On the heels of Sammy Sosa’s statement that he was officially retired and looked forward to entering baseball’s Hall of Fame, the New York Times reports that Sosa tested positive for a performance enhancing drug in 2003.
If any of you had wondered that before – like when Congress called him to testify on usage – this probably isn’t a huge shock to you. Sosa was a lean, muscular athlete in the early 1990s, when he was a threat to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases, which he did twice. I remember seeing him in August, 1996 and he was having a great season, getting to 40 homers before a broken wrist ended his year. At the time, I figured he would have had a shot at 50 with one more hot streak in September. The next year, though, Sosa was down to 36 homers in a full season – perhaps his peak season got away with the injury.
Instead, he jumped to 66 homers in 1998, and he hit 57 in the last 110 games of the season (!). Sosa hit 60 or more three times, and added 50 another time. His shoulders were now gargantuan. Fergie Jenkins, who was working with Cub pitchers at the time, wonders just what Sosa was up to – and now says that if he (and others) used PEDs, they need to be kept out of the Hall of Fame.
By the way, if you look at Sosa’s stats, he’s an example of what I have long believed. Steroids don’t make you a better hitter – he still struck out at the same rate he did in prior seasons. Steroids help add strength so that you can hit the ball farther. Fly balls that were once outs were now homers, and his batting average rose consistent with the number of extra homers in his record. And, let’s face it. If your average fly ball was 300 feet and you could do something to add just 15% to the distance of the average fly ball, you’d hit a whole lot more home runs.
Other than admitting the sad fact that Jose Canseco was right about everyone who was juicing, it’s just another nail in an already buried coffin. I caught Bud Selig’s response on the radio – that MLB testing is better than any other sport and doing it’s job, and that 2003 was a long time ago. While I agree with him on those two points, I can’t help but think about how he and many others allowed this to happen to sell tickets. Heck, even Nike had a “Chicks Dig the Long Ball” marketing campaign. It’s hard to fault players any more than the owners who provided the environment for cheating. Is it cheating if it has defacto support?
Until every name is leaked from the positive test list, this story will continue – and so many people are already tired of it. The Steroids story jumped the shark with Roger Clemens; even the Alex Rodriguez mea culpa (sort of) wasn’t that dizzying a story and book sales for the story that exposed Rodriguez as “enhanced” aren’t that strong. So, hang around – it’s only a matter of time before we get the next name. Like me, you can just yawn and look for other news.