Sammy Sosa has been out of the game for almost two years now. He hasn't officially retired, as he is waiting for the phone to ring with the hopes that a team somewhere will give him one more shot. Recently, there have been reports surfacing that Mr. Sosa is going to call it quits.
This begs the question of whether or not Sosa will be elected to the Hall of Fame after being out of baseball for five years. Let's take stock of his numbers.
From a Chicago Cubs standpoint, he is the all-time home run leader with 545, a number that will probably stand for years to come. The next closest active Cub is Aramis Ramirez with 177. He is third in RBI with 1,414; only Ernie Banks and Cap Anson have more. He is in the top 10 in runs, hits, and total bases for the Cubs. In 1,811 games in a Cubs uniform he went .284/.358/.569.
From a Major League Baseball aspect, he is sixth all-time in home runs with 609. During the great home run race of '98, he hit a record-setting number of home runs in June with 20. He broke the single-season home run record, not once, not twice, but three times, hitting 66 home runs in '98, 63 home runs in '99, and 64 in '01.
He won the home run title in 2000 when he didn't hit 60-plus homers; go figure. He was the MVP in 1998 over Mark McGwire, who hit 70 home runs, but Sosa led his team to a playoff berth in '98. He helped win the division with the Cubs in 2003 and it led to their first playoff win since 1908.
His career numbers don't lie. In 2,354 career games, he went .273/.344/.534. While the average isn't staggering, the 609 home runs, the 1,667 RBI, the 1,475 runs, and the 2,408 hits are that of Hall of Fame-caliber. Not to mention he had nine seasons of 30-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI, a feat he shares with Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig.
Now, with all these numbers (most of them Hall of Fame worthy), you're probably asking yourself, why wouldn't Mr. Sosa be elected to the Hall of Fame? Well, there is a little cloud of suspicion floating over his head as to whether or not he took steroids.
Personally, until I see physical proof such as a syringe, a failed drug test, or his name mentioned with the other 104 guilty players, I say he's clean. Call me crazy, but until I see something that suggests otherwise, I'm going to give Mr. Sosa the benefit of the doubt and say his accomplishments are clean and his numbers are untarnished.
Unlike Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmero, and Alex Rodriguez there has been some form of physical proof that says they cheated. While Sosa's behavior in front of Congress was a bit questionable, I like to believe that he did no wrong. Why am I quick to defend him, you wonder? Well, it is simple: he brought people back to baseball in '98. If not for the home run chase of '98, who knows where baseball would be today?
Aside from the fact that I have a number of sentimental memories as a kid attached to this man, he was and still is a childhood hero of mine. Obliviously I am very fond of the home run chase of '98 because it peaked my interest in baseball as a youth and it has become a love affair that is going as strong as ever to this day. Seeing him hit his 60th home run for the second time in two years, I watched him sprint out to right field with an American Flag in hand after 9/11 as well as when he rounded the bases after he hit a home run in that same game.
He put that team on his back in 2003 when they marched into the playoffs, hitting a game-tying home run in Game One of the NLCS, as well as that monster shot that I still don't think has landed in a rout in Game Two, and who could forget that shot he launched into the stratosphere during the Home Run Derby in Milwaukee in 2002?
I looked past the corked bat incident, as I believe people are human and they make mistakes. However, hero or not, I didn't condone him walking out on the club on the last day of the 2004 season. All the nonsense aside, I believe he is one of, if not the greatest Cubs of all time, with all do respect to Ernie Banks.
He played the game hard and brought a lot of theatrics to the game from the hop when he hit a home run to blowing kisses to his mother after he hit a home run.
His style is what fans embraced him for and I hope that this is the Sammy they remember. I'm hoping that time will heal all wounds in the eyes of Cubs fans. Hopefully he will be welcomed back into the organization he did so much for and maybe, just maybe, he'll be enshrined into baseball immortality in Cooperstown.