be a brutal test for McCutchen, who’ll turn 32 in October and whose range is already slipping.

No matter what McCutchen does offensively or whether he’s in center or left, though, he’ll be an upgrade over the likes of Gorkys Hernandez and Jarrett Parker. But like Longoria, while he’s an improvement, he’s a limited one who doesn’t help an old team get any younger.

Like the Pirates, the Giants faced a tricky and dangerous road back to contention in 2018. San Fransciso has chosen to walk it, embracing the Fyre Festival founder mentality of “Let’s just do it and be legends.” By acquiring McCutchen, the Giants have gone all in, but there’s no guarantee that even the former MVP at his best has enough to turn them into contenders—especially with the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies all blocking their way in the NL West.

Then again, what else could the Giants have done? Besides, maybe history will be on their side once more. A little over 25 years ago, San Francisco made an offseason splash by acquiring another former MVP who wore No. 22 from the Pirates. His name was Barry Bonds. Pirates fans will have to hope that this won’t be déjà vu.

<p>It’s the end of an era in Pittsburgh. Two days after the Pirates dealt staff ace Gerrit Cole to the Astros for a package of prospects, the team made an even bigger move on Monday afternoon, sending former NL MVP and face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen to the Giants in exchange for two minor leaguers: pitcher Kyle Crick and outfielder Bryan Reynolds. With that, the Pirates have become the latest of the National League’s tankers—a dispiritingly large group that threatens to turn a good chunk of the Senior Circuit into a punching bag for the league’s contenders. As for the Giants, adding McCutchen continues their hell-or-high-water attempt at digging out of last year’s 98-loss catastrophe, but while his arrival fills a need, it may not be enough to get them back into contention.</p><p>The 31-year-old McCutchen is as much a Pittsburgh staple as Primanti Bros., the Terrible Towel and Iron City beer. The No. 11 pick of the 2005 draft out of a Florida high school, McCutchen has spent his entire nine-year career in Pirates black-and-gold, emerging as one of the game’s transcendent talents along the way. His apex came in 2013, when he won the MVP award by hitting .317/.404/.508 with 21 homers, 84 RBIs, 27 stolen bases, a 157 OPS+ and 8.1 Wins Above Replacement—that last one a career high. He was an instrumental part of the first Pirates team to make the postseason in 21 years, as the once moribund Buccos won 94 games and beat the Reds in the NL wild-card game. But Pittsburgh couldn’t get past long-time rival St. Louis in the Division Series, and though the Pirates ripped off 88- and 98-win seasons in ’14 and ’15, respectively, they were dropped both times in the wild-card game and haven’t been back to the playoffs since.</p><p>As Pittsburgh’s fortunes fell, so did McCutchen’s production. His 2014 and ’15 seasons were both stellar, but ’16 saw a sharp decline in his overall numbers, as he posted full-season lows in all three slash stats, OPS+ (104), and stolen bases (six, with seven times caught stealing). His defense, too, fell completely apart, as he stumbled to a horrific -28 Defensive Runs Saved in centerfield. All of that added up to -0.7 WAR on the year—third worst among all hitters with 450 or more plate appearances on the season. He rebounded in 2017, hitting .279/.363/.486 with a 121 OPS+ and 2.5 WAR, but his days as a superstar look to be over.</p><p>So, too, are the Pirates’ days as contenders; after falling to 78 wins in 2016 and 75 last year, Pittsburgh has begun the teardown. And while there’ll be plenty of young Pirates fans crying tonight over the loss of their childhood superstar, moving McCutchen—a free agent at season’s end—was fait accompli once the front office decided to ship Cole to Houston.</p><p>Whether the Pirates should be rebuilding is another question entirely. Certainly they would have been hard-pressed to challenge the Cubs, Cardinals or rising Brewers in the NL Central this year. But the return for Cole felt light, and McCutchen’s trade didn’t bring back any true blue-chippers either. Crick is a 25-year-old former first-rounder with a big fastball, but his control problems mean he’s likely no more than a future reliever. Reynolds, San Francisco’s top pick in the 2016 draft, is the better get as a switch-hitting college bat with plus speed and contact, but he needs to work on his plate discipline, and his stock will suffer if he can’t stick in centerfield. Debate all you want whether or not gutting the roster is the right move for the Pirates, but neither of these trades inspires much confidence that the next great Pittsburgh team is anywhere near existence, and they won’t make fans currently schlepping their Cole and McCutchen jerseys to Goodwill feel any better either.</p><p>It’s hard not to feel like this is more about the money for the Pirates, who between Cole and McCutchen have cut $21.5 million from their books in 48 hours. Pittsburgh has never been a big spender—its 2016 payroll of $109 million was fifth-lowest in baseball and nearly $50 million below the league average. But while the Pirates are nowhere near the Yankees or Dodgers in terms of financial power, they also don’t have onerous long-term deals on the roster—and they have <a href="http://mlb.nbcsports.com/2017/12/15/each-owner-will-get-at-least-50-million-in-early-2018-from-he-sale-of-bamtech/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:a $50 million infusion of cash headed their way" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">a $50 million infusion of cash headed their way</a> (as do the other 29 teams) as a result of MLB’s sale of BAMTech, the league’s streaming video service, to Disney last August. Between that and their cut of the league’s revenue sharing, the money should be there if Pittsburgh wanted to spend it.</p><p>Nor was this a Pirates team with no hope going forward. McCutchen may have been a goner next winter, but Cole, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Jameson Taillon, and top prospect Adam Frazier are as enviable a core as any with which to build a contender both in the present and the future. It would’ve been tricky to navigate, but there was a path to Pittsburgh winning in 2018 and beyond if the team committed to spending where needed.</p><p>Instead, the Pirates will tear it down, with veterans Josh Harrison, Francisco Cervelli and Jordy Mercer strong bets to be moved in the next month or so. In doing so, Pittsburgh will join the Marlins, Braves, Phillies, Reds, and Padres in turning nearly half of the NL into a competition-free joke—a morass of 60-to-75-win teams choosing to aim for a distant horizon of success over investing money into fielding a contending squad. It’s a shame for both Pirates fans and the league as a whole that this is the current state of baseball, increasingly divided into super-contenders and bottom-feeders with no one in between. Bottoming out can pay dividends, as the Cubs and Astros have proven, but it’s still a risky move that threatens to plunge the Pirates back into their pre-McCutchen irrelevance.</p><p>The Giants, meanwhile, will try to crawl out of that uninspiring group of bummers—not that they really had much choice either way. A total disaster in 2017, San Francisco’s options this winter were limited. The team’s payroll was already strapped, with $191 million spent last year for a last-place finish and $150 million already committed to 2018 before a single player had been signed. Ordinarily, losing damn near 100 games is a sign that it’s time to blow it all up. But the Giants are relatively bereft of the players you move in a fire sale; their roster is primarily composed of aging veterans earning superstar dollars and Madison Bumgarner making peanuts. Bumgarner and Buster Posey aside, there is virtually no one the Giants could move to start a rebuild and get back the top prospects needed to improve an anemic farm system.</p><p>As such, trading for McCutchen is the way forward. He’s an easier piece to add than Evan Longoria, who still has five years and $86 million to go on his deal. With only one year and $14.75 million left on his contract, McCutchen isn’t much of a cost outlay. And even with his powers diminished, he should provide a gigantic boost to an outfield unit that was absolutely wretched in 2017; Giants outfielders posted a.685 OPS last year, dead last in the league.</p><p>Where McCutchen will play in that outfield, though, remains to be seen. After his disastrous 2016, the plan was to move the former Gold Glover out of centerfield and into right, with Marte taking his place. But the latter’s PED suspension scuttled that idea, and while McCutchen wasn’t great, he was passable enough that San Francisco could stick with him. The potential problem is AT&#38;T Park’s cavernous outfield—404 feet to the left-center gap, an absurd 421 feet to right-center. Covering that much ground is a tall task for even the game’s best centerfielders; it’ll be a brutal test for McCutchen, who’ll turn 32 in October and whose range is already slipping.</p><p>No matter what McCutchen does offensively or whether he’s in center or left, though, he’ll be an upgrade over the likes of Gorkys Hernandez and Jarrett Parker. But like Longoria, while he’s an improvement, he’s a limited one who doesn’t help an old team get any younger.</p><p>Like the Pirates, the Giants faced a tricky and dangerous road back to contention in 2018. San Fransciso has chosen to walk it, embracing <a href="http://www.complex.com/music/2017/04/former-fyre-festival-organizer-details-problems" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the Fyre Festival founder mentality" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the Fyre Festival founder mentality</a> of “Let’s just do it and be legends.” By acquiring McCutchen, the Giants have gone all in, but there’s no guarantee that even the former MVP at his best has enough to turn them into contenders—especially with the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies all blocking their way in the NL West.</p><p>Then again, what else could the Giants have done? Besides, maybe history will be on their side once more. A little over 25 years ago, San Francisco made an offseason splash by acquiring another former MVP who wore No. 22 from the Pirates. His name was Barry Bonds. Pirates fans will have to hope that this won’t be déjà vu.</p>
Pirates Continue Their Teardown by Trading Andrew McCutchen to the Giants

It’s the end of an era in Pittsburgh. Two days after the Pirates dealt staff ace Gerrit Cole to the Astros for a package of prospects, the team made an even bigger move on Monday afternoon, sending former NL MVP and face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen to the Giants in exchange for two minor leaguers: pitcher Kyle Crick and outfielder Bryan Reynolds. With that, the Pirates have become the latest of the National League’s tankers—a dispiritingly large group that threatens to turn a good chunk of the Senior Circuit into a punching bag for the league’s contenders. As for the Giants, adding McCutchen continues their hell-or-high-water attempt at digging out of last year’s 98-loss catastrophe, but while his arrival fills a need, it may not be enough to get them back into contention.

The 31-year-old McCutchen is as much a Pittsburgh staple as Primanti Bros., the Terrible Towel and Iron City beer. The No. 11 pick of the 2005 draft out of a Florida high school, McCutchen has spent his entire nine-year career in Pirates black-and-gold, emerging as one of the game’s transcendent talents along the way. His apex came in 2013, when he won the MVP award by hitting .317/.404/.508 with 21 homers, 84 RBIs, 27 stolen bases, a 157 OPS+ and 8.1 Wins Above Replacement—that last one a career high. He was an instrumental part of the first Pirates team to make the postseason in 21 years, as the once moribund Buccos won 94 games and beat the Reds in the NL wild-card game. But Pittsburgh couldn’t get past long-time rival St. Louis in the Division Series, and though the Pirates ripped off 88- and 98-win seasons in ’14 and ’15, respectively, they were dropped both times in the wild-card game and haven’t been back to the playoffs since.

As Pittsburgh’s fortunes fell, so did McCutchen’s production. His 2014 and ’15 seasons were both stellar, but ’16 saw a sharp decline in his overall numbers, as he posted full-season lows in all three slash stats, OPS+ (104), and stolen bases (six, with seven times caught stealing). His defense, too, fell completely apart, as he stumbled to a horrific -28 Defensive Runs Saved in centerfield. All of that added up to -0.7 WAR on the year—third worst among all hitters with 450 or more plate appearances on the season. He rebounded in 2017, hitting .279/.363/.486 with a 121 OPS+ and 2.5 WAR, but his days as a superstar look to be over.

So, too, are the Pirates’ days as contenders; after falling to 78 wins in 2016 and 75 last year, Pittsburgh has begun the teardown. And while there’ll be plenty of young Pirates fans crying tonight over the loss of their childhood superstar, moving McCutchen—a free agent at season’s end—was fait accompli once the front office decided to ship Cole to Houston.

Whether the Pirates should be rebuilding is another question entirely. Certainly they would have been hard-pressed to challenge the Cubs, Cardinals or rising Brewers in the NL Central this year. But the return for Cole felt light, and McCutchen’s trade didn’t bring back any true blue-chippers either. Crick is a 25-year-old former first-rounder with a big fastball, but his control problems mean he’s likely no more than a future reliever. Reynolds, San Francisco’s top pick in the 2016 draft, is the better get as a switch-hitting college bat with plus speed and contact, but he needs to work on his plate discipline, and his stock will suffer if he can’t stick in centerfield. Debate all you want whether or not gutting the roster is the right move for the Pirates, but neither of these trades inspires much confidence that the next great Pittsburgh team is anywhere near existence, and they won’t make fans currently schlepping their Cole and McCutchen jerseys to Goodwill feel any better either.

It’s hard not to feel like this is more about the money for the Pirates, who between Cole and McCutchen have cut $21.5 million from their books in 48 hours. Pittsburgh has never been a big spender—its 2016 payroll of $109 million was fifth-lowest in baseball and nearly $50 million below the league average. But while the Pirates are nowhere near the Yankees or Dodgers in terms of financial power, they also don’t have onerous long-term deals on the roster—and they have a $50 million infusion of cash headed their way (as do the other 29 teams) as a result of MLB’s sale of BAMTech, the league’s streaming video service, to Disney last August. Between that and their cut of the league’s revenue sharing, the money should be there if Pittsburgh wanted to spend it.

Nor was this a Pirates team with no hope going forward. McCutchen may have been a goner next winter, but Cole, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Jameson Taillon, and top prospect Adam Frazier are as enviable a core as any with which to build a contender both in the present and the future. It would’ve been tricky to navigate, but there was a path to Pittsburgh winning in 2018 and beyond if the team committed to spending where needed.

Instead, the Pirates will tear it down, with veterans Josh Harrison, Francisco Cervelli and Jordy Mercer strong bets to be moved in the next month or so. In doing so, Pittsburgh will join the Marlins, Braves, Phillies, Reds, and Padres in turning nearly half of the NL into a competition-free joke—a morass of 60-to-75-win teams choosing to aim for a distant horizon of success over investing money into fielding a contending squad. It’s a shame for both Pirates fans and the league as a whole that this is the current state of baseball, increasingly divided into super-contenders and bottom-feeders with no one in between. Bottoming out can pay dividends, as the Cubs and Astros have proven, but it’s still a risky move that threatens to plunge the Pirates back into their pre-McCutchen irrelevance.

The Giants, meanwhile, will try to crawl out of that uninspiring group of bummers—not that they really had much choice either way. A total disaster in 2017, San Francisco’s options this winter were limited. The team’s payroll was already strapped, with $191 million spent last year for a last-place finish and $150 million already committed to 2018 before a single player had been signed. Ordinarily, losing damn near 100 games is a sign that it’s time to blow it all up. But the Giants are relatively bereft of the players you move in a fire sale; their roster is primarily composed of aging veterans earning superstar dollars and Madison Bumgarner making peanuts. Bumgarner and Buster Posey aside, there is virtually no one the Giants could move to start a rebuild and get back the top prospects needed to improve an anemic farm system.

As such, trading for McCutchen is the way forward. He’s an easier piece to add than Evan Longoria, who still has five years and $86 million to go on his deal. With only one year and $14.75 million left on his contract, McCutchen isn’t much of a cost outlay. And even with his powers diminished, he should provide a gigantic boost to an outfield unit that was absolutely wretched in 2017; Giants outfielders posted a.685 OPS last year, dead last in the league.

Where McCutchen will play in that outfield, though, remains to be seen. After his disastrous 2016, the plan was to move the former Gold Glover out of centerfield and into right, with Marte taking his place. But the latter’s PED suspension scuttled that idea, and while McCutchen wasn’t great, he was passable enough that San Francisco could stick with him. The potential problem is AT&T Park’s cavernous outfield—404 feet to the left-center gap, an absurd 421 feet to right-center. Covering that much ground is a tall task for even the game’s best centerfielders; it’ll be a brutal test for McCutchen, who’ll turn 32 in October and whose range is already slipping.

No matter what McCutchen does offensively or whether he’s in center or left, though, he’ll be an upgrade over the likes of Gorkys Hernandez and Jarrett Parker. But like Longoria, while he’s an improvement, he’s a limited one who doesn’t help an old team get any younger.

Like the Pirates, the Giants faced a tricky and dangerous road back to contention in 2018. San Fransciso has chosen to walk it, embracing the Fyre Festival founder mentality of “Let’s just do it and be legends.” By acquiring McCutchen, the Giants have gone all in, but there’s no guarantee that even the former MVP at his best has enough to turn them into contenders—especially with the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies all blocking their way in the NL West.

Then again, what else could the Giants have done? Besides, maybe history will be on their side once more. A little over 25 years ago, San Francisco made an offseason splash by acquiring another former MVP who wore No. 22 from the Pirates. His name was Barry Bonds. Pirates fans will have to hope that this won’t be déjà vu.

FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2017, file photo, Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Addison Reed throws in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati. The right-handed reliever and the Minnesota Twins finalized a $16.75 million, two-year contract over the weekend, putting another pitcher with closing experience in the back of the Twins bullpen. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
Reliever Addison Reed, Twins finalize $16.75M, 2-year deal
FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2017, file photo, Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Addison Reed throws in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati. The right-handed reliever and the Minnesota Twins finalized a $16.75 million, two-year contract over the weekend, putting another pitcher with closing experience in the back of the Twins bullpen. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2017, file photo, Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Addison Reed throws in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati. The right-handed reliever and the Minnesota Twins finalized a $16.75 million, two-year contract over the weekend, putting another pitcher with closing experience in the back of the Twins’ bullpen. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2017, file photo, Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Addison Reed throws in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati. The right-handed reliever and the Minnesota Twins finalized a $16.75 million, two-year contract over the weekend, putting another pitcher with closing experience in the back of the Twins’ bullpen. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2017, file photo, Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Addison Reed throws in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati. The right-handed reliever and the Minnesota Twins finalized a $16.75 million, two-year contract over the weekend, putting another pitcher with closing experience in the back of the Twins’ bullpen. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2017, file photo, Washington Nationals&#39; Howie Kendrick rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Washington. The Nationals have agreed to a $7 million, two-year contract with Kendrick, a deal subject to a successful physical. Agent Pat Murphy confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Howie Kendrick and Nationals agree to $7M, 2-year contract
FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2017, file photo, Washington Nationals' Howie Kendrick rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Washington. The Nationals have agreed to a $7 million, two-year contract with Kendrick, a deal subject to a successful physical. Agent Pat Murphy confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 13, 2017 file photo, Washington Nationals&#39; Howie Kendrick throws off his batting helmet as he celebrates his walkoff grand slam in the 11th inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the San Francisco Giants in Washington. The Nationals have agreed to terms on a $7 million, two-year contract with veteran outfielder Howie Kendrick. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Howie Kendrick and Nationals agree to $7M, 2-year contract
FILE - In this Aug. 13, 2017 file photo, Washington Nationals' Howie Kendrick throws off his batting helmet as he celebrates his walkoff grand slam in the 11th inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the San Francisco Giants in Washington. The Nationals have agreed to terms on a $7 million, two-year contract with veteran outfielder Howie Kendrick. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
FILE - In this Aug. 13, 2017 file photo, Washington Nationals&#39; Howie Kendrick throws off his batting helmet as he celebrates his walkoff grand slam in the 11th inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the San Francisco Giants in Washington. The Nationals have agreed to terms on a $7 million, two-year contract with veteran outfielder Howie Kendrick. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
FILE - In this Aug. 13, 2017 file photo, Washington Nationals' Howie Kendrick throws off his batting helmet as he celebrates his walkoff grand slam in the 11th inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the San Francisco Giants in Washington. The Nationals have agreed to terms on a $7 million, two-year contract with veteran outfielder Howie Kendrick. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
FILE - In this Aug. 13, 2017 file photo, Washington Nationals' Howie Kendrick throws off his batting helmet as he celebrates his walkoff grand slam in the 11th inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the San Francisco Giants in Washington. The Nationals have agreed to terms on a $7 million, two-year contract with veteran outfielder Howie Kendrick. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras has his sights set on veteran catchers Yadier Molina and Buster Posey, determined to become the best catcher in baseball.
Willson Contreras: “I know that I’m going to be better than .”
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras has his sights set on veteran catchers Yadier Molina and Buster Posey, determined to become the best catcher in baseball.
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras has his sights set on veteran catchers Yadier Molina and Buster Posey, determined to become the best catcher in baseball.
Willson Contreras: “I know that I’m going to be better than .”
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras has his sights set on veteran catchers Yadier Molina and Buster Posey, determined to become the best catcher in baseball.
FILE - In this July 21, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins&#39; Justin Morneau waits his turn to bat in the first inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Minneapolis. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Morneau to make retirement official with Twins sendoff
FILE - In this July 21, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau waits his turn to bat in the first inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Minneapolis. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
FILE - In this Aug. 10, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins&#39; Justin Morneau celebrates with teammates after hitting a three-run home run in the third inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox in Chicago. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons.(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Morneau to make retirement official with Twins sendoff
FILE - In this Aug. 10, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau celebrates with teammates after hitting a three-run home run in the third inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox in Chicago. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons.(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins&#39; Justin Morneau watches his home run off Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Ramon Troncoso during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Chicago. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
Morneau to make retirement official with Twins sendoff
FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau watches his home run off Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Ramon Troncoso during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Chicago. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 21, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins&#39; Justin Morneau runs after hitting a double against the Detroit Tigers in the third inning of a baseball game in Detroit. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
Morneau to make retirement official with Twins sendoff
FILE - In this Aug. 21, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau runs after hitting a double against the Detroit Tigers in the third inning of a baseball game in Detroit. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
FILE - In this May 6, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau fields a ground out by Boston Red Sox&#39;s Jacoby Ellsbury (2) during the first inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
Morneau to make retirement official with Twins sendoff
FILE - In this May 6, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau fields a ground out by Boston Red Sox's Jacoby Ellsbury (2) during the first inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins&#39; Justin Morneau watches his home run off Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Ramon Troncoso during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Chicago. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau watches his home run off Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Ramon Troncoso during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Chicago. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau watches his home run off Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Ramon Troncoso during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Chicago. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
FILE - In this July 21, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins&#39; Justin Morneau waits his turn to bat in the first inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Minneapolis. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
FILE - In this July 21, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau waits his turn to bat in the first inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Minneapolis. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
FILE - In this July 21, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau waits his turn to bat in the first inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Minneapolis. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
FILE - In this Aug. 10, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins&#39; Justin Morneau celebrates with teammates after hitting a three-run home run in the third inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox in Chicago. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons.(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
FILE - In this Aug. 10, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau celebrates with teammates after hitting a three-run home run in the third inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox in Chicago. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons.(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
FILE - In this Aug. 10, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau celebrates with teammates after hitting a three-run home run in the third inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox in Chicago. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons.(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
FILE - In this May 6, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau fields a ground out by Boston Red Sox&#39;s Jacoby Ellsbury (2) during the first inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
FILE - In this May 6, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau fields a ground out by Boston Red Sox's Jacoby Ellsbury (2) during the first inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
FILE - In this May 6, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau fields a ground out by Boston Red Sox's Jacoby Ellsbury (2) during the first inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 21, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins&#39; Justin Morneau runs after hitting a double against the Detroit Tigers in the third inning of a baseball game in Detroit. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 21, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau runs after hitting a double against the Detroit Tigers in the third inning of a baseball game in Detroit. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 21, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau runs after hitting a double against the Detroit Tigers in the third inning of a baseball game in Detroit. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP award winner and Minnesota Twins first baseman whose career was derailed by concussion symptoms, has decided to retire with 1,603 hits and 247 home runs over 14 major league seasons. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
For the second straight year Major League Baseball along with USA Baseball is hosting the Dream Series, a unique event which focuses on diversity within the game as it relates to pitchers and catchers. Kansas City is well-represented by Blue Springs South catcher Allante Hall, who is making his second trip to the event. Hall signed with Arkansas in November, but he will likely be a high draft selection in the June amateur draft.
Blue Springs South catcher Allante Hall turns heads at MLB "Dream Series" in Arizona
For the second straight year Major League Baseball along with USA Baseball is hosting the Dream Series, a unique event which focuses on diversity within the game as it relates to pitchers and catchers. Kansas City is well-represented by Blue Springs South catcher Allante Hall, who is making his second trip to the event. Hall signed with Arkansas in November, but he will likely be a high draft selection in the June amateur draft.
For the second straight year Major League Baseball along with USA Baseball is hosting the Dream Series, a unique event which focuses on diversity within the game as it relates to pitchers and catchers. Kansas City is well-represented by Blue Springs South catcher Allante Hall, who is making his second trip to the event. Hall signed with Arkansas in November, but he will likely be a high draft selection in the June amateur draft.
Blue Springs South catcher Allante Hall turns heads at MLB "Dream Series" in Arizona
For the second straight year Major League Baseball along with USA Baseball is hosting the Dream Series, a unique event which focuses on diversity within the game as it relates to pitchers and catchers. Kansas City is well-represented by Blue Springs South catcher Allante Hall, who is making his second trip to the event. Hall signed with Arkansas in November, but he will likely be a high draft selection in the June amateur draft.
For the second straight year Major League Baseball along with USA Baseball is hosting the Dream Series, a unique event which focuses on diversity within the game as it relates to pitchers and catchers. Kansas City is well-represented by Blue Springs South catcher Allante Hall, who is making his second trip to the event. Hall signed with Arkansas in November, but he will likely be a high draft selection in the June amateur draft.
Blue Springs South catcher Allante Hall turns heads at MLB "Dream Series" in Arizona
For the second straight year Major League Baseball along with USA Baseball is hosting the Dream Series, a unique event which focuses on diversity within the game as it relates to pitchers and catchers. Kansas City is well-represented by Blue Springs South catcher Allante Hall, who is making his second trip to the event. Hall signed with Arkansas in November, but he will likely be a high draft selection in the June amateur draft.
For the second straight year Major League Baseball along with USA Baseball is hosting the Dream Series, a unique event which focuses on diversity within the game as it relates to pitchers and catchers. Kansas City is well-represented by Blue Springs South catcher Allante Hall, who is making his second trip to the event. Hall signed with Arkansas in November, but he will likely be a high draft selection in the June amateur draft.
Blue Springs South catcher Allante Hall turns heads at MLB "Dream Series" in Arizona
For the second straight year Major League Baseball along with USA Baseball is hosting the Dream Series, a unique event which focuses on diversity within the game as it relates to pitchers and catchers. Kansas City is well-represented by Blue Springs South catcher Allante Hall, who is making his second trip to the event. Hall signed with Arkansas in November, but he will likely be a high draft selection in the June amateur draft.
FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2017, file photo, Washington Nationals&#39; Howie Kendrick rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Washington. The Nationals have agreed to a $7 million, two-year contract with Kendrick, a deal subject to a successful physical. Agent Pat Murphy confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2017, file photo, Washington Nationals' Howie Kendrick rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Washington. The Nationals have agreed to a $7 million, two-year contract with Kendrick, a deal subject to a successful physical. Agent Pat Murphy confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2017, file photo, Washington Nationals' Howie Kendrick rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Washington. The Nationals have agreed to a $7 million, two-year contract with Kendrick, a deal subject to a successful physical. Agent Pat Murphy confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
FILE - In this May 14, 2017, file photo, a police officer tries to catch a foul ball during seventh inning of a baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners in Toronto. The Blue Jays announced Monday, Jan. 15, 2017, they will extend the protective netting at Rogers Centre to the outfield end of each dugout this season and increase the height of netting behind home plate by approximately 10 feet to 28 feet. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Blue Jays announce plans for extended protective netting
FILE - In this May 14, 2017, file photo, a police officer tries to catch a foul ball during seventh inning of a baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners in Toronto. The Blue Jays announced Monday, Jan. 15, 2017, they will extend the protective netting at Rogers Centre to the outfield end of each dugout this season and increase the height of netting behind home plate by approximately 10 feet to 28 feet. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
<p>The relationship between Sammy Sosa and the Chicago Cubs can best be described as &quot;frosty.&quot; Despite starring on the North Side for 13 years, Sosa remains unwelcome at Cubs games and events since he retired in 2007, thanks in large part to accusations of performance-enhancing drug use that have dogged him over the last decade. And if team owner Tom Ricketts has his way, Sosa will stay on the outside looking in until he owns up to his steroid sins. Via <a href="https://chicago.suntimes.com/sports/tom-ricketts-says-sammy-sosa-owes-owe-us-a-little-bit-of-honesty-for-ped-use/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the Chicago Sun-Times" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the <em>Chicago Sun-Times</em></a>:</p><p>As the <em>Sun-Times</em> notes, this is nothing new on the part of Ricketts or the Cubs, who have more or less mandated that Sosa&#39;s return to the team&#39;s good graces can only happen when he apologizes for using PEDs. &quot;A few things have to happen before he comes back, and we&#39;ll see how that goes,&quot; <a href="http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2368638-sammy-sosa-in-exile-theres-silence-rather-than-apology-from-former-cubs-star" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Ricketts told Cubs fans" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Ricketts told Cubs fans</a> at 2015&#39;s fan convention. As such, he&#39;s been left out of the team&#39;s recent resurgence; he <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-04-24/sports/chi-sammy-sosa-wrigley-celebration-20140424_1_cubs-stars-wrigley-party-wrigley-field" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:wasn&#39;t invited to the franchise&#39;s 100th anniversary celebration" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">wasn&#39;t invited to the franchise&#39;s 100th anniversary celebration</a> of Wrigley Field in 2014; and his uniform number has remained in circulation. Sosa, meanwhile, has expressed his willingness to reunite with the team and to discuss his acrimonious departure, but nothing has come of that. Things weren&#39;t helped when, last February, Sosa <a href="http://www.chuckblogerstrom.com/all-my-stories/my-intention-was-to-finish-my-career-in-chicago-a-conversation-with-sammy-sosa" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:gave an interview to a former Cubs employee" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">gave an interview to a former Cubs employee</a> in which he said he would not beg for forgiveness from the team (and, at one point, compared himself to Jesus Christ); his comments <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/ct-cubs-close-door-sosa-20170222-story.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:apparently upset Cubs ownership enough" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">apparently upset Cubs ownership enough</a> to end any talks of bringing him back into the fold.</p><p>All of this is understandable, both because of Sosa&#39;s PED connection and because of the way <a href="http://www.espn.com/espnmag/story?id=3775936" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:his exit in 2004" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">his exit in 2004</a> (and his conduct, frequently seen as selfish, in years previous) rankled both his teammates and the front office. Sosa also hasn&#39;t won anyone over by being as truculent as he has or by occasionally trashing the team, as he did <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/September-2010/Sammy-Sosa-Cubs-Threw-Me-into-the-FIre/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:in a 2010 feature in Chicago Magazine" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">in a 2010 feature in <em>Chicago Magazine</em></a> where he said the Cubs &quot;threw me into the fire&quot; and &quot;made [people] believe I&#39;m a monster.&quot; It&#39;s also fair that the Cubs, with their World Series drought finally broken and with a core of young, talented and popular stars, would want to leave the past in the past and have nothing to do with a surly steroid cheat.</p><p>On the other hand, the Cubs&#39; stance is rather two-faced. For years, the team profited handsomely off Sosa&#39;s home runs and stardom, raking in millions of dollars in jersey sales, tickets and national exposure. His and Mark McGwire&#39;s chase of Roger Maris&#39; home run record in 1998 wasn&#39;t just one of the seminal moments in baseball history, but it brought life back to a moribund franchise that hadn&#39;t made the playoffs since 1989. But the moment Sosa became a problem, and once it became clear that steroids had become the game&#39;s third rail, Sosa was exiled. There&#39;s also the bizarre idea of Sosa having to apologize for something he was never convicted of doing. Recall that Sosa never once failed a drug test or received a suspension; the only proof we have of his PED use is <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/17/sports/baseball/17doping.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:his name appearing on a leaked 2003 list" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">his name appearing on a leaked 2003 list</a>—obtained by <em>The New York Times</em> in 2009—of players who tested positive for steroids (and the legitimacy of those results has been called into question <a href="http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/17706532/david-ortiz-says-did-wrong-03-failed-drug-test" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:by Rob Manfred himself" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">by Rob Manfred himself</a>).</p><p>What exactly does Sammy Sosa owe the Cubs? The team got rich off of him, regained relevance because of him, and then kicked him aside without a second thought and without ever acknowledging their own complicity in looking the other way as he clobbered home runs. They&#39;ve more or less written him out of the team&#39;s history, and the current owner—who wasn&#39;t a part of the team during Sosa&#39;s tenure—wants him to admit wrongdoing for something that was never proven (and which Sosa adamantly denies he ever did). And the steroid era was not some simple black-and-white reality, something even Ricketts admits: &quot;I think we owe them a lot of understanding.... We have to put ourselves in their shoes and be very, very sympathetic to everything, all the decisions they had to make.&quot; To play morality police after the fact reeks of the Cubs wanting to have their cake and eat it, too.</p><p>But Sosa is no dewy-eyed innocent, and it&#39;s unlikely that any team would want anything to do with a player who carries such heavy and controversial baggage and refuses to address it. The Cubs don&#39;t want or need the headache that is Sosa or all the media attention his return would bring, and there&#39;s presumably a fair chunk of the fanbase that has written him off as well. Should he be welcomed back with open arms just because he was a star back in the day and despite all the angst and bad feelings built up over the last 15 years?</p><p>There&#39;s no good answer to this conundrum. Sosa seems incapable of swallowing his pride and apologizing, and the Cubs seem like they&#39;d rather wash their hands of him and move on. It&#39;s easy to see both sides of that stalemate. But it&#39;s still sad that one of the greatest players in Chicago franchise history remains out in the cold. As <em>SI</em>&#39;s own Jay Jaffe so eloquently put it <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/20/sammy-sosa-hall-fame-ballot-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:in his JAWS writeup of Sosa&#39;s Hall of Fame case" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">in his JAWS writeup of Sosa&#39;s Hall of Fame case</a>: &quot;The shame of it all isn&#39;t that Sosa is unlikely to wind up in Cooperstown, or that the gaudy numbers that placed him in such select company will be largely disregarded. It&#39;s that the joy he brought to fans and throughout the game during that considerable peak is so easily swept aside, as though it meant nothing at the time.&quot;</p>
The Cubs and Sammy Sosa Remain Mired in an Unfortunate Stalemate

The relationship between Sammy Sosa and the Chicago Cubs can best be described as "frosty." Despite starring on the North Side for 13 years, Sosa remains unwelcome at Cubs games and events since he retired in 2007, thanks in large part to accusations of performance-enhancing drug use that have dogged him over the last decade. And if team owner Tom Ricketts has his way, Sosa will stay on the outside looking in until he owns up to his steroid sins. Via the Chicago Sun-Times:

As the Sun-Times notes, this is nothing new on the part of Ricketts or the Cubs, who have more or less mandated that Sosa's return to the team's good graces can only happen when he apologizes for using PEDs. "A few things have to happen before he comes back, and we'll see how that goes," Ricketts told Cubs fans at 2015's fan convention. As such, he's been left out of the team's recent resurgence; he wasn't invited to the franchise's 100th anniversary celebration of Wrigley Field in 2014; and his uniform number has remained in circulation. Sosa, meanwhile, has expressed his willingness to reunite with the team and to discuss his acrimonious departure, but nothing has come of that. Things weren't helped when, last February, Sosa gave an interview to a former Cubs employee in which he said he would not beg for forgiveness from the team (and, at one point, compared himself to Jesus Christ); his comments apparently upset Cubs ownership enough to end any talks of bringing him back into the fold.

All of this is understandable, both because of Sosa's PED connection and because of the way his exit in 2004 (and his conduct, frequently seen as selfish, in years previous) rankled both his teammates and the front office. Sosa also hasn't won anyone over by being as truculent as he has or by occasionally trashing the team, as he did in a 2010 feature in Chicago Magazine where he said the Cubs "threw me into the fire" and "made [people] believe I'm a monster." It's also fair that the Cubs, with their World Series drought finally broken and with a core of young, talented and popular stars, would want to leave the past in the past and have nothing to do with a surly steroid cheat.

On the other hand, the Cubs' stance is rather two-faced. For years, the team profited handsomely off Sosa's home runs and stardom, raking in millions of dollars in jersey sales, tickets and national exposure. His and Mark McGwire's chase of Roger Maris' home run record in 1998 wasn't just one of the seminal moments in baseball history, but it brought life back to a moribund franchise that hadn't made the playoffs since 1989. But the moment Sosa became a problem, and once it became clear that steroids had become the game's third rail, Sosa was exiled. There's also the bizarre idea of Sosa having to apologize for something he was never convicted of doing. Recall that Sosa never once failed a drug test or received a suspension; the only proof we have of his PED use is his name appearing on a leaked 2003 list—obtained by The New York Times in 2009—of players who tested positive for steroids (and the legitimacy of those results has been called into question by Rob Manfred himself).

What exactly does Sammy Sosa owe the Cubs? The team got rich off of him, regained relevance because of him, and then kicked him aside without a second thought and without ever acknowledging their own complicity in looking the other way as he clobbered home runs. They've more or less written him out of the team's history, and the current owner—who wasn't a part of the team during Sosa's tenure—wants him to admit wrongdoing for something that was never proven (and which Sosa adamantly denies he ever did). And the steroid era was not some simple black-and-white reality, something even Ricketts admits: "I think we owe them a lot of understanding.... We have to put ourselves in their shoes and be very, very sympathetic to everything, all the decisions they had to make." To play morality police after the fact reeks of the Cubs wanting to have their cake and eat it, too.

But Sosa is no dewy-eyed innocent, and it's unlikely that any team would want anything to do with a player who carries such heavy and controversial baggage and refuses to address it. The Cubs don't want or need the headache that is Sosa or all the media attention his return would bring, and there's presumably a fair chunk of the fanbase that has written him off as well. Should he be welcomed back with open arms just because he was a star back in the day and despite all the angst and bad feelings built up over the last 15 years?

There's no good answer to this conundrum. Sosa seems incapable of swallowing his pride and apologizing, and the Cubs seem like they'd rather wash their hands of him and move on. It's easy to see both sides of that stalemate. But it's still sad that one of the greatest players in Chicago franchise history remains out in the cold. As SI's own Jay Jaffe so eloquently put it in his JAWS writeup of Sosa's Hall of Fame case: "The shame of it all isn't that Sosa is unlikely to wind up in Cooperstown, or that the gaudy numbers that placed him in such select company will be largely disregarded. It's that the joy he brought to fans and throughout the game during that considerable peak is so easily swept aside, as though it meant nothing at the time."

<p>The relationship between Sammy Sosa and the Chicago Cubs can best be described as &quot;frosty.&quot; Despite starring on the North Side for 13 years, Sosa remains unwelcome at Cubs games and events since he retired in 2007, thanks in large part to accusations of performance-enhancing drug use that have dogged him over the last decade. And if team owner Tom Ricketts has his way, Sosa will stay on the outside looking in until he owns up to his steroid sins. Via <a href="https://chicago.suntimes.com/sports/tom-ricketts-says-sammy-sosa-owes-owe-us-a-little-bit-of-honesty-for-ped-use/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the Chicago Sun-Times" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the <em>Chicago Sun-Times</em></a>:</p><p>As the <em>Sun-Times</em> notes, this is nothing new on the part of Ricketts or the Cubs, who have more or less mandated that Sosa&#39;s return to the team&#39;s good graces can only happen when he apologizes for using PEDs. &quot;A few things have to happen before he comes back, and we&#39;ll see how that goes,&quot; <a href="http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2368638-sammy-sosa-in-exile-theres-silence-rather-than-apology-from-former-cubs-star" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Ricketts told Cubs fans" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Ricketts told Cubs fans</a> at 2015&#39;s fan convention. As such, he&#39;s been left out of the team&#39;s recent resurgence; he <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-04-24/sports/chi-sammy-sosa-wrigley-celebration-20140424_1_cubs-stars-wrigley-party-wrigley-field" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:wasn&#39;t invited to the franchise&#39;s 100th anniversary celebration" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">wasn&#39;t invited to the franchise&#39;s 100th anniversary celebration</a> of Wrigley Field in 2014; and his uniform number has remained in circulation. Sosa, meanwhile, has expressed his willingness to reunite with the team and to discuss his acrimonious departure, but nothing has come of that. Things weren&#39;t helped when, last February, Sosa <a href="http://www.chuckblogerstrom.com/all-my-stories/my-intention-was-to-finish-my-career-in-chicago-a-conversation-with-sammy-sosa" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:gave an interview to a former Cubs employee" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">gave an interview to a former Cubs employee</a> in which he said he would not beg for forgiveness from the team (and, at one point, compared himself to Jesus Christ); his comments <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/ct-cubs-close-door-sosa-20170222-story.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:apparently upset Cubs ownership enough" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">apparently upset Cubs ownership enough</a> to end any talks of bringing him back into the fold.</p><p>All of this is understandable, both because of Sosa&#39;s PED connection and because of the way <a href="http://www.espn.com/espnmag/story?id=3775936" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:his exit in 2004" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">his exit in 2004</a> (and his conduct, frequently seen as selfish, in years previous) rankled both his teammates and the front office. Sosa also hasn&#39;t won anyone over by being as truculent as he has or by occasionally trashing the team, as he did <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/September-2010/Sammy-Sosa-Cubs-Threw-Me-into-the-FIre/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:in a 2010 feature in Chicago Magazine" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">in a 2010 feature in <em>Chicago Magazine</em></a> where he said the Cubs &quot;threw me into the fire&quot; and &quot;made [people] believe I&#39;m a monster.&quot; It&#39;s also fair that the Cubs, with their World Series drought finally broken and with a core of young, talented and popular stars, would want to leave the past in the past and have nothing to do with a surly steroid cheat.</p><p>On the other hand, the Cubs&#39; stance is rather two-faced. For years, the team profited handsomely off Sosa&#39;s home runs and stardom, raking in millions of dollars in jersey sales, tickets and national exposure. His and Mark McGwire&#39;s chase of Roger Maris&#39; home run record in 1998 wasn&#39;t just one of the seminal moments in baseball history, but it brought life back to a moribund franchise that hadn&#39;t made the playoffs since 1989. But the moment Sosa became a problem, and once it became clear that steroids had become the game&#39;s third rail, Sosa was exiled. There&#39;s also the bizarre idea of Sosa having to apologize for something he was never convicted of doing. Recall that Sosa never once failed a drug test or received a suspension; the only proof we have of his PED use is <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/17/sports/baseball/17doping.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:his name appearing on a leaked 2003 list" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">his name appearing on a leaked 2003 list</a>—obtained by <em>The New York Times</em> in 2009—of players who tested positive for steroids (and the legitimacy of those results has been called into question <a href="http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/17706532/david-ortiz-says-did-wrong-03-failed-drug-test" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:by Rob Manfred himself" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">by Rob Manfred himself</a>).</p><p>What exactly does Sammy Sosa owe the Cubs? The team got rich off of him, regained relevance because of him, and then kicked him aside without a second thought and without ever acknowledging their own complicity in looking the other way as he clobbered home runs. They&#39;ve more or less written him out of the team&#39;s history, and the current owner—who wasn&#39;t a part of the team during Sosa&#39;s tenure—wants him to admit wrongdoing for something that was never proven (and which Sosa adamantly denies he ever did). And the steroid era was not some simple black-and-white reality, something even Ricketts admits: &quot;I think we owe them a lot of understanding.... We have to put ourselves in their shoes and be very, very sympathetic to everything, all the decisions they had to make.&quot; To play morality police after the fact reeks of the Cubs wanting to have their cake and eat it, too.</p><p>But Sosa is no dewy-eyed innocent, and it&#39;s unlikely that any team would want anything to do with a player who carries such heavy and controversial baggage and refuses to address it. The Cubs don&#39;t want or need the headache that is Sosa or all the media attention his return would bring, and there&#39;s presumably a fair chunk of the fanbase that has written him off as well. Should he be welcomed back with open arms just because he was a star back in the day and despite all the angst and bad feelings built up over the last 15 years?</p><p>There&#39;s no good answer to this conundrum. Sosa seems incapable of swallowing his pride and apologizing, and the Cubs seem like they&#39;d rather wash their hands of him and move on. It&#39;s easy to see both sides of that stalemate. But it&#39;s still sad that one of the greatest players in Chicago franchise history remains out in the cold. As <em>SI</em>&#39;s own Jay Jaffe so eloquently put it <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/20/sammy-sosa-hall-fame-ballot-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:in his JAWS writeup of Sosa&#39;s Hall of Fame case" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">in his JAWS writeup of Sosa&#39;s Hall of Fame case</a>: &quot;The shame of it all isn&#39;t that Sosa is unlikely to wind up in Cooperstown, or that the gaudy numbers that placed him in such select company will be largely disregarded. It&#39;s that the joy he brought to fans and throughout the game during that considerable peak is so easily swept aside, as though it meant nothing at the time.&quot;</p>
The Cubs and Sammy Sosa Remain Mired in an Unfortunate Stalemate

The relationship between Sammy Sosa and the Chicago Cubs can best be described as "frosty." Despite starring on the North Side for 13 years, Sosa remains unwelcome at Cubs games and events since he retired in 2007, thanks in large part to accusations of performance-enhancing drug use that have dogged him over the last decade. And if team owner Tom Ricketts has his way, Sosa will stay on the outside looking in until he owns up to his steroid sins. Via the Chicago Sun-Times:

As the Sun-Times notes, this is nothing new on the part of Ricketts or the Cubs, who have more or less mandated that Sosa's return to the team's good graces can only happen when he apologizes for using PEDs. "A few things have to happen before he comes back, and we'll see how that goes," Ricketts told Cubs fans at 2015's fan convention. As such, he's been left out of the team's recent resurgence; he wasn't invited to the franchise's 100th anniversary celebration of Wrigley Field in 2014; and his uniform number has remained in circulation. Sosa, meanwhile, has expressed his willingness to reunite with the team and to discuss his acrimonious departure, but nothing has come of that. Things weren't helped when, last February, Sosa gave an interview to a former Cubs employee in which he said he would not beg for forgiveness from the team (and, at one point, compared himself to Jesus Christ); his comments apparently upset Cubs ownership enough to end any talks of bringing him back into the fold.

All of this is understandable, both because of Sosa's PED connection and because of the way his exit in 2004 (and his conduct, frequently seen as selfish, in years previous) rankled both his teammates and the front office. Sosa also hasn't won anyone over by being as truculent as he has or by occasionally trashing the team, as he did in a 2010 feature in Chicago Magazine where he said the Cubs "threw me into the fire" and "made [people] believe I'm a monster." It's also fair that the Cubs, with their World Series drought finally broken and with a core of young, talented and popular stars, would want to leave the past in the past and have nothing to do with a surly steroid cheat.

On the other hand, the Cubs' stance is rather two-faced. For years, the team profited handsomely off Sosa's home runs and stardom, raking in millions of dollars in jersey sales, tickets and national exposure. His and Mark McGwire's chase of Roger Maris' home run record in 1998 wasn't just one of the seminal moments in baseball history, but it brought life back to a moribund franchise that hadn't made the playoffs since 1989. But the moment Sosa became a problem, and once it became clear that steroids had become the game's third rail, Sosa was exiled. There's also the bizarre idea of Sosa having to apologize for something he was never convicted of doing. Recall that Sosa never once failed a drug test or received a suspension; the only proof we have of his PED use is his name appearing on a leaked 2003 list—obtained by The New York Times in 2009—of players who tested positive for steroids (and the legitimacy of those results has been called into question by Rob Manfred himself).

What exactly does Sammy Sosa owe the Cubs? The team got rich off of him, regained relevance because of him, and then kicked him aside without a second thought and without ever acknowledging their own complicity in looking the other way as he clobbered home runs. They've more or less written him out of the team's history, and the current owner—who wasn't a part of the team during Sosa's tenure—wants him to admit wrongdoing for something that was never proven (and which Sosa adamantly denies he ever did). And the steroid era was not some simple black-and-white reality, something even Ricketts admits: "I think we owe them a lot of understanding.... We have to put ourselves in their shoes and be very, very sympathetic to everything, all the decisions they had to make." To play morality police after the fact reeks of the Cubs wanting to have their cake and eat it, too.

But Sosa is no dewy-eyed innocent, and it's unlikely that any team would want anything to do with a player who carries such heavy and controversial baggage and refuses to address it. The Cubs don't want or need the headache that is Sosa or all the media attention his return would bring, and there's presumably a fair chunk of the fanbase that has written him off as well. Should he be welcomed back with open arms just because he was a star back in the day and despite all the angst and bad feelings built up over the last 15 years?

There's no good answer to this conundrum. Sosa seems incapable of swallowing his pride and apologizing, and the Cubs seem like they'd rather wash their hands of him and move on. It's easy to see both sides of that stalemate. But it's still sad that one of the greatest players in Chicago franchise history remains out in the cold. As SI's own Jay Jaffe so eloquently put it in his JAWS writeup of Sosa's Hall of Fame case: "The shame of it all isn't that Sosa is unlikely to wind up in Cooperstown, or that the gaudy numbers that placed him in such select company will be largely disregarded. It's that the joy he brought to fans and throughout the game during that considerable peak is so easily swept aside, as though it meant nothing at the time."

FILE - In this May 14, 2017, file photo, a police officer tries to catch a foul ball during seventh inning of a baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners in Toronto. The Blue Jays announced Monday, Jan. 15, 2017, they will extend the protective netting at Rogers Centre to the outfield end of each dugout this season and increase the height of netting behind home plate by approximately 10 feet to 28 feet. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
FILE - In this May 14, 2017, file photo, a police officer tries to catch a foul ball during seventh inning of a baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners in Toronto. The Blue Jays announced Monday, Jan. 15, 2017, they will extend the protective netting at Rogers Centre to the outfield end of each dugout this season and increase the height of netting behind home plate by approximately 10 feet to 28 feet. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
FILE - In this May 14, 2017, file photo, a police officer tries to catch a foul ball during seventh inning of a baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners in Toronto. The Blue Jays announced Monday, Jan. 15, 2017, they will extend the protective netting at Rogers Centre to the outfield end of each dugout this season and increase the height of netting behind home plate by approximately 10 feet to 28 feet. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
<p>Former New York Yankees outfielder and 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui has been elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame, <a href="https://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2018/01/15/baseball/japanese-baseball/matsui-elected-japanese-baseball-hall-fame/#.WlzMDmTwZbV" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:according" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">according</a> to The Japan Times. </p><p>Matsui received 91.3% (336 of 368 votes) of the vote to become the youngest player to be inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. In order to get elected into the Hall of Fame, a candidate needs to surpass 75% of the vote. Matsui is just one of six Japanese players to get inducted on their first year on the ballot.</p><p>Matsui won MVP honors in Japan&#39;s Central League in 1996, 2000 and 2002 before heading to the MLB before the 2003 season.</p><p>Matsui is also on the ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in the United States for the first time. He played seven seasons for the New York Yankees and hit .292 with 140 home runs and racked up four seasons with at least 100 RBIs. Matsui was the hero of the 2009 World Series, where he hit .615 with three home runs and eight RBIs against the Philadelphia Phillies. He finished his career by spending time with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2010, the Oakland Athletics in 2011 and the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012.</p><p>Matsui hit 507 home runs combined between his careers in Japan and the United States.</p><p>“I played as a professional baseball player for 20 years, but I only played in NPB for half of the time, 10 years,” Matsui said in a statement. “I was given the honor of being selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame, nevertheless. And I would like to express my appreciation to those concerned.”</p><p>Candidates must also receive 75% of the vote to be elected into the Hall of Fame. In order for Matsui to stay on the ballot, he must receive at least 5% of the vote. The results of the vote by the Baseball Writer&#39;s Association of America will be announced on Jan. 24.</p><p>Former Hanshin Tigers outfielder Tomoaki Kanemoto and former Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara will join Matsui in the next Hall of Fame class.</p>
Former Yankee Star Hideki Matsui Elected To Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame

Former New York Yankees outfielder and 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui has been elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame, according to The Japan Times.

Matsui received 91.3% (336 of 368 votes) of the vote to become the youngest player to be inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. In order to get elected into the Hall of Fame, a candidate needs to surpass 75% of the vote. Matsui is just one of six Japanese players to get inducted on their first year on the ballot.

Matsui won MVP honors in Japan's Central League in 1996, 2000 and 2002 before heading to the MLB before the 2003 season.

Matsui is also on the ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in the United States for the first time. He played seven seasons for the New York Yankees and hit .292 with 140 home runs and racked up four seasons with at least 100 RBIs. Matsui was the hero of the 2009 World Series, where he hit .615 with three home runs and eight RBIs against the Philadelphia Phillies. He finished his career by spending time with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2010, the Oakland Athletics in 2011 and the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012.

Matsui hit 507 home runs combined between his careers in Japan and the United States.

“I played as a professional baseball player for 20 years, but I only played in NPB for half of the time, 10 years,” Matsui said in a statement. “I was given the honor of being selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame, nevertheless. And I would like to express my appreciation to those concerned.”

Candidates must also receive 75% of the vote to be elected into the Hall of Fame. In order for Matsui to stay on the ballot, he must receive at least 5% of the vote. The results of the vote by the Baseball Writer's Association of America will be announced on Jan. 24.

Former Hanshin Tigers outfielder Tomoaki Kanemoto and former Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara will join Matsui in the next Hall of Fame class.

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