Monday, January 5, 2015

EXTRA: Will Sammy draw ‘Cinco’ (as in percent) of Hall of Fame votes?

The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., is expected to announce Tuesday whether any of the ballplayers under consideration were capable of reaching the ’75 percent’ level of support required for enshrinement.

We’re also going to learn how many of the nearly three dozen former ball players under consideration received so little voter support (under 5 percent) that they won’t even be eligible for future consideration.

PLAYERS LIKE FORMER White Sox outfielder Jermaine Dye and Chicago-area native Cliff Floyd likely will fall below, while former Cubs relief pitcher Lee Smith and White Sox outfielder Tim Raines will come up again in that perennial baseball time period known as ‘next year.’

Then, we have to consider the fate of Sammy Sosa, the one-time Cubs slugging outfielder who was once the very personification (at least for those nit-wits who couldn’t look beyond Wrigley Field) of what Chicago baseball was all about.

I’m not about to get into a debate about what should happen to Sosa’s legacy as a ballplayer. If you care, I’ve written about it before. But I find it intriguing to wonder whether Sosa’s stint as a Cub will continue to haunt baseball geeks with way too much time on their hands.

He is one of those 1990s-early 2000’s players where there is circumstantial evidence that he used performance-enhancing substances (a.k.a., steroids) to bulk up and improve his abilities.

THAT HAS MANY sportswriters/voters who used to praise Sammy’s persona to now refuse to acknowledge him. Will the opposition grow to the point where he falls off the ballot for future consideration?

The website has developed a running count of Hall of Fame ballots as various sportswriters indicate publicly who they cast votes for. Sammy is literally at the cut-off point (4.5 percent as of Monday afternoon). Could he get a sudden boost from voters who weren’t accounted for to keep this quarrel going on?

Could it turn out that 600-plus home runs just aren’t enough to overcome steroids speculation that, if in a court of law, wouldn’t rise to the level of ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ needed to convict?

Then again, baseball always thinks it has its own standards. One-time White Sox outfielder Shoeless Joe Jackson and seven teammates were banned from baseball for life, even though a Cook County court jury acquitted them of any criminal responsibility for their actions in the 1919 World Series.

SO FOR SOSA, the relevant statistic is no longer 3 (as in the number of seasons in which he hit 60 or more home runs, which no other ballplayer has ever been able to do).

It’s 5 (as in percent of the sportswriter vote received), so we can continue to debate this issue for years to come. Because a good quarrel is just what any baseball fan wants to do during the winter months when our temperatures dip to below 10 degrees!


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