Worthy of Hall?
Steroid era happened, so vote like it
I wrote about this issue when the Hall of Fame ballot was announced, and my stance hasn't changed. Voters should elect Sammy Sosa to the Hall of Fame this year, along with his fellow alleged performance-enhancing drug abusers, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, both of whom are even more deserving and, to a greater extent as people, even more unlikable.
I want this year to be the "Steroid Ballot," an acceptance that the so-called "steroid era" actually happened and is a valid part of the game's history. The confluence of performance-enhancing drugs and baseball was bound to happen, given the realities of the sport, and for the game to evolve, that era needed to happen.
Plenty of baseball players were alleged to have used PEDs, or admitted using PEDs, or were busted for using PEDs since testing began, belatedly, but we hold those who set records and created headlines more accountable than the rest. That's fair.
A question of the interpretation of "character" in voting is valid, but I think the baseball writers should honor these three, all of whom had Hall of Fame-worthy careers (Bonds and Clemens more so than Sosa), with an awkward yet reality-affirming induction. There aren't many subsets of people that take themselves more seriously than Hall of Fame players and baseball writers. So a little conflict won't hurt anyone; maybe it will even be cathartic.
When it comes to Sosa, I can see the other argument, that he's not qualified since home runs were largely devalued in his era. And besides a 5-year-old's ability to put two and two together, the only official mark against Sosa came in a 2009 story that reported he failed a 2003 drug test.
Still, even with a subpar on-base percentage (.344), his 609 home runs (60-plus three times, including his 1998 MVP year) should ensure him a spot in the Hall. I'm not saying he was "clean" (nor were hitters who used "greenies" for decades), but there is something to be said for his bottom-line production. In an era when numbers became skewed, no one could hit the ball out of a park like Sosa.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
Skinny Sammy was no Hall of Famer
It will not necessarily make me happy if (and when) Sammy Sosa does not end up being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In fact, it will only renew my frustration and anger over the entire steroid era.
The difference between Sosa, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, however, is that in an ideal world, Bonds and Clemens should be celebrated among the immortals in the game, assuming -- and I am -- that they would still be among the best without steroids.
Sosa, not so much.
Though there is no way to prove for sure how he would have developed under normal conditions, skinny Sammy was not a Hall of Famer.
In the late 1990s, Sosa's home run totals increased significantly -- from 36 in 1997 to 66, 63, 50 and 64 in the following four seasons. In 532 at-bats in 1990, his second big-league season, Sosa hit 15 homers. He followed with 10, 8, 33, 25, 36 and 40 in '96.
In 2009, the New York Times reported that Sosa tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in '03, which would explain his sudden power drop-off -- from 49 in 2002 to 40, 35, 14 and 21 in the following seasons.
There are more reasons to shut him out, of course, primarily the very fact that he remains adamant he did nothing wrong, including his sworn testimony before a congressional committee. The corked bat episode took another bite out of whatever credibility he may have once had.
Will things change over the next 15 years to make voters think differently about steroid users and suspected users? Perhaps. For now, however, only the players suffer, along with the Hall of Fame, which should have an honest Pete Rose and a clean Bonds in its midst.
In the meantime, there are plenty of voters and fans alike who will take a certain glee in Sosa, Bonds and Clemens being kept out of Cooperstown. I'm just not one of them.
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.