Two former Chicago Cubs are on the HOF ballot this year. Cubs sluggers Alfonso Soriano and Sammy Sosa bring strong numbers and controversy to the voting.
Thirty-two players are on the 2020 Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), including top percentage vote-getters from 2019 Curt Schilling (60.9 percent) and Roger Clemens (59.5 percent). A player must appear on 75 percent of all ballots to gain induction.
Former Chicago Cubs slugger and National League MVP Sammy Sosa also appeared on the ballot in 2019, his eighth year of eligibility, gaining votes on just 8.5 percent of the ballots. This marks Alfonso Soriano‘s first time in the mix for selection.
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Chicago Cubs: Is there a case for Soriano?
A career slash of .270/.319/.500 slash and .819 OPS earned Soriano a 112 OPS+ over 16 years of MLB play. He mashed 412 homers in 1975 games, with 2,095 hits and scored 1152 runs. Those are strong numbers to be sure.
Sori came in third in 2001 Rookie of Year voting and third in MVP voting the next year. He appeared in seven All-Star Games and won the Slugger Silver Slugger award for times, in 2002 and 2004, 2005 and 2006.
Power was just one aspect of Soriano’s game. Early on he was also a prolific base swiper as well, accruing 289 stolen bases and achieving a very rare 40-40 season (46 homers, 41 steals) at age 30, making him the oldest member of the 40-40 club. Only three other players have achieved the feat, Jose Conseco, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez.
Chicago Cubs: Fielding will draw scrutiny
If there is a criticism that will keep the slugger down in the voting it will be his defense. In seven seasons and 6,754 innings at second base, he rated a below-average -8.5 UZR-150 according to FanGraphs, and career was ten points below league average in fielding percentage.
Left field was a better position for Sori but most North Side fans remember his struggles closer to the end of time with Cubs. However, he did rate a 39.2 UZR-150 in 2007, his first year with the Cubs, and a 26.5 UZR-150 in 2008. After that, though, he declined swiftly.
His powerful bat, positive clubhouse presence, and the fact he avoided any implication in the PED scandal that raged during his time in the Show, an accusation his fellow Cub on the ballot can’t evade, could mean Sori gets a decent, if insufficient, percentage of the votes.
Chicago Cubs: Sammy Sosa won’t advance far in the voting
Unlike Soriano, Sosa remains entangled in the PED scandal. He still denies he abused PEDs during his 18 years in the Show. Laying that aside, his numbers are easily Cooperstown worthy. We all know about power, and juiced or not it was an impressive show. The seven seasons of forty or more homers, including four with 50 or more and his career-high of sixty-six bombs in 1998.
Slammin’ Sammy also drove in 100+ RBI runs eight seasons in a row, including an MLB-leading 158 in 1998 and 160 in 2001. He was also a bit of base stealer, swiping twenty or more bases four times between 1993 and 1997.
The Cubs legend won the NL MVP in 1998, appeared in the All-Star Game seven times and was awarded the Silver Slugger award six times.
Sosa’s fielding is more memorable for his speedy sprints to right field and his flag-waving show of support of the United States in 2001 after 9/11. His career UZR-150 in right field is -6.0 from 2002 to 2007 and his career fielding percentage is slightly below league average.
However, because of the PED controversy, which is compounded by the corked bat episode and his ugly departure from the Cubs, I don’t see Sosa getting more than perhaps a few more percentage points in HOF balloting.