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

119 Comments

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.

Indians activate Francisco Lindor

Francisco Lindor
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Indians activated shortstop Francisco Lindor in advance of their doubleheader against the Braves, the club announced Saturday. Veteran DH Hanley Ramírez has been designated for assignment in a subsequent roster move.

It’s a welcome change for the Indians, who lost Lindor to a right calf strain at the outset of spring training and saw his recovery timetable extended by a left ankle sprain during one of his rehab games. When healthy, however, the 25-year-old has been nothing short of spectacular. During his 2018 campaign, he received his third consecutive All-Star nomination and finished the season batting .277/.352/.519 with 38 home runs, 25 stolen bases, and a career-best 7.6 fWAR through 745 plate appearances.

Things haven’t gone nearly as well for Ramírez since he inked a minor-league deal with the club in late February. Although he managed to stay relatively injury-free during his first few weeks of the 2019 season, the 35-year-old infielder slashed an underwhelming .184/.298/.327 with three extra bases and eight RBI in 57 PA. Whether or not he’ll find another major-league gig this year remains to be seen.