Keep It Continuing
Only a bad screenwriter would put together something like what Sammy Sosa’s season is looking like. As of May 20, he was hitting .265 with 9 HR, 35 RBI. The power categories put him towards the top of those – certainly not AT the top, but on pace for about 36 HR and well over 100 RBI. For Sosa to do that, it would truly be shocking.
As someone who lived in Chicago during Sosa’s heyday, I certainly loved the way he’d jog out to the outfield, waving and gesticulating to the crowd. That got somewhat old, but even then his sudden power was…odd. He’d been a slap hitting base-stealer with the White Sox (and as a Rangers prospect), who gradually grew his power to 40 HR in 1996.
Two years later, he went on a HR tear that was truly historic – 66, 63, 50 and 64 HR in four consecutive years. For someone who never hit more than 40 HR, to average 60.75 – essentially Roger Maris previous single season record – for four straight years? Preposterous.
He tailed off from there, as much as hitting 49 HR in 2002 could be considered as such. But after hitting 40 the next season, Sosa seemed to literally disintegrate. He was virtually useless in a wasted season in Baltimore, and didn’t even play in 2006.
Now, he’s back and smashing homeruns like it was the mid-1990’s. That is crazy.
Almost everything I cited above about Sosa – the lack of power in his youth, a sudden burst of such later in one’s career than is otherwise typical – can of course be said about Barry Lamar Bonds. But until recently, Sosa has never gotten any flak for being an almost certain steroid abuser. And whether that’s true or not, he’s certainly used a CORKED bat during a game. Not too many people brazenly cheat like that, pathetic excuse or not. (Sosa claimed he used the bat during batting practice to thrill fans, an excuse as desperate as it was flimsy.)
Why did/does Sosa get away with this? With a few exceptions, Sosa went out of his way to be nice to fans and sportswriters. To be sure, that’s worth quite a lot – but the lack of doing so doesn’t make one more likely to be a cheat, or more likely to be doing anything worthy of spite.
Bonds is a jerk, and treats a lot of people with less respect than they deserve. While he’s on the verge of the biggest record in the sport, Sosa is on the verge of being only the fourth player with 600 HR. (He’s at 597 as of this post.) I fully expect a “serious discussion” about Sosa’s record and how tainted they are, and whether the commissioner should notice it, blah blah blah. None of that will likely occur, and that’s just the way that goes.