When I look at the Hall of Fame ballot and wonder how baseball will ultimately deal with the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, I try to think back to when the game and its ethics really changed. I cant pinpoint a date, but I do remember a player from my youth. Brian Downing was with the Chicago White Sox at a time when I listened to every game I possibly could on the radio. That particular season the late great Harry Caray was calling the White Sox games. What struck me as unusual was Caray almost seemed to have a vendetta against Downing. He was always finding fault with him and ultimately the pressure of playing in Chicago wore Downing down. On December 5, 1977, Downing was part of a huge six-player trade with the Angels that sent him back home to California. Downing had always been a player who battled adversity and beat the odds. He made his Magnolia High School team, but hardly played and was cut. Same story pretty much at Cypress College. It looked as though his baseball dream was over. But then he went to a White Sox open tryout camp and was signed. When Downing played his first game with the White Sox he was a third baseman and believe it or not on the very first pitch he severely damaged his knee when he tried to make a diving catch near the dugout and tumbled down the steps. When he returned, he was converted to catcher and became a back-up to veteran Ed Herrman. But he never was much of a hitter and could never please Harry Caray. Downing didnt fare much better in his first year with the Angels and realizing his career could be slipping away, he committed to a "serious weight training" program in the off-season of 1978, changed his batting stance dramatically and even had a batting cage installed in his home. From there his career began to take off, though not particularly fast. Downing was so good at getting on base he often batted lead-off and he once led the American League in walks. He ran into more adversity in 1980, when he suffered a broken ankle and was ultimately forced to move to left field. Though not a great fielder, through hard work, he become more than adequate and actually didnt make a single error in the 1982 season. Downing played with the Angels right through the 1990 season before the Angels effectively forced him out in a bit of contract dispute. He played his final two years in Texas as a designated hitter. By the time he left the Angels though Downing had built up franchise record numbers in games played, at-bats, runs, hits, total bases, doubles, home runs, RBIs and walks. He retired on the final day of the 1992 season at age 41. His final game and last at-bat came at the Angels ballpark, and he ended his career with a pinch-hit single off his former teammate and future Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven. Downing received a prolonged standing ovation. Ten years later Brian Downing was honoured as a member of the Angels All-time team and still later on August 27, 2009 he was named to the Angels Hall of Fame along with his former teammate Chuck Finley. The point of this is, Brian Downing was one of the very first to get involved in weight training. By all accounts, he transformed his long lanky body into a muscular physique with nothing more than dedication and extremely hard work. Others perhaps inspired by Downings success followed his path. Others learned of the shortcuts to building a new body with PEDs and created the era that still clouds baseball to this day. Downing carved out a career that is to be admired, but his nickname then - "The Incredible Hulk" - is strangely ironic now considering the brand of baseball it may have helped span over the last 35 years. Changes in Philly It was sad for me this week to see that Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews were let go by the Phillies as broadcasters. "Sarge", as Matthews is affectionately known, had a great career as a player and worked with the Blue Jays as a batting coach, and even spent two years in the Toronto radio booth with Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth. I only had the pleasure of working with "Sarge" for one year, in 2001 and enjoyed every minute of it. He was insightful and funny and a good friend. He is apparently staying with the Phillies in another capacity but he will be missed on the air. A couple of interesting notes on Gary Matthews playing career. He slugged seven homers in 19 career post-season games. If thats not impressive enough, in his final Major League at-bat "Sarge" singled off Texas lefty Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams, only to be immediately picked off first base to end the game. What a way to end your career. All the best "Sarge"! Joe Klecko Youth Jersey . CBS Sports Jon Heyman is reporting that Santana will sign a one-year deal, likely in the next two days with one of a trio of suitors, with the Toronto Blue Jays believed to be heavily involved. Quinnen Williams Jersey . "I dont know where we would be without him," McClendon said. "Hes done a tremendous job for us and (Wednesday) was no different." Logan Morrison drove in two runs in Seattles big sixth inning, Young pitched seven strong innings and the Mariners beat the Houston Astros 5-2 to complete a three-game sweep. http://www.jetsrookiestore.com/Jets-Chuma-Edoga-Jersey/ . The post-season, Pierce said repeatedly, is no time to panic. And the Heat, apparently, are nothing to fear. Robby Anderson Jets Jersey . Asdrubal Cabrera had four hits and three RBIs, Michael Brantley also homered and the Indians beat the injury-riddled Minnesota Twins 9-4 Thursday for their first three-game winning streak this season. Wesley Walker Womens Jersey . He insists hes not counting. "If youre thinking hits, youre not paying attention to wins," Altuve said Sunday after leading the Houston Astros past the Texas Rangers 3-2. CHICAGO -- This was a no-brainer from start to finish. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane wanted to stay in Chicago and the Blackhawks wanted to keep the high-scoring forwards in the only NHL uniform they have ever known. All that was left was crunching the numbers on two of the biggest contracts in franchise history. The Blackhawks announced Wednesday they had reached eight-year extensions with two of their top performers in a long run of success that includes Stanley Cup titles in 2010 and 2013. Toews and Kane led Chicago back to the Western Conference final this year, where it lost to the eventual NHL champion Los Angeles Kings. General manager Stan Bowman said all along that the extensions were his biggest off-season priority, and it didnt take very long to reach the agreements with Pat Brisson, who represents both players. Toews and Kane each have one year left on their five-year extensions from December 2009, and July 1 was the first day they could sign new deals. Each contract is worth $84 million for an average annual value of $10.5 million, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce the contract numbers. Toews and Kane made it clear right after the Game 7 loss to Los Angeles that they wanted to stay with the Blackhawks, who added .8MoreYears to their tweets about the deal. "Theres no organization in sports that cares more about the overall experience of their fans and the success of their players," Toews said in a statement released by the team. "Theres nothing we want more as players than to continue to win Stanley Cups for the best hockey fans on the planet." Toews, the No. 3 selection in the 2006 draft, was just 20 when he became the 34th captain in team history in Jully 2008.dddddddddddd He is regarded as one of the NHLs best two-way players, winning the 2013 Selke Trophy as the leagues best defensive forward. Kane, the top overall pick in the 2007 draft, has developed into one of the NHLs most clutch players after questions about his maturity dogged the dynamic winger for the first part of the career. He had the series-clinching goal in Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup finals at Philadelphia, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy last year as playoff MVP. The 25-year-old Kane put on another impressive display in this years post-season, almost bringing Chicago back from a 3-1 deficit against Los Angeles. He had two goals and eight assists in the final four games of the series against the Kings. The $168 million worth of extensions for Toews and Kane mean the Blackhawks have much of their core group locked up through the 2016-17 season. Bowman could face some sticky situations with the salary cap in the coming years, but his team should be a Stanley Cup contender for a while. "The signings of Jonathan and Patrick symbolize an important milestone in franchise history," Blackhawks President and CEO John McDonough said. "We are driven by the pursuit of consistent excellence and today is a huge step forward." The 26-year-old Toews has at least 23 goals and 25 assists in each of his seven NHL seasons. He set career highs with 32 goals and 44 assists in the 2010-11 season. Kane averages 25 goals and 45 assists per year. He had a career-high 30 goals and 58 assists for the 2009-10 campaign. More important for Chicago, each player has been at his best in the post-season. Kane is fifth on the franchises career list with 37 playoff goals and his 54 assists ranks sixth in team history. Toews (29 goals, 52 assists) also is in the top 10 in each category. ' ' '