Sosa inches up before final year on ballot
CHICAGO -- There is no denying that Sammy Sosa was an all-time great slugger. That holds true when putting his statistics up against not only the long list of elite players in Cubs annals, but also the best home run hitters in the game's history.
Eligible voters from the Baseball Writers' Association of America have not, however, deemed Sosa worthy of the Hall of Fame.
On Tuesday, the 2021 Hall of Fame voting results were unveiled, and Sosa was named on 17% of the ballots in his penultimate year of eligibility. First-time Hall of Fame candidate Aramis Ramirez -- a standout third baseman for nine years with the Cubs -- did not receive enough votes to remain on the ballot in '22.
For the first time since 2013, no players on the ballot surpassed the 75% threshold for enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Former pitcher Curt Schilling came the closest, garnering 71.1% in his ninth year on the ballot.
The 2020 Hall of Fame class of Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and late Major League Baseball Players Association executive Marvin Miller will be honored in a ceremony in Cooperstown this summer. Last year's festivities were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Next offseason, Sosa, Schilling, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will be in their 10th and final year of eligibility for Hall of Fame via voting by the BBWAA. If none of them gain entry in that fashion, their only hope would be to later be voted in by the Today's Game Committee in the future.
The issue that has hovered over Sosa, and others from his era, has been lingering questions about how he went about compiling his impressive numbers. The 1990s and early 2000s were marred by the use of performance-enhancing drugs, and Sosa has not been immune from suspicion and criticism.
The only link to Sosa came from the results of anonymous survey testing in 2003, reported by The New York Times. The validity of those tests has been questioned, but that has undoubtedly played a role in Sosa's poor performance on the Hall of Fame ballot over the past nine years.
Sosa was named on 12.5% of ballots in his debut year of 2013, but then dropped to 6.6% two years later. While that decline appeared to threaten Sosa's staying power on the ballot, the former slugger has seen his tally increase in recent years. Sosa reached 13.9% in '20 and saw another bump in '21, reaching his highest percentage to date.
What cannot be denied is the impact Sosa had on the record book both for the Cubs and Major League Baseball. Sosa remains the only player in baseball history to launch at least 60 homers in three seasons.
Sosa is the Cubs' home run king with 545 of his 609 career blasts coming with the North Siders. In 1998, Slammin' Sammy captivated the nation, alongside Mark McGwire, in the pursuit of Roger Maris' previous single-season record of 61 home runs. Sosa ended with 66 (second to McGwire's 70) and won the National League MVP Award.
From 1998-2001, Sosa averaged 61 homers and 149 RBIs with a .310 average and a 1.058 OPS. With the Cubs, Sosa made seven All-Star teams, won six NL Silver Slugger Awards and amassed 1,414 RBIs (third in team history), 873 extra-base hits (third), 3,980 total bases (fourth), 1,245 runs (sixth) and 58.8 bWAR (sixth).
Sosa's .569 slugging percentage and .928 OPS with the Cubs each rank second in franchise history, and his rate of one homer per 12.8 at-bats ranks first in team history. Sosa's 2001 season topped even the 1998 campaign, as he posted 10.3 bWAR and hit 64 homers with 160 RBIs, 146 runs scored and a 1.174 OPS.
Ramirez (four total votes, 1% ) did not achieve the 5% required to stay on the ballot, but his career was nonetheless noteworthy.
Following Ron Santo's run as an all-time great at the hot corner for the Cubs, the team cycled through 18 Opening Day third basemen in the 30 years before Ramirez arrived via trade in 2003. That included six third basemen in the six years leading up to Ramirez’s eight-year run as an Opening Day starter on the Cubs’ infield.
While with the Cubs, Ramirez earned MVP votes four times, made two All-Star teams and picked up an NL Silver Slugger Award. He had a .294/.356/.531 slash line with an .887 OPS and 126 OPS+ for the North Siders, hitting 239 of his 386 career homers for the Cubs. Ramirez racked up 495 doubles (256 with Cubs) and 2,302 hits (1,246 with the Cubs) in his time in the big leagues.