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Baseball Hall-of-Fame voters never gave Sammy Sosa a chance at Cooperstown, and it’s a damn shame.
2022 is Sosa’s tenth and final chance at the Hall of Fame. Despite 609 home runs and a career .273/.344/.534 slash line, Sosa is unlikely to earn his opportunity at baseball immortality thanks to the steroid scandal.
Sosa’s only confirmed link to PEDs came in 2003, when he failed a random drug test. Even commissioner Rob Manfred has suggested that test had sketchy optics, so should we really be taking it as an end-all, be-all?
Regardless of Sosa’s on-field accomplishments, he was grouped with dozens of players linked to performance-enhancing drugs, which includes Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens. Strangely enough, David Ortiz seems likely to avoid that same fate despite a similar positive test in 2003, but we’ll save that discussion for another day. The great Ken Rosenthal examined it in a recent article in The Athletic.
Why won’t Sammy Sosa make the Hall of Fame?
Sosa’s heyday took place in an era without regulated testing for performance-enhancing drugs, so for the large part the supposed ‘fact’ that he took steroids, or something of the sort, is more of an assumption. Is it fair to keep Sosa out of the Hall based on nothing more than a belief?
The longtime Cubs slugger is deemed a creation of performance-enhancing drugs — a symbol of his era, if you will. Mark McGwire often falls into the same category, as the two battled for the infamous 1998 home run crown. Sosa finished with 66 homers, while McGwire hit 70. It was a Summer that revitalized baseball among younger fans.
Hall-of-Fame voting in the steroid era is flawed and subjective, it just is. There’s no way of avoiding it. For many writers, it’s attempting to decide if a player would’ve still been Hall-of-Fame caliber without the help of an outside substance — surely an impossible task for even the most knowledgable scribes.
Sosa is worthy of a spot in Cooperstown, one way or another. The Summer of ’98 ought to be revered, not feared, even if it did come with a little help.
And for the record, Sosa has long denied using steroids, despite his 2003 test.
The truth is that we don’t know, and that’s enough to keep Sosa out of the Hall.