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.

Paul Janish retires

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MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports that the Orioles granted infielder Paul Janish his release from his Triple-A contract. He will retire and join the coaching staff at Rice University.

Janish, 34, played parts of nine seasons in the majors with the Reds, Orioles, and Braves. He hit .212/.280/.284 over his career, providing most of his value through his fielding and versatility. While he logged most of his time at shortstop, he also played third base and second base and also pitched on two occasions in blowout losses.

Yasmany Tomas to undergo season-ending core muscle surgery on Tuesday

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The Diamondbacks announced that outfielder Yasmany Tomas will undergo season-ending core muscle surgery on Tuesday in Philadelphia. Tomas has been on the disabled list since June 3 with right groin tendinitis and experienced multiple setbacks during his rehab.

Tomas, 26, was in the midst of a disappointing year before the injury, batting .241/.294/.464 with eight home runs and 32 RBI in 180 plate appearances.

The Diamondbacks acquired J.D. Martinez from the Tigers a month ago to help fill the gap in the outfield. Prior to that trade, Chris Herrmann and Daniel Descalso were handling left field. The D-Backs entered Monday’s action holding the second Wild Card slot in the National League by 2.5 games over the Brewers and trailed the Rockies by one game for the first slot.