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Sammy Sosa

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Samuel Peralta Sosa

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 0", Weight 220 lb.

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[edit] Biographical Information

Sammy Sosa hit 609 home runs during an 18-year major league career. He was one of the baseball's biggest stars during that time.

[edit] From Journeyman to Superstar

Sosa was signed as a free agent for the Texas Rangers by scouts Omar Minaya and Amado Dinzey on July 30, 1985. He broke into major league baseball at a very young age, getting 183 at-bats in 1989 at the age of 20. That first year, he was traded from the Texas Rangers to the Chicago White Sox in mid-season.

As a young White Sox player, he was speedy in the outfield, and there was speculation that he might become a Gold Glove center fielder. However, Sosa's ambitions were elsewhere (with his hitting), and as his home runs increased he became known as an inconsistent fielder. At the age of 21, he hit 15 home runs with the White Sox, but also stole 32 bases and had 10 triples.

When he hit only .203 for the White Sox at the age of 22, they let him go across town to the Chicago Cubs, where Sosa's preference for the long ball fit in well with the cozy confines of Wrigley Field. At the age of 24, still a very young age for a major leaguer, he hit 33 home runs for the 1993 Cubs. In 1996, he made a run at Roger Maris's record, with 40 home runs in 124 games before he was injured.

He is best known for the four seasons from 1998 to 2001 when he hit over 60 home runs three times. Although he hit "only" 50 in 2000, that total was enough to win the home run title, while the other three years his 60+ totals garnered him second place. He also led the league with 49 home runs in 2002.

On June 3, 2003, Sosa was ejected from a Chicago Cubs-Tampa Bay Devil Rays game in the first inning when umpires discovered he had been using a corked bat. Major League Baseball confiscated and tested 76 of Sosa's other bats after his ejection; all were found to be clean, with no cork. Sosa would later state that he had accidentally used the corked bat, which he claimed he only used during batting practice and/or home run contests. On June 6, Sosa was suspended for eight games, but the suspension was reduced to seven games after appeal on June 11. The incident caused some to question whether Sosa's 505 home runs (up to that point) had been fairly hit.[1]

After 13 years with the Cubs, it was clear that his batting average and slugging percentage were slipping, so the Cubs let Sosa go to the Baltimore Orioles after the 2004 season. Hitting only .221 without much power (only 14 home runs) in 2005, he was booed much of the season and was let go by the team in December. Sosa turned down a Washington Nationals offer of a minor-league contract offer and an invitation to spring training in January and a second offer by the club for a non-guaranteed contract worth $500,000 in Febuary. Sosa decided to turn down the second offer on February 15, 2006, making it appear likely that he would fall just short of 600 home runs.

Although Sosa was an immensely popular and likeable player, he was surrounded by questions about whether his achievements were fairly won. During his career, no proof ever appeared that Sosa took steroids, but fans were astounded at the way in which the slender and speedy Sosa of the early 1990's turned into the monstrously muscular home-run hitter of the late 1990s. During his first nine years in the majors, his Adjusted OPS was never over 130, and he never led the league in an important offensive category (other than strikeouts and games played). When he slugged .647 in 1998, that was far above what he had ever done in his previous nine years in the majors.

His lifetime on-base percentage of .345 is one of the lowest among major home run hitters of his time.

[edit] An Unlikely Comeback

070701-sosa.jpg

Early in 2007, Sosa signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers. It provided for a base salary of $500,000, plus a possible $2.2 million based on incentives. His contract included an additional $200,000 if he is named the American League Comeback Player of the Year for 2007. Sosa said the year off in 2006 would not affect his hitting, comparing himself to Frank Thomas, and even the great Ted Williams, who missed significant time due to World War II and the Korean War.

Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo said that Sammy's poor 2005 season was due to bad mechanics at the plate, and that he could help him with that. Sosa made the team in spring training, serving as the team's designated hitter. He began the season needing 12 more homers to become the 5th man in MLB history with 600. He reached that landmark on June 20, with a blast against the Chicago Cubs in an interleague game. The pitcher was Jason Marquis, who was wearing 21, the number Sosa had worn with the Cubs.

Sosa holds the MLB record for home runs in the most different stadiums, having hit dingers in 45 ballparks, the latest of which came on May 17, 2007, off Casey Fossum of the Devil Rays at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL, where the Rays played one series against the Rangers. Ken Griffey Jr. and Fred McGriff are tied for second with 43 different stadiums.

For the season, Sosa's Adjusted OPS+ (a measure of a player's offensive production) was only 102, compared to 100 for the average player. However, in spite of his low batting average and on-base percentage, he led the Rangers with 21 home runs and was second on the team to Michael Young with 92 RBI. However, with the Rangers in a rebuilding phase, he was not invited back for the 2008 season.

In June 2009, the New York Times reported that Sosa's name was among the 104 major leaguers who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during the 2003 season.

[edit] Hall of Fame Candidacy

Sosa became one of the poster boys for the steroid era well before results of a failed test were leaked. Being forever associated with Mark McGwire in the public's mind did not help, and neither did his very particular career arc that looked ever more unlikely as more became known about the widespread use of PEDs in the 1990s and 2000s. As a result, more than anyone, Sosa suffered the brunt of voters' outrage when he first became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2013 as part of the infamous "steroid ballot". This was become it was perceived that most of his value derived from hitting home runs, whose legitimacy was now put in question. He finished behind every one of the avowed or alleged steroid users of his era, apart from Rafael Palmeiro, receiving a mere 12.5% of the vote. Given the widespread hostility expressed by voters towards steroid users - proven or alleged - he stood little chance at that point of being elected to the Hall by the BBWAA. Indeed, in 2014, he fell to 7.2%, barely enough to remain on the ballot another year.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 7-time NL All-Star (1995, 1998-2002 & 2004)
  • NL MVP (1998)
  • 6-time NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (1995 & 1999-2002)
  • 3-time NL Runs Scored Leader (1998, 2001 & 2002)
  • 3-time NL Total Bases Leader (1998, 1999 & 2001)
  • 2-time NL Home Runs Leader (2000 & 2002)
  • 2-time NL RBI Leader (1998 & 2001)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 13 (1993-2004 & 2007)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 11 (1993 & 1995-2004)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 7 (1996, 1998-2003)
  • 50-Home Run Seasons: 4 (1998-2001)
  • 60-Home Run Seasons: 3 (1998, 1999 & 2001)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 9 (1995-2003)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 5 (1998-2002)


NL MVP
1997 1998 1999
Larry Walker Sammy Sosa Chipper Jones

[edit] Records Held

  • Quickest player in NL history to hit 300 Home Runs (1,052 games)
  • Quickest player in NL history to hit 400 Home Runs (1,354 games)
  • Quickest player in NL history to hit 500 Home Runs (1,651 games)
  • Home runs, right fielder, career, 538
  • Home runs, right fielder, season, 65, 1998
  • Home runs, one month, 20, June 1998
  • Extra base hits, right handed batter, season, 103, 2001 (tied with Hank Greenberg in 1937 and Albert Belle in 1995)
  • Strikeouts, right handed batter, career, 2,194
  • Most home runs in a 5-year span (292 between 1998 and 2002)
  • Most home runs in a 6-year span (332 between 1998 and 2003)
  • Most home runs in a 7-year span (368 between 1997 and 2003)
  • Most home runs in a 8-year span (408 between 1996 and 2003)
  • Most home runs in a 9-year span (444 between 1995 and 2003)
  • Most home runs in a 10-year span (479 between 1995 and 2004)

[edit] Sources

Sources vary, but include an article written by: T.R. Sullivan, on MLB.com

  1. AP (June 4, 2003). "Unsplendid splinter". Sports Illustrated. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved June 24, 2006.

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