Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Is Sammy Sosa THAT unforgivable?

The Baseball Hall of Fame will officially announce on Tuesday which former ballplayers will join the ranks of those whose athletic achievements will be immortalized in bronze plaques – and there are many sporting arguments that will be provoked by the results.

Is Sosa really any less of a '90s star … 
For me, a key point I’ll be watching for will be to see exactly how many votes one-time Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa gets.

SOSA, OF COURSE, is the guy who some two decades ago had all those seasons of 60-plus home runs (more than any other ballplayer ever). But now has given many people reason to suspect he used anabolic steroids or other substances that artificially gave him strength.

Which is the reason that Sosa wasn’t an automatic shoo-in for Hall of Fame induction. He only got 12.5 percent support – far short of the 75 percent required for induction.

Since then, Sosa has managed to get about 6 to 8 percent voter support each year; enough for him to remain in consideration for the following year’s Hall of Fame vote, but also close enough to the 5 percent vote standard that he could fall out of the running altogether.

Personally, if that were to happen, I’d not be upset. But I do have to admit there’s an aspect to all this that bothers me. It’s the fact that two other star players of that era whose names have been tainted by allegations of steroid use seem to be getting the exact opposite treatment.

… and worthy of Hall of Fame induction … 
I’M REFERRING TO one-time slugger Barry Bonds and pitcher Roger Clemens. They came onto the Hall of Fame ballot consideration at the same time as Sosa – and there actually once was the possibility that the 2013 Hall of Fame induction would have gone into the books as the year Bonds, Clemens and Sosa would have their day of Cooperstown glory.

But while Sosa threatens to fall below the 5 percent minimal standard, Bonds and Clemens are creeping their way upward to the 75 percent standard that means induction.

There have been some surveys indicating that the two theoretically could be inducted this year. Or, more likely, will come ever so close that it would seem Bonds and Clemens are likely to get Hall of Fame induction in 2020 or 2021.

… than either Bonds (above) or Clemens?
So just how is it that Bonds and Clemens are forgivable, while Sosa has become the baseball “untouchable” (and I don’t mean the old television show with the Eliot Ness character)? When their so-called "sin" is identical?

I KNOW I’VE heard some offer the theory that they believe Bonds and Clemens were legitimate stars already when they started using illicit substances to enhance their strength and endurance. While Sosa’s 609 home runs are a complete fraud – citing the fact that he became a major leaguer in 1989, but didn’t start his string of star-like seasons until 1998.

That was a long period of mediocrity – one helped by the fact he played for Chicago Cubs teams most of those seasons, and they were awful enough to put up with Sosa’s ability (or lack thereof).

But I can’t help get around the fact that from 1998 (the year he had his nationally-renowned chase with Mark McGwire to set a single-season home run record) to 2002, he had a burst of power that was unheard of.

This may seem sacrilegious to some, but one literally has to go back to Babe Ruth at his 1920s peak to find someone who could match Sammy.

LIKE IT OR not, it happened. All those home runs were hit. Trying to ignore that almost seems like the old Soviet-style of rewriting history to represent what one wishes had happened.

What would Harold have to say (if anything)?
Particularly if we’re going to acknowledge the potentially-tainted accomplishments of Bonds (73 home runs in a season, 762 in a career – both all-time records) and Clemens (354 victories and 4,672 strikeouts – third-best ever). I don’t see how the “steroids” argument can be applied to one, but not the other two.

Of course, this year’s Hall of Fame induction July 20 could be intriguing because of one of the “old-timey” ballplayers already chosen – one-time White Sox outfielder Harold Baines, whom the team traded away in 1989 for the then-youthful Sosa.

Will Harold have anything to say about Sammy, and the fact that he’s now the Hall of Famer while Sosa remains on the outside looking in?


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