- Jesse Rogers, Chicago Cubs beat reporter
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When the Hall of Fame announced on Wednesday there would be no inductees for the first time since 1996 it said as much about the steroid era as it did about anything else. Sosa's link to this era -- and his abnormally increased power numbers during it -- undoubtedly kept him out.
He received just 12.5 percent of the vote while fellow first-timers such as Barry Bonds (37.6) and Roger Clemens (36.2) earned considerably more (75 percent of the vote is needed for induction). Sosa's home run rival during that era, Mark McGwire, earned 16.9 percent in his seventh year on the ballot. That might be the best indication Sosa has a longshot of making the Hall of Fame.
Some players such as Bonds can argue they were on their way to a Hall of Fame career before their numbers skyrocketed due to suspected PED use. It doesn't absolve him of anything nor do we know when he started using but common sense suggests -- as does the timing of the increased production -- the late 90's is when things took off.
Bonds had Hall of Fame credentials before this period, but Sosa did not. It doesn't mean Bonds should get in -- that's a whole other argument -- but it certainly means Sosa should not.
The interesting part of the Hall of Fame process is there is no set criteria. Sure, over the years guidelines have evolved for voters, but players can be elected or denied based on opinions or speculation or any set of ideas. There is nothing that states a player has to have failed a drug test in order to use that concept against him in voting. That's why there are so many ballots cast. If one voter gets it wrong there are more than enough to make the right choice. In this case Sosa's denial was the right choice.
In the five years before his historic 66-home run season in 1998, Sosa averaged 34 homers a year. If he kept up that pace for the next seven seasons and adding his early home run totals, he would have totaled well over 450. Very impressive, but not necessarily Hall of Fame material. And that's assuming there would be no decline in his game. It's doubtful he would have averaged 34 home runs as he entered his mid-30s.
Bonds, on the other hand, had already hit 429 home runs before his major jump in 2000. Plus, he was a Gold Glove outfielder who averaged 35 stolen bases a year until 2000.
The point is the case for Bonds and others is greater than the case for Sosa and those players didn't get in. There may be a day that the top steroid-linked players enter the Hall of Fame, and if so, Sosa should be right behind those players. But not in front. And not now. And maybe not ever.
The BBWA got it right in keeping Sammy Sosa out of the Hall -- at least for this year.