Baseball’s Sammy Sosa and Curt Schilling

The 2013 voting

Sammy SosaKelly commented on my post about baseball, specifically concerning Sammy Sosa and Curt Schilling. It was so long that it required its own post.

Sosa was a smiling, happy player. He even had his own version of the High Five. He conveyed a sense of joy during those home-run years, so I think the ire isn’t as great toward him because of another annoying vestige of racism (that Black people are to be tolerated and even honored as long as they don’t convey the least bit of unhappiness).

I think you are correct up to a point. His post-career decision to use bleaching cream to lighten his skin is undoubtedly due to his dealing with colorism over many years. The issue of race is complicated.

He had over 600 career home runs, which I think should be HOF-worthy, PEDs or no.

The rap on him was that he was a one-dimensional player. Let’s look at the statistics. He was a career .273 hitter, which is not too shabby, especially for a power hitter. No, he was not Dave Kingman.

Comparable hitters

Sammy Sosa struck out a lot. For a guy with 609 home runs, he only had 1667 runs batted in. But he was playing for the Chicago Cubs. He was a below-average right fielder, but he wasn’t in the lineup for his defense. Here are more impressive numbers.

Baseball-Reference considers his batting career comparable to:
Jim Thome (862.9) *
Mike Schmidt (858.1) *
Reggie Jackson (841.1) *
Ken Griffey Jr. (830.6) *
Harmon Killebrew (822.5) *
Eddie Mathews (822.2) *
Mickey Mantle (821.4) *
Willie Stargell (820.5) *
Gary Sheffield (814.5)
Willie McCovey (807.8) *
Except for Sheffield, they are all in the Hall of Fame.

Yet in his ten years on the BBWAA ballot, he never got more than the 18.5% he got in his last year of eligibility. And he only had 6.6% in 2015; if he had dipped below 5%, he would have fallen off the ballot.

I still remember the excitement he and Mark McGwire generated during the 1998 season chasing Roger Maris’ home run record. This was a counterweight to the disastrous 1994 MLB strike, which soured many fans on the game.

Yet I never voted for him on my faux ballot because I always found ten candidates more worthy. This was exacerbated by the 2013 voting when NO ONE was selected. This meant there were more candidates to consider in subsequent years.

Performance-enhancing drugs

It’s worth remembering that PED use was really widespread and that PEDs mostly help with recovery from day-to-day injuries; while they do increase your strength a bit, they don’t suddenly make you good at the act of hitting a baseball thrown by a major-league pitcher. 


I’m not a PED apologist by any means, but I find the moral outrage (especially among HOF voters) really overblown and even disingenuous since MLB didn’t even take the issue seriously enough to have a testing policy in place at the time, despite PED use having been a major issue in sports for over a decade prior to all that HR hitting.

I’ve been saying that for years. For anyone taking performance-enhancing drugs before 2004, I’ve largely given a pass. I would always select Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens on my would-be ballot.

The PED era is far from the first time MLB has run its business in such a way as to artificially influence the competitive product on the field (collusion in the 70s, raising and lowering the mound, and the decades-long collusion that kept some of the very best baseball talent relegated to under-reported Negro Leagues).

Too true.

The guy with the bloody sock

BTW, on the topic of guys from that general timeline who aren’t in the HOF, what’s your take on Curt Schilling? In terms of baseball accomplishments, he should be there, but he’s proven himself to be at least double the heel that Bonds ever was.


If you made a list of the biggest jerks in MLB history, Schilling might make the cut, just behind Ty Cobb–to the point that he just outright said that he didn’t want to be in the HOF at all. That guy, I struggle with. He certainly displayed the kind of sustained excellence that the HOF is partly intended to honor, but he has displayed none of the character qualities thereof.)

How did I “vote” for him over the years? In 2014 and 2016, I made no selections. (Years generally indicate the time I wrote about the following year.)

2012: Yes. “Pivotal in World Series wins for two different teams (2001 Arizona, 2004 Boston)”

2013: No. I dropped him in favor of Tim Raines

2015: A stellar pitcher in a couple of World Series. I don’t like him much, but I’d support him.

2017 and 2018. No.

2019: Yes. It’s not the taint of steroids but his quite terrible politics, specifically “his xenophobic, transphobic and conspiratorial memes.” I’d bump him if there were many other candidates of a similar caliber, but there aren’t.

Time #9 was his best chance

2020: Yes. (70.0% of the vote last year, with 75% needed for induction). His Twitter feed is full of Trumpian drivel about the notion that Biden didn’t win the election… I find him to be a loathsome individual. But he deserves to be in the Hall… He has the highest strikeout-to-walk rate of any pitcher with 3,000 innings (4.38). This is the year he likely gets in. [which tells you what I know]

2021: No. “In a flip from last year, I WOULDN’T vote for Curt Schilling (10th year, 71.1%). And it has something to do with his public request not to be on the ballot. After last year’s vote, he touted “presidential election-related conspiracy theories, calling for a declaration of martial law; and comparing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, to a Nazi.

“After the December 31 voting deadline, Schilling doubled down by tweeting his support of the insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, a move that was a bridge too far for some voters who had otherwise continued to support him.”

Obviously, I’m very conflicted about Schilling. I would not have been upset had he made it, but his exclusion does not break me up. I think, down the road, Schilling, Bonds, Clemens, and maybe even Sosa and McGwire will get in via the veterans’ committee.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

2 thoughts on “Baseball’s Sammy Sosa and Curt Schilling”

  1. Thanks for the response! I don’t disagree, much. Sosa’s statistics may not seem great beyond his power hitting, but I did one comparison of the players on your list: Reggie Jackson. Sosa’s numbers are very similar to Jackson’s, numbers which got Jackson into the Hall. While I’m not always in love with the reliance on stats to determine who gets into the Hall, there are some statistical plateaus that it seems to me should be considered a lock to get one in (3000 hits has for years been seen as just such a numerical target), and for me, 600HR is one. You make his RBI numbers sound surprisingly low, and yet he only drove in 35 fewer career runs than Jackson, and he did so for Cubs teams that I don’t recall being high-scoring. Also he did it in the NL, and therefore didn’t get to play DH at all. (I know Jackson played DH some, but I don’t know how much of his career was as a DH.)

    I didn’t know about Sosa’s skin-bleaching. I honestly have no comment on that at all; I don’t know enough about it and I doubt it would be my place.

    I agree that many of those players will eventually get in via the Veterans Committee. TBH, I’m not in love with the way a lot of voting journalists write about their Hall votes. More than a few seem to use their voting duty more as a way of giving themselves something to write about (and centering themselves in the process) rather than as a real responsibility for enshrining players who matter in baseball history. I wonder if some, if not all, of those players would be in if voting was bound to secrecy by some kind of nondisclosure thing.

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