Sammy Sosa has gone Biblical, comparing himself to the Prodigal Son who will one day return to Wrigley Field and be reunited with all his fans. But it’s impossible to see him making peace with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
When the 2014 results were announced on Wednesday, Sosa barely got enough support to stay on next year’s Hall of Fame ballot with 41 votes (7.2 percent). That’s a steep drop from the 71 votes (12.5 percent) he received in 2013, a first-year reality check for a player who has become a billboard for The Steroid Era.
Another ex-Cub, Rafael Palmeiro, got another overwhelming rejection and will be dropped after getting only 25 votes, just below the 5 percent needed to keep his name on the ballot.
Palmeiro’s 3,020 hits and 569 home runs have been overshadowed by a failed drug test and a 2005 suspension – which came after testifying in front of Congress that he never used steroids.
Sosa once loved all the attention, but he has avoided the spotlight in retirement. Otherwise almost invisible and still estranged from the Cubs organization, this is the time of year where his career gets reexamined.
Sosa has 609 home runs and that 1998 National League MVP Award on his resume – along with a 2009 New York Times report that identified him as one of the 104 players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during the anonymous survey in 2003. He also didn’t give a convincing performance at that 2005 Congressional hearing.
However Sosa eventually tries to end the cold war with the organization that made him world famous – a Cubs Convention appearance, hand-picked interviews with Chicago media, another social-media blitz – it’s impossible to see him convincing skeptical writers and coming anywhere close to the 75 percent needed for induction.
Mark McGwire – who played off Sosa during the home-run chase that entertained the country in 1998 – dropped down to 11 percent and might not even make it the full 15 years on the ballot. Barry Bonds (34.7 percent) and Roger Clemens (35.4 percent) also went in reverse during their second year of eligibility.
It won’t get any easier next year, when Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz will be eligible for the first time. Ex-Cubs closer Lee Smith got squeezed this time, finishing with his lowest percentage (29.9) in 12 years on the ballot.
It will be a banner class this summer in Cooperstown, N.Y. Three iconic managers – Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre – will join Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.
Thomas cooperated with the Mitchell Report and has used his platform to say he did it the right way. Maddux didn’t throw 100 mph, but he dominated hitters at a time when offense exploded. Glavine had been a strong leader in the players’ union.
“I understand what's going on right now,” Glavine said, “and I think in time it’s going to be interesting to see if the feeling on all those guys changes at all.”