Sammy Sosa is in his final year on the Hall of Fame ballot. As with many of his peers from the ’90s and early 2000s, his Hall of Fame case is clouded with steroids. Nevertheless, his stats are very good especially during his peak, and Sosa, along with Mark McGwire, gave baseball fans the ride of their lives in 1998. Will it be enough for Slammin’ Sammy to get inducted?
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Samuel Peralta Sosa was signed out of the Dominican Republic and made his MLB debut in 1989 for the Texas Rangers. He was quickly traded to the Chicago White Sox and played with them for two and a half years. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs just before the season in 1992. That year, Sosa played 67 games in centerfield for the Cubs and showed flashes of talent at 23 years old. It was in 1993 when it all came together for Sosa.
That year, he moved over to right field and hit 33 homers while swiping 36 bags. In 1995, Sosa joined the 30-30 club again with 36 HRs and 34 SBs. He drove in 119 runs and earned the first of his seven All-Star nods. He also won his first of six Silver Slugger awards as well as finishing in the top 10 of MVP voting. The next two seasons were much of the same, and in 1998, Sosa took it to another level.
We all remember the summer of ’98, but that story is best left for its own article. That season Sosa hit 66 HRs and drove in a league-leading 158 runs on his way to the MVP award. From 1998- 2002, the right fielder led the league in RBIs twice, HRs twice, and runs three times. Sosa finished out his time with the Cubs in 2004. He played 2005 with the Baltimore Orioles before returning to Texas for the 2007 season and hitting his 600th career HR on June 20, ironically against the Cubs.
Sosa is one of nine players to have 600 career HRs, but he is the only one to do it with fewer than 10,000 plate appearances. He also knew how to drive in runs as he and Manny Ramirez are the only two players to tally 160 in a season since 1940. His five-year peak from 1998-2002 was impressive. During that stretch, Sosa had a .429 wOBA and 160 wRC+. He also put up 33.2 fWAR just in those five years. He has seven top 10 finishes for NL MVP including winning the award in 1998. The slugger had nine consecutive years with at least 35 HRs and 100 RBIs.
Let’s also not forget the home run chase of ’98. Sosa and McGwire were must-see TV. Even ESPN was cutting to their at-bats live when they were approaching Roger Maris‘ record. With the strike of ’94-’95 was still fresh in every baseball fan’s mind, the two sluggers captivated us and brought back countless fans. The “fame” part of Hall of Fame shouldn’t be neglected here in Sosa’s case.
While Sosa was never suspended for using PEDs, he certainly was always coy about discussing if he used them or not. The overall consensus is that he did as he was listed among the players that tested positive in 2003. Add to that the corked bat incident which got Sosa a seven-game suspension and there is some question on how much help he really got to achieve some of his gaudy numbers. Despite putting up 234 SBs, Sosa was not a great baserunner as he was thrown out nearly a third of the time. His defense was fairly pedestrian and Sosa’s 3.6 rWAR/600 PAs also doesn’t scream Hall of Famer.
Usually, we would see a borderline player destined for the Hall make a significant jump in his last few years on the ballot. The fact that Sosa has remained on the ballot for 10 years is a good sign, but he has gone from 12.5 percent on his first try to just 17 percent last year. That does not bode well for Sammy. He is getting a nice little push from voters as he is trending at 26.7 percent. Unfortunately, it is just too little too late.
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