Sammy Sosa belongs in the Hall of Fame
Question: Should a guy who's never been caught doing steroids be banned from the Hall of Fame over suspicions that he may have been doing something that wasn't against the rules of baseball at the time?
We're asking ourselves this today and we'll be asking it again in four or five years as Sammy Sosa enters Hall of Fame eligibility. But unless something dramatically changes the way the voters think then we can already guess the answer: Sammy is going to have about as much trouble reaching Cooperstown as Mark McGwire, maybe a little less because his overall numbers are better.
As Cub fans, it's a conflictive situation. Do we remember the guy who hopped when he homered (and blew kisses to his mother), who gave the fans not one but two thrilling chases for 60, who broke his post season homerless streak in about as epic a fashion as possible, who once threw his entire body at a ball he had no chance of catching in a vain attempt of preserving a no-hitter, who came from poverty and became a superstar?
Or do we remember the selfish, gold medallion wearing, Ryne Sandberg disgusting, money-chasing cheater who corked his bat, who alienated his teammates with his boombox and attitude, and who exited Chicago in disgusting fashion at the tail end of the '04 season when he "played sick" and vanished?
Why can't we remember both?
A funny thing about heroes -- they are rarely pure as the driven snow. I don't necessarily subscribe to the notion that we are born flawed but I certainly agree that our life makes us that way rather quickly. Heroes have dark sides. Villains can be charitable. And Sammy Sosa was a long-time flawed hero who played the charitable villain brilliantly.
It's funny, though. I don't remember him really for his heroics, nor do I remember him for his flame-out. I remember him for being Sammy Sosa. He was a guy who desperately wanted to be loved by the fans, who wanted to succeed, who put himself ahead of his team, who occupied a cornerstone position on my favorite team for better than a decade.
And yes, he belongs in the Hall of Fame, although I suspect that he won't reach those hallowed halls for more than another decade from now. Still, he belongs there. After all, it's not the Hall of Saints, nor is it the Hall of Clean Athletes. Sosa was a massively productive player who was known -- at times -- for his charity who came from nothing, overcame a reckless youth, and went on to be an amazing player before we decided to hate him because he never gained control of his greater demons. None of that contradicts "Hall of Fame" status, at least not in my opinion.
Therefore, if it's possible for you to put aside the fading sense of betrayal, if you can either ignore the ever-present allegations -- or simply choose not to care about them, be they true or false) -- then I suspect you'll probably leave with the same impression as myself. Sosa is a Hall of Famer.
He was for a time The Greatest Cub. And when we're old men and women and he's long gone we'll still be talking about him. Hopefully part of that conversation will include the memory we share of when he finally got recognized by the Hall of Fame.