Sammy Sosa ready for one last swing at Cooperstown

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With the Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2022 set to be announced Jan. 25, USA TODAY Sports breaks down the nominations of some of the top players on the ballot.

One of the game’s most exciting, iconic and popular players – especially during his 1998 quest to break baseball’s single-season record – Sammy Sosa saw his star both shine bright and ignite at extreme levels.

He started his career as a fast and free fielder with the Texas Rangers and Chicago White Sox. A trade to the Chicago Cubs made him an everyday player, then an All-Star and finally one of the most feared punchers in the game.

He had already received MVP votes for three consecutive seasons before he and Mark McGwire captivated the nation with their hard-hitting exploits in the great Home Run Chase of 1998. Although they only met occasionally on the field, they still faced off on a daily basis as they chased, caught and passed Roger Maris’ single-season record of 61 homers.

Sammy Sosa, left, and Mark McGwire hosted a show in 1998 that captivated baseball fans as they chased the single-season home run record.

Although McGwire ultimately came out on top by hitting 70, Sosa hit 66 homers, led the Majors in runs scored and RBI, led the Cubs to their first playoff berth in nearly a decade, and won the National League MVP honors.

His contagious personality and energetic ways – the kick in the leg, the powerful swing, the little jump before running around the bases and the kiss skyward after crossing home plate – helped fill stadiums and attract gazes at the television.

Sosa played 18 major league seasons and was a seven-time All-Star with the Cubs. He had a career cut line of .273/.344/.534 and hit 609 home runs, which ranks him ninth on the all-time list.

However, Sosa became almost an afterthought during the Hall of Fame vote, largely because of his alleged link to performance-enhancing drugs – even though he never failed a drug test. MLB official.

The case for

Slammin’ Sammy Sosa had an incredibly high peak in his 13 seasons in a Cubs uniform. He was durable, leading the majors three times in games played, twice in runs scored, twice in RBI and three times in total goals. His 425 total goals in 2001 are more than anyone has racked up in a season since Stan Musial in 1948.

And of course, the home runs. He is the only player in baseball history to hit 60 or more homers in three different seasons. (And surprisingly, he didn’t win any home run titles in those years.) Still, he led the majors with 50 home runs in 2000 and the NL with 49 in 2002.

Although he is remembered for his strikes, Sosa has also contributed in other ways. He stole 234 bases during his career, slipping over 30 three times in one season. And while he was never a Gold Glove defender, he had a strong arm and was a constant presence in the outfield. He ranks seventh among right fielders in MLB history with 4,017 strikeouts.

The case against

Although he never failed a drug test, Sosa’s muscular physique and showy home run totals led to charges of illegal substance use. He was one of several players who reportedly tested positive in what were believed to have been anonymous tests in 2003.

Although he never officially tested positive, Sosa’s reputation was also damaged by a 2003 incident in which he was caught using a clogged bat in a game against Tampa Bay. He claimed the bat was the one he used in batting practice to put on a show for the fans, but he was suspended for seven games anyway.

Along with his many home runs, Sosa also racked up a ton of strikeouts. He led the league with over 170 flushes in three consecutive seasons. His career 58.7 wins over replacement is well below the average right fielder already listed at Cooperstown (71.1).

Additionally, he has only appeared in three playoffs in his career and has never played in the World Series.

Voting trends

This year marks Sosa’s final appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot. His percentage has increased each of the past three years, but his peak of 17% last year leaves him far too much ground to make up for the 75% needed for induction. Of the 160 public ballots revealed so far on Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame vote tracker, Sosa is listed at 24.9% (as of Jan. 16).

Previous results:

  • 2013: 12.5%

  • 2014: 7.2%

  • 2015: 6.6%

  • 2016: 7.0%

  • 2017: 8.6%

  • 2018: 7.8%

  • 2019: 8.5%

  • 2020: 13.9%

  • 2021: 17.0%

Global outlook

What Sosa has accomplished over a long career (over 600 home runs, seven All-Star appearances, six Silver Slugger awards, Roberto Clemente award) would seemingly make him a first-round selection.

However, Sammy seems to be hurt by the double whammy of playing in an age of inflated offensive stats and being judged by writers who have historically withheld their vote from anyone suspected of using performance-enhancing substances.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sammy Sosa’s Hall of Fame affair: Iconic home runs aren’t enough

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