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.
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.
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).
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.
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.