Former Chicago Cub Sammy Sosa kept out of HOF for another year


Former Chicago Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa’s steroid use continues to hamper his effort to join elite company in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

On Wednesday evening, former Chicago Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa failed to get inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame for a fourth consecutive year. He garnered seven percent of votes (75 percent needed for an induction), and will stay on the ballot for another year since he didn’t receive less than the five percent of votes that would have permanently removed him from Hall of Fame consideration.

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters elected center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. (99.3 percent) and catcher Mike Piazza (83 percent) as inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016. Overall, 32 candidates made the 2016 Hall of Fame ballot.

Sosa’s alleged steroid use is a major reason voters have not inducted him into the Hall of Fame.

In 2005, Sosa took part in a congressional hearing along with Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco to discuss steroid use in baseball. Sosa issued a statement through his lawyer saying that “I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs.” However, in 2009, the New York Times included Sosa’s name on a list of 104 players who had used steroids in 2003.

Another incident involving cheating further reduces Sosa’s chances of making the Hall of Fame. In 2003, an umpire discovered cork in his broken bat. This incident added to Sosa’s legacy of cheating.

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Sosa’s steroid-tainted past is unfortunate because his career numbers were good enough to make the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In 18 Major League seasons with the Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs, Sosa slashed .273/.344/.534. He accumulated 609 career home runs which puts him at number eight on the all-time list for most career home runs. He was a seven-time All-Star, one-time National League MVP and two-time National League home-run leader.

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America continues to take a tough stance on alleged “steroid era” users (refers to the period from the late 1980s to mid-2000s when steroid use in baseball was rampant) to preserve the integrity of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. However, discriminating against alleged users during baseball’s “steroid era” presents problems because cheating in baseball has been a thing long before Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds ever stepped on a baseball field.

There are players in the Hall of Fame that cheated. Why are they celebrated while Sosa and others continue to be labeled as cheaters? Another issue: many players in the Hall of Fame used substances that weren’t banned when they were playing but are now included on MLB’s banned substance list because of their performance-enhancing side effects.

"Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and countless others have admitted they used amphetamines during their careers. If they used today and were caught, they would be suspended under baseball’s rules. I don’t know anyone who wants to think about pulling those beloved players out of the Hall, even though one of the few studies ever done on PED use showed that amphetamines clearly enhance athletic performance. —-Quote courtesy of ESPN writer T.J. Quinn"

This issue also remains relevant for more recent players. 2016 inductee Mike Piazza admitted in a 2013 autobiography entitled “Long Shot” that he took the performance-enhancing drugs androstenedione and Ephedra before MLB added these drugs to its list of banned substances. Once again, this is an issue of a player “cheating” before it officially counted as cheating. Mantle, Mays and Aaron enjoyed the performance-enhancing benefits of doping and an argument can be made that their numbers were inflated as a result.

Aug 12, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire prior to the game against the Washington Nationals at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 12, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire prior to the game against the Washington Nationals at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Additionally, voters exclude steroid users partly because their cheating is a major stain on their character. The goal here is for the Hall of Fame to positively represent the history of baseball. But, beyond steroid users, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America hasn’t taken into consideration character in the past when determining Hall of Fame inductees. Among the hallowed halls of Cooperstown are a litany of low-character players.

For example, Ty Cobb was a noted racist while pitcher Gaylord Perry repeatedly tampered baseballs with spit, Vaseline and other substances to gain an advantage. Orlando Cepeda went to prison for smuggling marijuana and Paul Molitor used cocaine and marijuana recreationally.

Former MLB Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis received an induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1944. He maintained a league-wide segregationist policy for three decades during his reign. Is what he or any of the aforementioned players did better than the actions of the steroid users?

To justify the continued exclusion of players associated with baseball’s “steroid era,” every current member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame that has any defamation to their character or used any performance-enhancing substance should get removed permanently. This would even the playing field but isn’t practical because so many players would get stripped of their membership.

The voters exclude “steroid era” users to maintain the integrity and positive image of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. At this point, this stance is hypocritical because voters have elected a larger number of performance-enhancing drug users, criminals, racists and all-around bad people over the years. Certainly,  Ty Cobb, Gaylord Perry, Orlando Cepeda and Kenesaw Mountain Landis don’t evoke the image that MLB tries to portray. The voters are picking and choosing their standards for induction and that isn’t right.

Maybe it is time to let “steroid era” players such as Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. It is a difficult pill to swallow, but it is only way for the National Baseball Hall of Fame to regain some of its reputability. Great baseball players are still humans who make mistakes. Apparently, a lot of great baseball players made lots of mistakes and that is why we are having this discussion.

Next: About the Lovie Smith firing

All we are asking for from the National Baseball Hall of Fame is consistency and an end to the hypocrisy.