June 21, 2007

News of the Day: Sosa's 600th

Well, it finally happened - Sammy Sosa hit his 600th homer last night. Don't worry if you didn't hear about it; it isn't really big news. But, since people like big round numbers and because people seem to want to make a story about it, I'll write.

Sosa's 600th homer has made people revisit his Hall of Fame candidacy, because baseball's HOF is still the only one that matters.
Seven of eight ESPN experts said yes, although I'm not sure you should try to extrapolate to all the writers, as ESPN's guys have been more reasonable about the steroid era than some of the other BBWAA writers. Jerry Crasnick was the lone no vote, although Steve Phillips has been the target of most of the blog community for saying that Sosa probably didn't use steroids because, I quote, "Why would a player on steroids cork his bat? He wouldn't." But, Steve Phillips aside, I think most of the ESPN guys have it right.

Will Sosa actually get into the Hall? I think the biggest plus for him at this point is that he still has five years until the voters have to make a decision. By 2012, the steroids thing will be a little easier to handle, in the sense that either we'll know better who used and who didn't or we won't know anything at all and therefore won't use it as a big factor in HOF voting. Still, public opinion of Sosa still needs to change. There was a poll just a couple years back about whether or not Sosa would get in, and only something like 25% of the voters said they'd put him in. Now, I believe that poll was taken just after the Congressional hearings, when the steroid witch hunt was at an all-time high, but I can't imagine that number would have tripled in the past two years. Still, I think he gets in eventually, as I think time will heal all the wounds inflicted by the Steroid Era.

I definitely think he should be in. His numbers are HOF-worthy, and there isn't nearly enough evidence for me to keep him off my hypothetical ballot for steroid use. Really, what evidence to we have that he juiced, besides the fact that he grew as he got older and that he hit home runs? He was called in front of Congress...that was just because he was one of the biggest names in baseball, not because Congress had some evidence that he used steriods. He wasn't named in Canseco's book or anywhere else. All we have is speculation, and that's the biggest problem with HOF voting in the steroid era - people will speculate and will randomly decide who they put in and who they keep out. Personally, I wouldn't keep anybody out of the Hall for suspected steroid use (McGwire and Bonds included), but that's a discussion for another day.

That being said, it's not like his 600th home run has anything to do with my hypothetically voting him in to the Hall. What, 588 wasn't enough for him to be a Hall of Famer, but 600 is? Frankly, this season has kind of tarnished his reputation, for me. Sure, Sosa has 12 homers, but he really hasn't been helping the Rangers at all. His OBP is just .297,
160th out of 180 qualifiers. And that isn't what you want from your DH. I haven't really watched Sosa enough to be sure, but scouts have said that he's just sitting on fastballs, trying to find something he can hit out of the park and boost his HR total. Hopefully, now that he's reached his milestone, the Rangers will stop playing him; they're currently 27-44 and have no shot at the playoffs, so they need to be looking ahead to the future. Plus, getting someone in the lineup who can actually get on base should help them today.

Edit: I suppose all this teaches us is that people are dumb, but here are some of the results to today's ESPN poll about Sosa:

1) Is Sammy Sosa a Hall of Famer?
70.3% Yes
29.7% No

4) If Sosa had retired with 588 home runs, would he be a Hall of Famer?
56.4% Yes
43.6% No

Uh...so one out of every seven voters feels that the extra 12 homers makes Sosa a Hall of Famer? In 1998, Sosa hit 66 homers and had an OPS+ of 160 (100 is league-average). In 2000, he hit 50 homers and had an OPS+ of 169. In 2001, he hit 64 homers, had an OPS+ of 201 (one of the 50 best OPS+es of all-time), and slugged a ridiculous .737. But, apparently, to a fairly large percentage of America, it was this season (93 OPS+, .297 OBP) that made him a Hall of Famer.

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