Approximately an hour ago, Major League Baseball released the Hall of Fame ballots for the voting of the 2013 class to be announced in January. For the first time, slugger Sammy Sosa is eligible to be on the ballot. Players must wait five years after retirement before being considered, and the former Cubs outfielder retired as a Texas Ranger in 2007.
The glory years of Sosa’s time in Chicago was spent as a Cub. He came from across town in 1992 in a trade that sent George Bell to the White Sox. Slammin’ Sammy’s first full year as a Cub in 1993 was a sign of things to come, as he cracked the 30 home run mark for the first time in his young career with 93 RBI. Sosa would go on to average nearly 54 home runs a season through 2004. The slugger from the Dominican Republic is best remembered nationally for his home run duel with Mark McGwire in 1998. While Sosa’s season total of 66 fell short of McGwire’s 70 that year, the Cubs outfielder did win the NL MVP and help get the Cubs into the playoffs for the first time since 1989 as a Wild Card team.
Sosa had three 60 plus home run seasons with the Cubs and consistently tallied over 100 RBI from 1995 to 2003. On the flip side, like almost all home run hitters, Sosa also had a tendency to strike out. The swinging outs from Sammy chasing a breaking ball low and away are just as ingrained in Cubs fans memories as his majestic bombs into or over the bleachers at Wrigley. He led the league in strikeouts three seasons in a row with totals over 170 each year.
But more than his strikeouts, the issue that will bring doubt and even resent from Hall of Fame voters will surround Sosa’s alleged involvement during the dark Steroid Era of baseball. While never officially confirmed by the MLB or the Players Association, there was a published report by The New York Times a few years ago that included Sosa’s name in a fairly long list of players who had tested positive for PEDs in 2003.
As this is Sosa’s first year of consideration, it remains to be see how he will be viewed by voters. With McGwire having been on the ballot since 2006, keeping an eye on his progress (or lack thereof) towards the golden 75% figures to provide a marker for how Sosa will fair on ballots in years to come. For what it is worth, McGwire earned 19.5% of the votes last year. Sosa is also joined by home run king Barry Bonds as a first timer, providing another avenue of comparison once the votes are totaled.
Sosa certainly will not be a first ballot Hall of Famer, as that honor has been bestowed upon very few of the best of the best. But is Sosa a Hall of Famer in your eyes Cubs fans and Cubbies Crib readers? Drop a comment and let us know!