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

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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.

Report: Rangers to receive Matt Moore from Giants

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John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Giants have traded left-hander Matt Moore to the Rangers. The deal is pending a physical and has yet to be confirmed by the clubs. Shea adds that the Rangers are expected to receive several prospects in return.

Moore, 28, was brought over to the Giants in 2016 in a deadline swap for shortstop Matt Duffy and two minor leaguers. He went 6-15 in his first full season with the Giants, producing a 5.52 ERA, 3.5 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 through 32 starts and 174 1/3 innings in 2017. Moore stands to earn $9 million in 2018 and has a $10 million club option (and $1 million buyout) on his contract in 2019.

According to both Shea and Henry Schulman, the move is part of the Giants’ ongoing quest to shed payroll this offseason. After missing out on Giancarlo Stanton, the club still needs reinforcements in the outfield and will have to fill a void at third base as well — all while steering clear of the luxury tax threshold. Right fielder Hunter Pence has reportedly been floated as a trade option, but has a full no-trade clause and will likely be harder to move. The Rangers, meanwhile, will add Moore to a starting rotation that already boasts left-handers Cole Hamels, Mike Minor and Martin Perez.