Skip to content

Steroids or no, Sammy Sosa doesn’t belong in Hall of Fame

Dec 2, 2012, 1:14 AM EST

Sammy Sosa Getty Images

If I had a Hall of Fame ballot — and don’t worry, I do not — I’d put down nine names on it this year: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling and Alan Trammell.

Yes, there are some cheaters on that list: three definites and at least a couple of maybes. I am willing to penalize for steroids. But I can’t see leaving Bonds, Clemens and McGwire out of the Hall. For better and for worse, they’re part of the history of the game.

Rafael Palmeiro, on the other hand, is close enough to the borderline that I don’t mind leaving him off the list. His career numbers are deserving, but he was never a dominant force. His highest MVP finish was fifth place. Baseball-reference WAR puts him among his league’s top 10 players once (8th place in 1993).

And then there’s Sammy Sosa. He’s not in the same boat as Palmeiro because he was a true superstar. From 1998-2002, Sosa hit .306/.397/.649 with 292 homers. That’s 292 homers in five years! He led the NL in homers in 2000 and ’02 and RBI in 1998 and 2001. He had 63 homers and 141 RBI in 1999 and didn’t lead the league in either category.

But that five-year run supplies the vast majority of Sosa’s case. The problem with Sosa is that he just wasn’t that valuable over the course of the rest of his six 30-homer seasons. He started out as a fine defensive outfielder, but he lost most of his value there by the time he became a great hitter. His initial 30-homer campaigns came with lousy OBPs and few doubles. His later ones came with average OBPs and poor defense.

Look at where Sosa ranks on the career lists:

K’s: 3rd
HR: 8th
RBI: 27th
SLG: 44th
Outs: 62nd
Runs: 75th
OPS: 100th
Hits: 116th
BB: 155th
OPS+: 190th
2B: 217th
OBP: 699th

Compare that with McGwire. He’s two spots below Sosa on the home run list and just 68th in RBI, but he’s eighth in slugging, 10th in OPS and 13th in OPS+. McGwire was one of the greatest hitters of all-time. Sosa certainly had a great run, but he was also a product of his time. If he came up in 1979 or 1999, rather than 1989, his numbers wouldn’t be nearly as impressive.

Like most everyone else, I do believe Sosa was a cheater, even though there isn’t much besides one anonymous New York Times report to back that up. But the reason I don’t include him on my imaginary ballot is that I don’t believe he was good enough for long enough.

Latest Posts
  1. Clint Barmes is a Padres hipster

    Feb 1, 2015, 8:25 PM EST

    Clint Barmes Clint Barmes

    The Padres began their overhaul shortly after signing Clint Barmes to a one-year deal. He wasn’t quite expecting to be on a team expected to seriously contend with the Dodgers in the NL West.

  2. Jeff Samardzija would consider an extension with the White Sox

    Feb 1, 2015, 7:15 PM EST

    Jeff Samardzija Jeff Samardzija

    Jeff Samardzija wants to see “how it is” with the White Sox for half a season, but might consider a contract extension before the 2015 season is over.

  3. David Ortiz and Robinson Cano give their Super Bowl XLIX predictions

    Feb 1, 2015, 6:05 PM EST

    Brad Miller, Robinson Cano, David Ortiz AP

    Check out what David Ortiz and Robinson Cano think will happen in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday night.

  4. Reds sign Paul Maholm to minor league deal

    Feb 1, 2015, 5:20 PM EST

    paul maholm getty Getty Images

    Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Reds have agreed to a contract with 32-year-old left-hander Paul Maholm.

  5. Braves hold private workout for Hector Olivera

    Feb 1, 2015, 4:11 PM EST

    hector olivera getty Getty Images

    Badler writes that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and assistant GM John Coppolella were both in attendance, along with a number of special assistants and the organization’s top two scouts.

  6. Zack Greinke hasn’t made decision about opt-out

    Feb 1, 2015, 2:37 PM EST

    zack greinke getty Getty Images

    Zack Greinke is allowed to opt out of his six-year, $146 million contract with the Dodgers after the 2015 season. In doing that, the right-hander would be leaving three years and $77 million on the table but …

  7. Matt Harrison experiences minor setback in rehabilitation from spinal fusion surgery

    Feb 1, 2015, 1:13 PM EST

    matt harrison rangers getty Getty Images

    Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Harrison has put off moving his throwing program from 90 feet to out 105 feet because he is experiencing tightness in his right hip.

  8. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson plans to spend another spring in Rangers camp

    Feb 1, 2015, 11:58 AM EST

    russell wilson getty Getty Images

    Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes in his weekly Sunday notes column that Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson — who’s getting set to take on the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX tonight on NBC — is planning to spend some time in camp this spring with the Texas Rangers.

  9. Andruw Jones aiming to return to Major League Baseball

    Feb 1, 2015, 10:32 AM EST

    andruw jones nl getty Getty Images

    The 37-year-old will likely have to settle for a minor league contract. He’d then have to earn a roster spot.

  10. Video: Ernie Banks’ memorial service

    Feb 1, 2015, 9:05 AM EST

    ernie banks

    Here is some great video from Ernie Banks’ memorial service Saturday in Chicago …

  11. Wives of Jim Edmonds and Josh Hamilton to appear on The Real Housewives of Orange County

    Jan 31, 2015, 11:25 PM EST

    Los Angels Angels newly acquired outfielder Hamilton talks with reporters as his wife, Katie, looks on during a news conference in Anaheim Reuters

    Meghan King Edmonds and Katie Chadwick Hamilton, the wives of Jim and Josh respectively, will appear on the tenth season of The Real Housewives of Orange County.

  12. Red Sox plan to use Brandon Workman out of the bullpen

    Jan 31, 2015, 10:40 PM EST

    Brandon Workman Brandon Workman

    Brandon Workman will enter spring training as a reliever, attempting to grab a scarce spot at the back of the Red Sox bullpen.

  13. A.J. Preller still in touch with the Phillies about Cole Hamels

    Jan 31, 2015, 9:50 PM EST

    Cole Hamels Cole Hamels

    The Padres are still interested in Phillies ace Cole Hamels, though they may not be able to put together an enticing enough deal to attain him.

  14. Freddie Freeman: “I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”

    Jan 31, 2015, 9:00 PM EST

    Freddie Freeman Freddie Freeman

    The Braves may have pawned off many of their productive players, but Freddie Freeman still thinks they’ll compete in 2015.

  15. Someone apparently got Jayson Werth’s autograph in jail

    Jan 31, 2015, 8:10 PM EST

    Washington Nationals v New York Mets Getty Images

    Jayson Werth signed an inmate handbook for someone during his stay in jail in Fairfax, Virginia.

  16. Remembering Mr. Cub

    Jan 31, 2015, 7:10 PM EST

    Ernie Banks Ernie Banks

    Ernie Banks, who played 19 seasons in the major leagues, made an enormous impact on the game of baseball. That has been evident in the wonderful stories that have been shared over the last week.

  17. Rays sign Ronald Belisario to a minor league deal

    Jan 31, 2015, 6:05 PM EST

    Ronald Belisario AP

    The Rays added some depth, signing reliever Ronald Belisario on Saturday. It appears they’ll be adding infielder Alexi Casilla as well.

  18. Cubs sign Mike Baxter

    Jan 31, 2015, 5:30 PM EST

    Mike Baxter AP AP

    Baxter appeared in four games with the Dodgers last season and owns a .225/.331/.342 batting line in the majors. He’ll always be aces with Mets fans, though.

  19. Angels and Garrett Richards avoid arbitration with one-year deal

    Jan 31, 2015, 4:39 PM EST

    Garrett Richards AP

    Richards emerged as one of the best pitchers in the American League last season before tearing his left patellar tendon in August.

  20. Orioles sign Mark Hendrickson, invite him to major league camp

    Jan 31, 2015, 4:11 PM EST

    mark-hendrickson-orioles

    Hendrickson turned 40 last June and hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011, but he still hopes to continue his playing career.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. G. Richards (3115)
  2. T. Snider (2999)
  3. D. Mesoraco (2848)
  4. N. Cotts (2646)
  5. J. Werth (2594)