Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sosa's Steroid Use Shouldn't Change Anything

So, it turns out that Sammy Sosa used steroids. This is not shocking news, unless you are also shocked by the fact that ice is cold.

My opinion of Sammy Sosa has not changed much with this evidence of his use. I suspected that Sammy may have not been all natural while he was hitting homeruns onto the old pink house on Waveland in 1998. Everybody was quick to credit Jeff Pentland, the Cubs hitting coach at the time, with the tapping toe timing mechanism that he added to Sosa's swing before the 1998 season.

That may have helped Sammy out a bit, but Jeff Pentland's genious was not enough to get regular hitting out of Henry Rodriguez, Fred McGriff or any of the other stiffs on the roster during his tenure. He also has not magically turned around the Royals' or Mariners' hitting in his gigs since. The Dodgers had a nice little surge there at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, so its possible the tutelage of Jeff Pentland, Roving Hitting Instructor, did the trick. Of course, it may also have been the presence of another 'roided up slugger added in the middle of the Dodger lineup that made the difference. It's hard to say, really.

As a fan, you hoped that Sammy was clean. You wished that he really was just taking Flinstones vitamins. But deep down, you knew it wasn't so. It was too good to be true.

Even if you bought into it from 1998 to 2002, the degree that Sammy fell off the table afterwards was shocking and the explanation that always made the most sense was that he wasn't using steroids anymore. Still, Sammy was teflon when it came to actually having any allegations stick.

Not even Canseco would say any more about Sosa than a comment that what Sammy was doing just HAD to be unnatural. With all of the allegations thrown around in his book (most of which have basically come out as 100% true), he must not have been very comfortable with making any more of a declarative statement because he probably thought there was a chance he could be wrong and end up getting sued.

So Cub fans everywhere clung to statements like, "Nobody has ever actually accused Sammy" or "He really did have a great workout regimen, so maybe thats all it was" in the hopes that he was a ray of pure shining light in an era where Lenny Dykstra appeared to be sweating pure testosterone, Luis Gonzalez and Bret Boone became two of the most unlikely power hitters ever, and 50 homeruns in a season was considered a minor feat.

The "revelation" that he is a steroid user doesn't take away the awe that I felt in the moment when Sammy launched twenty homeruns in the month of June 1998 alone. It doesn't take away from one of the best weekends ever in September 1998 when he hit HRs 60, 61, and 62 against the Brewers in a wild weekend series. It doesn't change the fact that I would have traded Sammy Sosa, the 1998 version, for an Andre Dawson with healthy knees on any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

It doesn't change the fact that I think he should go into the Hall of Fame. The fact that there are still 102 names left on a list somewhere that are proven users of steroids in 2003 (after the players all knew that they would be tested) should leave us with the conclusion that Sammy was competing against many other steroid users along the way.

He was facing pitching that stayed healthy and threw harder because of steroids. He hit balls into defenses that were quicker and nimbler as a result of steroids. His fellow hitters were also using steroids and not putting up the numbers that Sammy did. He was the king of that era.

To separate out the caught users from the users who have avoided detection (so far) from the clean players (Mickey Morandini?) is impossible. Also, baseball doesn't have a problem with Gaylord Perry, a known spitball pitcher, in the Hall. People were more willing to put Sammy in the Hall before he was officially outed, but he was a bat corker.

Stealing signs, scuffing balls, using foreign substances, using amphetamines, and any other less-than-legal tactics have been used by players in the past, and there are no villagers with torches attempting to burn any Hall of Fame plaques of players who may have engaged in such activities. Bat corkers catch more hell because they threatened the sacred homerun records, but if that had been Sammy's only transgression, he gets into the Hall without much protest at all.

Sammy was not a hero of mine prior to the allegations, so I'm not in mourning over his fall. If anything is sad, it is the loss of the shred of hope, realistic or not, that Sammy just might have been clean. Now, he's just no different than anyone else in that era.


E-mailed Comment said...

"Maybe there were 103 or more....others that were taking whatever....and playing against others who were taking the same things and some of them just took more or better stuff or would have been great w/out taking anything.....but they did take something so how great they would have been w/out it is anyone's guess.

My question is this: if people in any sport are proven to do something whether cork a bat or take a substance or use a bigger curve on the hockey stick or whatever....if they get in after proving they didn't JUST do it by working hard, working out, etc.....doesn't that kind of put thoes who play by the rules at a disadvantage?"

Tim McGinnis said...

The problem is that I don't believe that there are many professional athletes (in the present or the past) that played well entirely by working hard.

There are degrees of transgressions, but athletes will always do whatever they can to push the advantage in their favor. They rub out the batters box so they can stand wherever they want, they put foreign substances on their gloves, hats, or wherever. They steal signs.

Steroids happened to give a bigger advantage than other methods because they not only make you stronger, they also enhance your recovery ability. Plus, until 2005, taking steroids wasn't cheating. It was illegal, but it wasn't cheating.

That is entirely MLB and the Player Unions's fault and it is impossible to put the toothpaste back in the tube. The fact is, Sammy hasn't been found guilty of cheating. He was playing within the agreed upon rules. Manny got caught cheating. Palmeiro got caught cheating. Sammy didn't. Clemens didn't. A-Rod didn't.

What Sammy did was technically no worse than when a player used any other recreational drug, drove drunk, beat his wife, or any other illegal activity off the baseball field. The Hall has many criminals and scumballs in it, so making a big self-aggrandizing push to "clean-up" baseball is nothing more than a bunch of MLB executives and congressmen jumping on a bandwagon they know is popular.

I can't hold it against any of those that used prior to 2005 for using the methods available to them to improve their games, and nobody can tell me that guys like Mantle, Hornsby, or Cobb wouldn't have also been severely tempted to do the same if they had the opportunity in their time.

Thus, my opinions of those outed for pre-2005 use haven't changed. They are all incredible athletes that deserve to be in the Hall of Fame for dominating the era in which they played, and they are jerks.

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