Sammy Sosa has decided to officially retire from Major League Baseball, starting the clock on the most interesting era for the sport’s Hall of Fame.
Sosa hit 609 career home runs during the steroid era. He joined Barry Bonds, Henry Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays in the 600 home run club, subsequently to be joined by Ken Griffey Jr. In what statistical analysts call an athlete’s peak years, between the ages of 29 and 32, Sosa had his best seasons…becoming the only player in baseball history to have three seperate 60 home run seasons. Sosa’s power numbers built to that plateau and gradually fell off with age.
He was the centerpiece of two Cubs playoff teams (how many people can say that?), won the NL MVP in 1998, and was a seven time All-Star.
Sammy wasn’t mentioned in the Mitchell report, never tested positive for performance enhancers that were banned by baseball, and was not involved or suspected in the Balco trial. There was no evidence of performance enhancers being shipped to him, or accusations by former trainers that he used.
Even Jose Canseco can’t tie Sosa to steroids, writing in his book “Juiced,” that he didn’t know Sosa personally and therefore ”I can’t say for a fact he took steroids — but he gained 30 pounds just like that — you could see the bloating in his face and neck. It seemed so obvious. It was a joke.”
Granted, Sosa did use a corked bat at one point, and was called to Capitol Hill for the Congressional hearing on steroids in baseball. Conveniently that day, he forgot how to speak english. But as far as being factually tied to steroids, all we have are our suspicions. Yet, Sosa is put into that group with Mark McGwire (Andro in his locker), Rafael Palmeiro (tested positive), Bonds (Balco trial), Manny Ramirez (tested positive) and Gary Sheffield (had steroids shipped to him).
Not that our doubts about his authenticity aren’t valid, but are simple suspicions of fans, media and Canseco, with absolutely zero credible evidence, enough to keep Sosa out of the Hall of Fame? I don’t believe so. If we are going to keep Sosa out, simply because of the era in which he played, then we have to keep Griffey out. The concrete evidence tying them to steroid use is identical.
Baseball’s Hall of Fame voters are on a slippery slope. If they’re going to keep guys out of the Hall, there should be SOME evidence beyond the association of playing baseball at the wrong time.