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January 3, 2013

Cooperstown 2013: Sammy Sosa

First Year on Ballot

Texas Rangers (1989), Chicago White Sox (1989-1991), Chicago Cubs (1992-2004), Baltimore Orioles (2005) and Texas Rangers (2007)

Career batting average of .273 with 2408 hits, 609 home runs, 1475 runs scored and 1667 RBI. 1998 National League MVP. Ranks eighth all-time in home runs...tops among foreign-born Major Leaguers. Only player to hit 60 or more home runs in three different seasons (1998-1999 and 2001). Led the National League in home runs twice (2000 and 2002). Hit better than .300 four times and drove in 100 runs or more in nine straight seasons (1995-2003). Twice stole more than 30 bases and hit more than 30 home runs in the same season (1993 and 1995). Seven-time All-Star selection (1995, 1998-2002 and 2004) and six-time Silver Slugger Award recipient (1995, 1998-2002).

Sammy Sosa in the Hall of Fame? I’ve seen it already, in the spring of 1999. The buzz around Sosa and McGwire’s “Great American Home Run Chase” (their words, not mine) was still fresh, and the display filled with artifacts from the two players was drawing big crowds, right near the plaques of all the real HOFers. Anyone who was around in 1998 won’t soon forget how exciting that summer was.

But it was all a mirage. Sammy jumped into the Roger Maris home run chase in June, and he and McGwire succeeded in fooling us all. Ken Griffey, Jr. always seemed to be the one who would finally beat Maris, but Sosa and McGwire—who then inspired Barry Bonds to get in on the fun—got there instead. The steroids era had its trinity, its troika, and its triumvirate, and Sammy Sosa was there in the middle of it all. That alone is reason to keep him out of Cooperstown.

Some will say, rightly, that baseball needed the boost that Sosa and McGwire provided back in 1998. And I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment. The numbers that Sosa put up in that era were as huge as he was, or at least as huge as the steroids puffed him up to be.

No, an in-depth discussion of Sammy’s numbers isn’t necessary. He hit more than 600 home runs, won an MVP award in 1998 when his team made the Playoffs and McGwire’s didn’t. But he never won a World Series…and never so much as played in one. We didn’t call him Sam-MEE here in Chicago for nothing.

Sammy made his money, and received the salaams that had legitimately been given to his predecessor in right field, Andre Dawson. I’m sure it was a wonderful ride for him around a decade ago. But putting him into the Hall of Fame would be a joke.

Sammy Sosa still gets a bit of discussion on Twitter, not for anything that he says. Rather, a Chicago rapper who goes by @ChiefKeef uses the #LoveSosa tag, in tribute to the Cubs’ rightfielder. That’s about all the accolades that Sammy deserves.

Rob Harris writes about the Chicago Cubs over at He’s also on Twitter. Drop him a follow at @rlincolnharris.


Matt said...

Rob, I think you can make an argument that Barry Bonds would probably have been a good HOF candidate without juicing, just by extrapolating his (presumed) pre-juicing numbers. Do you think Sammy's numbers could have passed the threshold? I personally think all steroid-users should be out.

Rob said...

He certainly had a shot, no question about it. The 175-pound Sosa who could steal bases and still hit for power had as good a shot as anybody else, Bonds included. But the 220-pound Sammy who became a phenomenon by doing the hop and everything else crossed the rubicon, in my mind.

Thanks so much for reading. If you have any inclination toward the Cubs, I'll be writing for all season long, in addition to whatever I put up on my blog.

All the best to you.

Kenn said...

A refreshing oasis from all of the enablers who despicably see nothing wrong with Bonds, Clemens and Sosa being in.
None of them should be considered.
Can you imagine how Hank Aaron, Willie Mays Bob Gibson, Mike Schmidt et al must feel about the possibility of enshrining cheaters?

Anonymous said...

For the record, Mike Schmidt it the self-appointed spokesperson to induct Pete Rose. So, my guess is that he's alright with a little "cheating".